Marker to Designate Alton’s Soybean History

Article by: Steven Spencer, the Telegraph,

ALTON — Plans are in motion to place a historical marker on Prospect Street in Alton to commemorate the ground where, in 1851, the first soybeans ever grown in Illinois were planted.

“The city is very excited for this designation,” Deanna Barnes, City of Alton deputy director of development and housing said. “We’ve been working with Lewis and Clark Community College and the city has approved it, the next step is to have it approved by the state.”

Ethan Braasch, with Lewis and Clark’s Horticulture Department, said the history of the plant in Illinois dates all the way back to the 1850s.

In 1849, former Alton resident Dr. Benjamin Franklin Edwards, made his way to San Francisco where he helped several shipwreck survivors from Japan who were rescued by an American freighter.

After examining and aiding the 17 survivors they showed Dr. Edwards their appreciation with a gift of “Japanese Peas.” When Dr. Edwards returned to Alton in April of 1851, six of the peas were given to his friend James Henry Lea, who then planted the first soybeans in the state in his home garden at 417 Prospect Street.

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