FC: A HistoricReview of Madison
1: Madison was founded in 1809, two years after Baldwin County was split in two to form Morgan County. The town became a substantial place around 1841 when railroad was built to line the town. On Sherman's March to the Sea, he decided not to burn Madison, even though he did burn many other cities. As one of Madison's main historical attributes, this story has a couple different versions. Some people say that Sherman thought Madison was too beautiful to burn. This may have been a contributing factor, but to be exact, Sherman was a good friend of Joshua Hill. Hill was a former Union senator, but his hometown was Madison. Sherman was asked to spare Madison, and he cooperated. However, an overlooked piece of information concludes that there was a compromise made. Sherman did burn a cotton gin, a clothing factory, and a few depots, but left homes and personal buildings untouched. In the 1920's, Madison was struck by the masses of boll weevil. These critters destroyed all of Madison's economy. Not only was agriculture affected, but industry was affected also. The South, including Madison, largely depended on agriculture, so when the boll weevil eliminated the 'root source' of economy in Madison, everything collapsed. A drought and the Great Depression began just after this, so it took a while for Madison to gain economic stability once more.
2: About 30 years after the bowl weevil, drought, and Great Depression impacted Madison's economy so negatively, many people began to take old antebellum homes and restore them to fit their needs. This was a real economy booster. Victorian style homes were also built in Madison during that time period. There was a birth of Roman and Greek Revival architectural styles, which was what affected the architecture of what we now know as the Cultural Center. Many people also began to take old antebellum homes and restore them to fit their needs. This had a positive effect on the economy of Madison along with dairy farming being appreciated and I-20 being built.
3: Most of Madison's fame comes from the architecture and the familiarity that Madison wasn't burned. The buildings and locations are in fact very important to Madison, and they tell countless stories that reveal key pieces of history in Madison. -
4: The Cultural Center: | As many know, the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center used to be Madison Grade School. I had the opportunity to speak with someone who actually went to school there. Joan Gilbert, my grandmother, or 'Mama Jo' showed me around and told me what it was like going to school there. She led me through each room and explained what it used to be. The gift shop in the front of the building used to be the music room. First , second, and third grades were on the first floor, while fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh grades were on the second level. Mama Jo went through all of those grades there and attended the Madison High School that was directly behind what is now the Cultural Center. Unfortunately during her time there in 1947, the high school burned and they finished the term in the gym, which is the building across the parking lot behind the Cultural Center. When we visited the restored classroom, Mama Jo recalled that the classrooms when she was there were very similar to the way they have the display set up now.
5: The old Gym | Classroom Desks | Front of Classroom
6: As we traveled through the walk-through museum in the front of the Cultural Center, I noticed some interesting items. From left to right: This is one of the first known designs for Madison that was found in an old journal. Next is a stamp that goes to a printing press for "The Madisonian" Finally, I noticed a curious object that I found to be a hat carrier that belonged to Joshua Hill, who was Madison's virtual protector from being burned during the March to the Sea.
7: Mama Jo took me to the auditorium of the Cultural Center and reminisced about all the plays and shows they did for the school while she attended. I asked her if she was in any of the plays, and she replied "Oh yes, of course...there was the senior play, which I did my last year here you know, it was "Off the Tracks" and then a play with the Dramatic Club. We did "Little Women", and I played 'Marmee'." | As we were leaving, I noticed the rope that rings the Cultural center's bell. I asked Mama Jo if they used the bell for school and she said "Yes. Oh, it was a privilege to get to ring that bell, you know. Mainly for when we were supposed to come in for recess. We would all line up and march in." I asked if she ever had rung the bell and she acknowledged that she probably had because she thinks the children took turns ringing it each day. When we got outside, Mama Jo told me about their janitor, Mr. John Morehouse. He was an African American who stayed in the basement of the Madison Graded School. There is a portrait of him outside one of the classrooms. "Us children used to always bring him packaged food for Christmas and other holidays." Mama Jo recalled. We turned a corner, and Mama Jo pointed out the closed up places in the outside walls of the Cultural Center. They used to be fire escapes built like round shoots to slide down.
8: The Auditorium | The bell and rope | The fire escapes | Madison Graded School music teacher's house
9: The Beginning of Madison | Madison was a small settlement at first, but once the city was Terminus for a while until Atlanta became the end of the railroads, it grew. Madison was very well-off since it was in one of the most cotton producing counties in the state. A cemetery, hotels, hospitals, houses, churches, industry, and schools needed to be set up to run the town properly.
10: Industry | Madison set up industry and business such as an ice house, a cotton warehouse, hotels, and livery stables. They had much more industry, but these three buildings remain standing in downtown Madison and are still popular places to be. | The restaurant "The Ice House" is now popular for it's old architecture and aged atmosphere. Perhaps it is because it used to be a real ice house on one end and a cotton warehouse on the other. People went to this ice house to buy their supply of ice that they would later store in a wooden icebox. My grandmother still remembers my grandfather taking trips to the ice house. There was also an ice truck that came around every now and then.
11: This is the front of Madison Hardware, which used to be a livery stable. The owners of the hardware store decided to keep the name on the building for the notorious historical look of Madison. | Laughing moon used to be Belmont Hotel.
12: Stagecoach Inn | This building was used as a stagecoach inn for the travelers mainly on the way to and from Charleston and New Orleans. This made Madison the 'Stagecoach Town' for that specific route.
13: Madison was originally given 100 acres. They divided up the 100 acres into roads and lots lining a public square. This pecan grove is a remaining public square. | William Clyde McGeary used to be Madison's doctor when the Madison Home for Assisted Living was the hospital of Madison. The tree outside the building is said to be more than 80 years old.
14: Cemetery | When Madison was being set up, it was decided that the cemetery would be on the outer edge of town rather than in the churchyards. At first, there was only four squares to the cemetery, which is the part in front of the railroad tracks. The portion across the railroad tracks was purchased a little afterward. The earliest known burial was in the year of 1811. This was only two years after Madison was founded.
15: Courthouse | Madison has been the county seat since 1809. Morgan County's 1845 Courthouse located at today's post office square was abandoned in 1907 and burned in 1916. | A new courthouse was built and is our present courthouse.
16: This is the old jail, which is now Morgan County's Archives. It was built in 1892 and held all criminals, small offense or serious offense, in Morgan County. Ironically, the prison mates had some of the first running water in Madison. The jail is said to have even had a hangman's noose for the death penalty, and operated until around the 1980's.
17: Madison Historic Homes
18: Joshua Hill House | This used to be Joshua Hill's house, but it is also known today as the Baldwin House. Many people mistake the Wade-Porter-Fitzpatrick-Kelly House for this one because the historical marker is on Main Street in front of the Wade-Porter-Fitzpatrick-Kelly House instead of this house, which is one block off of main street. | This is the Wade-Porter-Fitzpatrick-Kelly House.
19: This is the Rose Cottage. It is one of the last standing lots on original Madison grounds. This lot was sold for $111, the average price for a lot being around $155. | Rose Cottage
20: This used to be John Wesley Moore's house, purchased soon after the law was passed allowing African American's to own property. It is now the African American Heritage Museum. | African American Heritage Museum
21: Lula Atkinson House | Lula Ruth Atkinson, also called "Georgia's Wonder Woman" was a very unique character. Since she was young, Lula Ruth was said to have had powers that no one--even herself--could explain. She could just stand in a room and furniture would scoot against the walls, and she could life heavy object with a movement of her hand. She went around to different parts of the U.S. and later different parts of the country on tour when she learned how valuable her 'powers' were. She ended up marrying Paul Atkinson, a businessman that went on tour with her, and settled back into Madison when she became tired of travel. The house in the background was her home, located across the street from the Cultural Center.
22: This house originally belonged to Milton Davis in 1850. He sold it to John Cardwell, who died years after. The house would have rightfully been left to his daughter, but since women couldn't own property at the time, her husband was the lawful owner. He lost the house in 1863 as the result of a long term gambling event. This happened on several other occasions, this one being the main contributing factor to the law passed in 1869 allowing women to own property.
23: Early Religion | Presbyterian Church | Methodist Church | Baptist Church
24: The main first three denominations of Christianity in Madison were Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist. The three churches were founded one after another, the Methodist church in 1807, Presbyterian church in 1821, and Baptist church in 1834. Each congregation was given a one acre lot, the Baptist church near the town spring, and the Presbyterian and Methodist churches where they are today. The Baptists moved onto Main Street with the Methodists and Presbyterians in 1859. Religion was a major cultural factor in this time period, so church was not only a place for worship, but it was also a location for socializing. Often club meetings were held in churches, giving the people of the community a time to 'catch-up' on each other's lives since communication was slightly more strained than it is today. Churches were more involved in people's lives, enough for the Methodist and Baptist churches to begin funding schools by the 1850's. Even though the churches brought the community together, they were segregated. Instead of African Americans having their own churches, many slaves would sit in the balconies or other separate areas of the church before the Civil War. For instance, in Madison Baptist, there was a balcony that the slaves sat in for the sermon. | Madison Baptist's basement was used to house Sherman's horses while Sherman invaded Madison during the March to the Sea.
25: Early Education
26: Education in Madison was slightly inferior to that of more developed cities at first. The majority of schools were private and held in houses or small buildings in town. Sarah Benham Judd Cooke operated one of the first kindergarten schools, known as Holly Hall, to prepare children for first grade. Until the 1880's, there were several small academies open on Porter Street, but need of a more organized schooling system was inevitable. Many academies and schools were segregated and separated by gender. A Madison Academy was set up in 1815, there was a Male Academy on Central Ave., and two female colleges were located on Main Street beside the Cultural Center. The smaller one is referred to as "The President's House", and the larger one was called the Female College. What is now Morgan County High School was an Agricultural and Mechanical technical school. Morgan County Middle School was the African-American Elementary and High School. Public education became predominant around 1895. Private schools died out, although there were still a few operating. There were only eleven grades until around 1952, when a twelfth grade was added.
27: "The President's House" (smaller Female college) | Female College | Porter Street | Madison's history is one to be proud of. There were many hardships faced, but they were balanced with triumphs. Throughout the years, Madison has become a bustling tourist site and a respected community.