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  • Godfrey Campus History 

    MonticelloFront

    Captain Benjamin Godfrey went to sea at age nine with his stepfather and by 18 served with a gunboat flotilla during the war of 1812. He became master of his own ship in the trade and cargo transportation industry between his Baltimore home, New Orleans and the West Indies. Godfrey lost his first fortune when his ship went down in the Gulf of Mexico. He gave up seafaring and made another fortune south of the border in trading operations for nine years, but lost it all when bandits robbed the train bringing the money to the United States. He made his third fortune in New Orleans in the Mississippi River shipping and commerce trade. 

    In 1834, he and his family settled north of the campus in a two story limestone mansion in an area then known as Scarritt’s Prairie. The Benjamin Godfrey Mansion was declared a national historical site by the Department of the Interior in 1934. The mansion still stands and was more recently refurbished as a fine restaurant. When the restaurant closed (approximately 1994) it was purchased by the Lewis and Clark Community College Foundation. The College used it as temporary facility for the music preparatory program and offices during the 1997-98 renovation of Gilman Hall and construction of the Ringhausen Music Building.

    Though many people scoffed at schooling for females, Godfrey built Monticello Female Seminary in 1838. He saw the need for education, particularly for women. Godfrey had eight daughters. He believed that “if you educate a man you educate an individual; educate a woman and you educate a whole family.” The school was named after the Virginia estate of Thomas Jefferson, whom he greatly admired. To head the school, he chose the Rev. Theron Baldwin, a graduate of Yale Theological Seminary who was dedicated to bringing religion and culture west of the Alleghenies. (Baldwin was among the founders of Illinois College in Jacksonville -1833.) At this time, Alton had less than 2,300 citizens.

    In 1867, Harriett Newell Haskell took over as principal of the school, where she stayed for 40 years. She has been acclaimed as one of the Midwest’s greatest early educators. When she came to Monticello, Capt. Godfrey had been dead six years and history accounts read that the school was in need of a firm hand. She was both a great educator and a quality administrator. She could anticipate any tricks her charges tried to play, because it was said that as a young girl she, herself, had been the terror of her family. Daily chapel services were part of Miss Haskell’s routine. The chapel stood across Highway 67 (then a dirt road). So each day the girls trooped across the road to chapel and soon local boys gathered to watch the girls cross the road. Miss Haskell watched the gatherings and after some time started a course of religious instruction for the boys. Much to the young men’s surprise, she was so interesting that they attended willingly.

    One Christmas not all the young ladies traveled home for the holidays and Miss Haskell wanting to spark the festivities, dressed up as Santa Claus. Stepping too close to the candles on the tree, her fake beard caught the flames and badly burned the left side of her face. Therefore, all archival paintings of Miss Haskell are of her right profile only.

    Miss Haskell was so loved by her charges and she was so devoted to the college that stories claim that her spirit still walks the halls of the Main Complex.