I have actually started research and plot planning on my next work of fiction. It came as an idea while I was at the writer's conference, then when I found out Elizabeth was going to go to school in Alton, IL and how incredible that town's history is, I thought I needed to check it out.
Fortunately, Elizabeth had to go to orientation last weekend, so I rode down with her. We got up at quarter to six and drove the four hours to Alton in Madison County.
Then, while Bella was at her meetings and campus tour, I drove around and took notes and looked at monuments, historical markers, and museums. It really is an amazing area.
This is all that remains of Illinois' very first state penitentiary. Founded in 1833 it was abandoned in 1860 only to be pressed back into service as a Union prison during the Civil War. It was kind of the Union Andersonville. This site is really what got my creative juices flowing.
This is Alton's National cemetery, created for the Union soldiers who died at the prison. It is still used as a military cemetery today. It is actually incorporated into the Alton cemetery. Usually I'm against taking pictures in cemeteries, but I thought it would be useful to have an image of this to help with the book. This cemetery also housed the monument to Elijah Lovejoy, America's first martyr to free press, who was killed by an angry mob for running abolitionist material in his newspaper so close to Missouri, which was a slave state.
I actually did a lot of research before leaving for Alton and I would mention something about the history of the area every now and then and eventually Elizabeth looked at me and said "You really did do a lot of research!"
Alton also has a mental hospital (which is actually what it is called) founded in 1913 or 1914.
Alton was also home to the tallest person whoever lived. His name was Robert Wadlow and I believe he died in the early 1930s. By the time he died, he was 8' 11". He was said to have been an ambassador for Alton and there is a life size statue of him on the dental school campus, as well as a full size replica of his chair.
Elizabeth and I hung out and we both got a lot done. It was a great trip!