Alton ( AWL-tən) is a city on the Mississippi River in Madison County, Illinois, United States, about 18 miles (29 km) north of St. Louis, Missouri. The population was 27,865 at the 2010 census. It is a part of the Metro-East region of the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area. It is famous for its limestone bluffs along the river north of the city, for its role preceding and during the American Civil War. It was the site of the last Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debate in October 1858. The former state penitentiary in Alton was used during the Civil War to hold up to 12,000 Confederate prisoners of war.
Although Alton once was growing faster than the nearby city of St. Louis, a coalition of St. Louis businessmen planned to build a competing town to stop Alton’s expansion and bring business to St. Louis. The resulting town