Landmark Historical Events
About the Timeline
The community timel
ine is based on excerpts drawn from
Madison, A Classic Southern Town (2010)
, which have been
updated as new history information is discovered and documented.
Madison, A Classic Southern Town
This lavish study of Madison’s and Morgan County’s incomparable architecture and landscapes is accompanied by an illustrated historic timeline and text. Author, William R. Mitchell, Jr.; Photography, Van Jones Martin and James R. Lockhart; Forward, Phillip Lee Williams
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Colonization: The Settlement Period, Pre-1800s
- 1733 James Edward Oglethorpe established the town of Savannah and began the settlement of Georgia, the thirteenth English colony. Oglethorpe negotiated the first cession of Creek lands to the Georgia colonists.
- 1775 (April 19) The first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired at Lexington, Massachusetts, as British troops fired into a crowd. Later that day local militia defeated British regulars at nearby Concord.
- 1781 Continental troops under the command of General Daniel Morgan dealt a humiliating defeat to British regulars led by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina. This surprising victory is considered a turning point in the Revolutionary War, coming just as the British command believed it would soon take control of the entire American South.
- 1783 (April 15) A provisional peace was struck between England and the American colonies at the Second Treaty of Paris.
- 1788 (January 2) Georgia achieved statehood, becoming the fourth of the newly created United States of America.
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Foundation: The Rise of Cotton Culture, 1800-1839
- 1807 (December 10) The state legislature passed an act creating six new counties, the first of which was Morgan County, named for Revolutionary War General Daniel Morgan. Land lotteries in 1805 and 1807, intended to encourage settlement by individual yeoman farmers, accounted for the distribution of most of the new county in parcels of 202.5 acres each.
- 1808 (December 22) The seat of government for Morgan County was to be named Madison, after James Madison, presumptive president-elect, coauthor of the Federalist Papers, a framer of the Bill of Rights, and often referred to as the "Father of the Constitution."
- 1809 An entrepreneurial group assembled land from lottery lots 35 and 36; surveyor Lewis McLane devised a town plan based on the Washington, Georgia, example, with a central public square defined by four principal streets, which would be named Monroe (now Main), Jefferson, Hancock, and Washington. Each of the original 48 lots measured 100 by 200 feet.
December 12 Madison was officially incorporated, becoming the first new town in any state of the young Union to be named to honor President James Madison. A board of commissioners was appointed, and Madison was made the county seat.
- 1810 Construction began on the Morgan County Courthouse on the square and continued for 15 years before completion.
A private school for boys was established as the Morgan County Academy and was later incorporated as the Madison Academy. By 1820, 74 students studied Greek, Latin, geography, grammar, arithmetic, reading, and writing in a two-story brick building known as the Male Academy. It burned in 1824 but was rebuilt. The Female Academy formerly stood where the Georgia Depot was built.
- 1811 Dr. William Johnston built a frame house on West Central Avenue, which was purchased in 1832 by Dr. Elijah Evan Jones, who subsequently remodeled it in the Greek Revival style. Now facing South Main Street and known as Heritage Hall, it is a house museum operated by the Morgan County Historical Society.
- 1819 (December 22) John Colby was given the right to operate a line of stages (carriages) from Madison to Hancock County twice weekly.
- 1822 (December 23) Madison town limits were extended to include roughly “all land within one-half mile of the public square.” This radius created a circular town, characteristic of early town planning in Georgia.
- 1824 Three one-acre lots in Madison’s town commons were laid out for Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian congregations.
- 1833 The Georgia Railroad Company was incorporated to build a line from Augusta to the Chattahoochee River with branches to Athens, Madison, and Eatonton.
- 1834 With the consolidation of property into cotton plantations and the rise of the "Planter Class," the state legislature and local governments passed extensive regulations on “free persons of colour."
- 1838 A regular mail route – thrice weekly – was established from Augusta via Madison to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and another route was solicited for Madison to Dahlonega.
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Expansion: Arrivals and Departures, 1840-1869
- 1840 A Georgia Railroad line opened to Madison, enabling freight from the cotton-rich piedmont to be shipped to Augusta and on to Savannah. The Madison Terminal was completed by 1841.
- 1842 Southern Miscellany, a Madison weekly newspaper, was first published by C.R. Hanleiter. It ceased publication in 1847 and was succeeded that year by the Madison Family Visitor, which became the Georgia Weekly Visitor in 1859 and was published until 1861.
- 1845 When the first Morgan County Courthouse (c. 1810) burned in 1844, the second Morgan County Courthouse was built in the town square on the site of the first courthouse.
- 1849 Madison town limits were expanded to a one-mile radius from the town square.
- 1850 A building boom of significant houses in the Greek Revival style took place in and around Madison in the years immediately surrounding the midpoint of the century.
Madison began its rise as an early center of advanced education for women. The Georgia Female College, first incorporated as the Madison Collegiate Institute, was founded by the Baptists. The Methodists founded the Madison Female College. Both had handsome brick classroom buildings, which later served as hospitals during the Civil War and were eventually lost to fire.
- 1851 The City Market was built on the town square and served as a centralized public vending and trading venue until the late 1880s.
- 1859 The Home Guards, a volunteer corps, was incorporated with members coming from the city and county.
- 1861 (January 19) Delegates to a special Georgia convention on secession voted 208-89 in favor, joining South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama. Soon Louisiana and Texas would follow, and by the end of May, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina would also secede.
April 12 Confederate forces under General P.G.T. Beauregard fired on federal Fort Sumter at Charleston. The Civil War (also known as the War Between the States) had begun.
July 31 The Panola Guards, composed mainly of Madison residents, left for Richmond, Virginia. During the course of the war, most of Madison’s able men would be in armed service to the Confederacy, leaving the town to be managed by aged or ill white men. White women and children and black slaves would form the fabric of the town and the surrounding countryside for the next four years.
- 1864 (November 15) Union forces, numbering 62,000 men under General William T. Sherman, left Atlanta to begin the infamous March to the Sea.
November 18–19 Union troops occupied Madison, destroying railroad tracks and the Madison rail depot.
- 1865 (April 9) General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the War Between the States.
- 1867 The Freedmen’s Bureau purchased land on Hill Street for the first school for African Americans in Madison.
- 1869 A devastating fire destroyed 42 structures in downtown Madison, with the courthouse on the square and hotel surviving. The town responded quickly, however, erecting brick, “fire-proof” buildings; the general appearance of the commercial district in 2009 was shaped during the construction recovery in the 1870s and 1880s.
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Reconstruction: Recovery and The Gilded Age, 1870-1919
- 1870 Weekly newspapers of the era were The Georgia Home Journal (1871-75), later known as the Madison Home Journal (1876-78), and then as The Madisonian (1879-2001). Other local publications included the Southern Farmer and Stock Journal (c. 1867-1876), The Advertiser (c. 1887-1905), and an independent Black paper, The Gleaner (c. 1899-1901).
- 1871 The Madison Hotel was built. A two-story building on the east side of the town square, it burned in 1891.
- 1876 (February 18) The Municipal Charter was amended so the Town of Madison became the City of Madison, with leadership officially designated in a mayor and Board of Aldermen, instead of a president and Board of Commissioners.
- 1879 The local newspaper was published as the Madisonian.
- 1880 Land for the Madison New Cemetery was acquired by the city across the railroad from the Madison Old Cemetery.
- 1885 The Covington and Macon Railroad Company (now the Central of Georgia Railroad) was chartered to build a line from Macon to Covington, but it was altered to run through Madison to Athens. The line reached Madison in 1888 and was completed in 1889.
This period saw the remodeling of several houses around town with Victorian embellishments manufactured at the Madison Variety Works, which provided the decorative trim for many of the houses, small and large, built in Madison at this time.
- 1887 The Madison City Hall, with a fire house and jail, was built on East Jefferson Street. Some city offices, including the mayor’s and city clerk’s, were moved into the old courthouse in 1909 and remained there until it burned in 1916. The 1887 City Hall now houses the Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Welcom Center but retains the fire pole, bars on the rear calaboose windows, and the construction date near the cupola.
- 1891 Madison installed an electrical system, operating a generating plant until the franchise was sold to Georgia Power in 1929.
- 1892 The county Jail, a brick building with a pyramidal-roof tower, was erected on Hancock Street. It is now the repository of the Morgan County Archives.
The Turnell-Butler Hotel (later the Hotel Turnell, the Hotel Madison, and then the New Morgan Hotel) was built on Hancock Street and operated for the first year by Oliver Hardy (father of Comedian Oliver Hardy).
- 1893 The Madison Garden Club, renamed La Flora around 1932, was founded. It was the second-oldest garden club in Georgia, after the Athens Ladies Garden Club (1891), the oldest garden club in the United States.
- 1895 The City of Madison built its first public schools based on the racially separate system dictated by the state government: the South Main Street School (the Madison Graded School), a large brick building in the Romanesque Revival style, and the Burney Street School, an impressive turret-topped frame structure in the Canaan area.
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Progression: Turn-of-the Century, 1900-1919
- 1900 The turn of the century saw the building and remodeling of many significant houses in Madison in the Neoclassical Revival style.
Weekly newspapers of the era were: the Madisonian (1879-2001), absorbed the Morgan County New (1947-54), was published for more than 130 years; the Morgan County Citizen eventually took over the Madisonian (1997-2009).
- 1904 Fairview, a private cemetery, was opened across the railroad and to the south of the Madison Old Cemetery.
- 1905 Construction began on a larger Morgan County Courthouse on the northeast corner of Jefferson and Hancock streets. It was completed in 1907.
- 1908 Madison installed a public water works system.
The Eighth District Agricultural and Mechanical School was established on 300 acres in the eastern part of Madison.
The Cooke Fountain was installed downtown. Later moved to the Courthouse Square, it was removed when the Post Office was built.
- 1909 Morgan County voted countywide taxation to support public schools.
- 1913 - 1914 The National Auto Trails movement promoted the improvement and use of recognized interstate roadways connecting state roads under single, identifiable names. Madison was on two of the named routes, the east-west Jefferson Davis National Highway and a loop of the north-south Dixie Highway.
- 1916 The second courthouse building (1845), being used as City Hall, burned.
- Hill Park was developed on land given by Belle Hill Knight. The Confederate monument was moved in 1955 from downtown to the park.
- 1917 The United States entered World War I, which would end with the Armistice signing on November 11, 1918.
- 1919 Morgan County cotton production was 36,197 bales. Cotton prices peaked at 35 cents per pound.
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Exhaustion: Between Wars and the Boll Weevil, 1920-1949
- 1920 Main Street was paved, followed by the paving of 10 miles of road between Madison and Rutledge and West Jefferson Street between the town square and the railroad depot.
The boll weevil began to wreak havoc on cotton production throughout the South.
- 1922 (October 3) Rebecca Latimer Felton, a graduate of the Madison Female College, writer, lecturer, reformer, and political strategist, was appointed to the United States Senate. She was the first woman to serve as a United States senator; her one-day term was the shortest in Senate history and, at 87, she was the oldest person to serve in the Senate.
- 1924 Morgan County cotton production was 5,712 bales.
- 1930 (May 4) A dedication ceremony was held in front of the courthouse for the unveiling of a statue honoring “the boys from Morgan County, Georgia, who fought in the World War April 6, 1917 - November 11, 1918.” The statue, “The Spirit of the American Doughboy,” by sculptor Ernest Moore “Dick” Viquesney, is one of 35 known Viquesney doughboys at courthouses in the United States and was erected by the Henry Walton Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The New Morgan Hotel burned.
- 1931 Construction began on the Post Office, a Colonial Revival building on the town square replacing the town park.
- 1934 Units of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), created as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal economic recovery plan, began construction of a recreation area around Hard Labor Creek north of Rutledge. The CCC men cleared land, built roads, erected dams to create Lake Rutledge, and built camps, offices, and houses. Now Hard Labor Creek State Park, this was a national park until 1946 when it was turned over to the state for operation.
- 1939 A new Madison City Hall was completed in the Colonial Revival style on North Main Street. It also housed the jail and the firehouse.
September 1 Germany invaded Poland. Two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany. World War II had been set in motion.
In the 1930s new strains of insect-resistant cotton were developed.
- 1941 (December 7) Japanese planes bomb the U.S. Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor. The following day the United States and Britain declared war on Japan.
December 11 Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. America had officially entered the war in Europe.
- 1945 (May 7) Germany surrendered; August 14, Japan surrendered. World War II had ended.
The National Council of State Garden Clubs began a nationwide highway beautification program to pay tribute to World War II veterans. The Blue Star Highway system today recognizes U.S. veterans of all wars, and in Madison there is a Blue Star marker at the Boxwood Garden Club’s Memorial Garden at highways 441 and 83 South.
- 1948 Morgan County consolidated the county high schools for white students into one school in Madison.
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Expansion: Diversification and New Connections, 1950-1979
- 1950 The first Madison tour of homes took place, initiated by Miss Kittie Newton, owner of Boxwood and president of La Flora Garden Club.
- 1957 (September 14-20) Morgan County celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1807 with a week-long calendar of events in the local communities, including parades, balls, house and farm tours, a booklet on the county’s history, and a pageant entitled Panorama of Progress.
- 1959 Morgan Memorial Hospital opened.
- 1960 Walton Park was developed on South Main Street through a bequest of Susan R. Manley.
- 1962 Construction began on Interstate Highway 20 in west Texas. The highway reached Madison in 1969.
- 1978 Cox-Elliot Memorial Park was developed following a Cox family bequest honoring Marilyn Cox Elliot.
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Revitalization: Building on Firm Foundations, Post-1980
- 1980 Georgia was selected as one of six states to be participants in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s fledgling National Main Street program, and Madison was one of the early cities in Georgia to be named a National Main Street Community.
- 1989 The Madison Historic District was established.
- 1990 The National Arbor Day Foundation awarded Madison the designation of Tree City USA.
- 1992 The City of Madison established the Rogers House Museum on the original town lot where Reuben Rogers built his house in 1809-10. The city negotiated the retention of the house by Morgan County, restored and interpreted the house and its grounds, and provided annual funding for its continued operation by a local nonprofit organization. Four years later, the home of ex-slave Adeline Rose was relocated to the lot and restored as a companion house museum.
- 1993 The Morgan County African American Museum opened in the circa 1900 home of John Wesley Moore. The house was moved to its present site on Academy Street for the museum.
- 1995 The City of Madison acquired land for Washington Park.
- 1996 The Atkinson family donated the “Point” for the city to develop Atkinson Park, honoring Grady and Camille Atkinson.
- 2003 The final parcel of land was acquired for Round Bowl Spring Park, a linear native species park.
- 2004 Madison was honored as one of the first Preserve America communities.
- 2007 The James Madison Inn was built, becoming a landmark in the redevelopment of Downtown Madison.
- 2009 The bicentennial legacy gift, Town Park, was dedicated in Downtown Madison as an central greenspace and outdoor event facility.
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