Established in 1809, Madison is the seat and the largest town in Morgan County. Madison was incorporated in 1809 and named in honor of U.S. president James Madison, who negotiated a treaty with nearby Creek Indians. Many of the town’s original settlers had received land grants in the region as compensation for their service during the American Revolution (1775-83). The early town flourished as a stagecoach stop, and an in-town residence for planters’ families. Described before the War as “The most cultured and aristocratic town on the stagecoach route from Charleston to New Orleans”, Madison has been welcoming visitors from around the world for almost two centuries.
Two decades later the Civil War erupted and in 1864, Madison lay directly in the path of one wing of General Sherman’s army. Madison attorney, former U.S. Senator and staunch Unionist, Joshua Hill, was given clearance to travel through Federal lines and met General Sherman at his headquarters. An agreement was reached and Union forces spared Madison. For a second time Madison’s residential areas and city center escaped a crippling blow.
Today, Madison’s National Register Historic District is one of the state’s largest collections of 19th century architecture. In 2001, Madison was voted the “#1 Small Town in America” by Travel Holiday Magazine, and most recently by Budget Travel Magazine, as one of the “Top 16 Most Picturesque Villages in the World” in 2012.
Madison is extremely well preserved. It’s one of the few towns in Georgia, that escaped destruction by the hand of General William Tecumseh Sherman during the Civil War. Although the town escaped Sherman’s flames, a fire raged through the downtown area on April 9, 1869, destroying forty-two stores and several other buildings and houses. Afterwards, Madison did not regain the wealth and prominence it had possessed before the Civil War.
Pay a visit to the Madison Welcome Center. Pick up a brochure, and begin your self-guided walking tour of the more than 50 antebellum sites in the city’s downtown historic district. Madison retains its small-town character and remains the heart of the community. Downtown Madison is punctuated by a central town square and anchored by historic government facilities, such as City Hall, the Morgan County Courthouse, and U.S. Post Office. The Madison-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, located on the square in the historic town hall and fire station building, has a great vantage point to view the bustling retail, professional, and service businesses.
Heritage Hall (1811) Greek Revival Architecture Headquarters for Morgan County Historical Society.
Madison boasts nearly 100 antebellum homes along its tree lined avenues, many of which are in beautifully restored condition. One of the standout characteristics of Madison is how little it has been affected by modern development, helping to retain its original atmosphere and charm. Madison is featured on Georgia’s Antebellum Trail, and is designated as one of the state’s Historic Heartland cities.
Madison is just one hour east of Atlanta on I-20. It’s the perfect day trip! I enjoyed immersing myself in the historic atmosphere of this town. To appreciate some antebellum beauty and experience a true taste of old Southern charm, visit Madison, Georgia.