In 1801, Colonel Samuel Judy received a military grant for 100 acres (0.40 km2) of land near the base of the bluffs, just north of Judy Creek, and became one of the first permanent settlers of Madison County. The land was called Goshen Settlement, after the biblical land of Goshen. It was renamed Glen Carbon to reflect its coal miningheritage. Glen Carbon was incorporated as a village in 1892. It operated many coal mines until the last one shut down in 1934. Another industry was the St. Louis brick company, which burned down in the 1930s; then, right after being rebuilt, it burned down and was never rebuilt again.
Glen Carbon residents served during World War I. The city’s Doughboy statue, honoring their service, has been selected as part of a national competition for restoration as part of the nation’s World War I centennial activities.
Three railroads once served Glen Carbon. The Illinois Central Railroad, now the Ronald J. Foster Sr. Heritage Bike Trail, became one of the first rails to trails projects in the US, in 1992. The other two lines were the Norfolk Southern line and the Chicago and North Western line, which ran parallel with each other the entire way through Glen Carbon, and stopped operating in Glen Carbon in March 2000. The Nickel Plate Bike Trail follows both of those right-of-ways, switching back and forth between the NS and CNW lines the whole way through Glen Carbon.