Thursday, November 5, 2020

The City of Madison, GA

 The City of Madison, GA 

*this column first appeared in About Covington to Madison Magazine

Hello Everybody. Glad to be with you once again. Last month’s journey through Walton Co. was a fun one and I’m grateful for all of the comments and feedback. This month, we’re turning our gaze east—to Morgan County and the beautiful city of Madison . 

Morgan County was formed in 1807 and was named in honor of Daniel Morgan who served as a General in the Revolutionary War. Similar to other counties in the area, Morgan found itself at the edge of the Indian frontier early in its history and that led to some problems. In 1813, Creek Indians massacred several residents of the county. The state of Georgia would send in infantry to help the frontiersmen and there would be no more attacks by the “hostiles.” The city of Madison would be incorporated as the county seat in 1809 and named in honor of America ’s fourth president, James Madison. The town would grow quickly and had upwards of 13,000 residents within a decade or so. The city was also a stop on the Seven Islands Stage Road—the same road we discussed in our earlier Jasper County column. As I mentioned then, this was known as one of the oldest roads in America and was the main route that linked Charleston all the way to New Orleans . The town also had the good fortune of being located in a very fertile section of the Georgia Piedmont, making it ideal for growing cotton. All of these factors combined to make Madison a successful city that would see growth and prosperity throughout most of its history. 

Every time I drive out to Madison , I am truly amazed at how beautiful of a town it really is. One of my favorite drives is to take Hwy 278 from Covington all the way to Madison . As you enter the historic part of Madison , you’ll run into the main drag—Hwy 441. Swing a left and you will feel as if you’ve stepped back in time with all of the antebellum houses on either side of the road. Turn off on any of the side streets, and you’ll see many more beautiful homes. As you near the square, you’ll notice something a little different. In the middle of the square, there isn’t a courthouse or a park like most southern cites—there’s a U.S. Post Office. Madison sold that land to the Federal Government in 1914 for $5,000. On the southeast corner of the square is where you will find the Morgan County Courthouse. As many of you know who’ve read some of my previous columns—I’m a sucker for Georgia courthouses. And folks, I must say (and with apologies to my hometown of Covington , GA ), I believe that Madison has the best one in Georgia . Built in 1905 with a neoclassic architectural style, it is absolutely wonderful. 

One of the most interesting aspects of Madison ’s history occurred during the Civil War. The fact that Madison was smack dab in the middle of Sherman ’s March to the Sea would make someone wonder about all of the antebellum structures that survived. The key to that would be one man—Joshua Hill. Prior to the War Between the States, Mr. Hill was a lawyer and served as a U.S. Senator. He opposed secession but when the war started up, he resigned and moved back to Madison . While in Washington , Hill had struck up a friendship with William Tecumseh Sherman’s brother, John. As the years went by and the war started to take its final direction, Hill’s son was killed in action in north Georgia in 1864. Hill got in touch with William Sherman so his son’s body could be sent back to Madison for burial. During this time, the two met and discussed many things including a desire to see the war end. It is believed that it was at this meeting where Hill asked Sherman to spare his beautiful hometown. In November of 1864, as Sherman and his forces reached Madison , they proceeded to tear up the railroad tracks and burn the train depot, cotton gins, and a few commercial properties but spared the houses of the town. However, as fate would ironically have it, the plantation house and buildings of Mr. Hill’s estate were burned to the ground. It was thought that this was done as revenge by the Yankee soldiers because they weren’t able to pillage and plunder the city itself. Not too surprising considering how ruthless they were in Georgia . But thanks to Mr. Hill, most of the beautiful city of Madison was spared. 

These days, Madison is a thriving place where you can shop for antiques, eat at any number of great restaurants, and see several beautiful, antebellum homes. In 2001, Travel Holiday magazine named Madison the number-one small town in America . After you see this town, you’ll understand why it has been called “the town too pretty to burn.” 

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