Capt. Benjamin Godfrey, turning 224 years old later this year, paid a visit to elementary students at St. Mary’s and Ss. Peter and Paul in Alton and at St. Ambrose and Evangelical Elementary in Godfrey on April 25 and 26.
He came bearing gifts — and tales of “lots of MO-NAY.”
Godfrey’s visits with students were facilitated through local actor John Meehan, who brought copies of the book “Seymour Bluffs and Benjamin Godfrey,” as well as a related biographical DVD detailing his life and legacy, to be placed in the schools’ libraries. Lewis and Clark Community College’s George Provenzano assisted with the presentations, as did benefactor Chris Kane of State Farm Insurance. Kane’s agency provided the financial support for these donations as well as matching gift support for the Benjamin Godfrey Legacy Trail Project.
Meehan has lived in Alton since 1990, and spent his 35-year career as a teacher in Edwardsville, Decatur, and St. Louis before retiring. He enjoys filling the role of Captain Godfrey as often as he can. Before and during his presentation to students at St. Mary’s, he shared interesting trivia about Godfrey and his era.
“Captain Godfrey’s true pride and joy was the Monticello Seminary for Girls he built with educating his eight daughters first in mind,” Meehan said. “He started the school in 1838. The school became Captain Godfrey’s legacy. He had come to Alton with his business partner and their boats in 1832 from Cape Cod, Mass. Godfrey lived locally with his first wife, Harriet, and their 12 children. When she passed, he went back out East and returned with his second wife, and together they had more children. Godfrey had 15 children in total that lived to adulthood.
“In 1847, I brought the railroad to Alton,” he said in character. “And I made lots and lots of MO-NAY,” he added, repeating many times throughout his presentation and bringing roars of laughter from the students each time.
As Godfrey’s attorney, Abraham Lincoln was also a close personal friend.
“Me and Abraham Lincoln were buddies,” he told the students. Godfrey was instrumental in Lincoln’s election.
Lewis and Clark Community College student Maggie Maag followed Meehan’s presentation as Godfrey, questioning the students on what they had heard and learned.