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Birthday Pictures





 Madison is over 200 years old. As far as is known the first non-Native American cabin was built in Madison about May 30, 1808. In 1810 Jonathan Lyon, with John Paul and Lewis Davis, laid out the town. The first sale of lots was in 1811. Situated on the Ohio across from Kentucky, the settlement was a favored and inviting spot for commerce and industry and it grew rapidly. It was incorporated as a town April 15, 1824, as a city by the act of Legislature of 1838. 

    Madison was a place of much note at the early part of last century. A great number of people of all classes, characters and occupations came to it. In 1816 and up to 1850, it was one of the points of attraction as a new and growing town in a new and growing country . 

    Today the pleasant thriving city that nestles amid the hills of Jefferson County is one of the most picturesque and beautiful spots in the state. It has an ancient lore combined with a modern progress that makes it attractive to all who have an eye for the beautiful in scenery or a mind for the history of the achievements of the past.  

    Madison has a geographical location that is as outstanding as its scenic setting. On the north bank of the Ohio River, approximately 50 miles from Louisville and 75 miles from Cincinnati, it at one time shared with both in commercial and cultural leadership. With the building of the first railroad in the United States, west of the Allegheny mountains, from Madison to Indianapolis, Madison became the gateway to the settlement of the vast Northwest Territory.     

Picture probably taken around 1850


    During World War II, Madison was selected as the "Typical American Town" by the Office of War Information and movies were made of it for wide distribution. 




The early industries of Madison included some of the following: Ship yards, starch factories, furniture factory , saw mills, cotton mills, button factories, paper mill, yarn and cordage mill, breweries, pork packing industries, and iron foundries. The two latter played an important part in the history of the town. but with the pork industries moving away, the growth of Madison stopped.





During the 1840's Madison was the only city in this part of the country with a railroad. By 1835 the Michigan Road extended through to the Great Lakes and various roads spreading out in different directions. this time Madison was the greatest "porkopolis" in the world, Chicago having not stolen her franchise on the great industry of the West. Hogs were sent to Madison by car load and wagon load. Hundreds of thousands of hogs arrived here on foot, having traveled great distances from surrounding states. Madison was the second pork packing city in the west and the new rail- road did a big business hauling hogs during the winter months. In the year 1852 they handled 124,000 hogs. The hog trade was the main traffic and there were so few coaches that the railroad was forced to use the hog cars for passengers by making seats in them of clean lumber. 




The Schroeder Saddletree Company, maker of fine quality saddletrees. was in operation from 1850 to 1971. The plant is located on Milton Street between Mulberry and Jefferson Streets and their products were sold to all 50 states as well as practically every South American country .During its long life the plant supplied saddletrees for the Civil War, Spanish-American War, Boer War, First World War and Second World War. The building is now owned by Historic Madison. The organization plans to restore the building and open it to the public.




In 1870, there were several iron foundries in Madison. They furnished most of the old gates. fences and balconies in use today. However, the balconies on the Lanier House were imported. Much of the iron work seen in New Orleans was made in Madison. The beautiful wrought iron balcony is on the John T. Windle building at 306 West Main Street. The balcony extends in front of long windows across the second story of a three story brick building. The intricate detail woven into the unusual lyre pattern of the balcony makes it an outstanding example of wrought iron work. A picture of this balcony appears in a book, entitled "Early Architects and Builders of Indiana", by Lee Burns.



It is interesting to note that even as early as 1851 Madison people evidenced sufficient interest in cultural affairs to invite the noted singer, Jenny Lind to present a concert. She had been engaged by Billy Watson to sing in Madison and upon her arrival found that she must give the program in the pork house or forfeit her money and return the tickets. Jenny Lind consented and gave her performance in the large frame pork house. The house was filled at $ 5.00 a ticket. The management had guaranteed Mr. P. T. Barnum (Miss Lind's agent) $5,000 and the receipts were $3,700.




Also, the famous actress, Mary Anderson gave a performance here in 1874, (before her debut in Louisville in 1875). As the story goes -packing boxes were used for the foundation of the balcony for Romeo and Juliet when she gave this performance in the old Odd Fellows Building. 




The first newspaper, "Western Eagle", was published in Madison. It was owned by Colonel John Paul and published by his son-in-law, William Hendricks. The first issue was dated May 26, 1813, Madison, Ind. Territory. The Madison Courier was published as a weekly in 1837. In 1849 it was changed to a daily publication and purchased by Michael C. Garber. In 1937 the paper celebrated its centennial year, and in 1949 observed its hundredth year as a daily, and also its hundred years under management of one family. It is now the second oldest newspaper in Indiana, (the Vincennes Sun is older) and the only one to have been owned for over a hundred years by the same family.



The Jefferson County Jail --just a building for the imprisonment of town drunks and petty thieves; but more like a medieval dungeon with its stone walls two feet thick, reinforced with cannon balls and its windowless cells just large enough to hold a single cot. Built in 1849, the key to the outer door measuring at least twelve inches in length, was handed to the County Commissioners in an elaborate ceremony. In 1878 when John Beaver was hanged in the Courthouse yard for murder, people gathered for miles around, standing on roof tops and in available space. to see the first and only hanging in Jefferson County. Many brought lunch boxes crammed with good things to eat and it was evidently a gala occasion for everyone but poor Mr. Beaver. The jail is an interesting land mark. It was remodeled in 1960 and is still in use. 



The heavy cornices and well designed window caps. on the upper portions of the store fronts on both sides of Main Street were made to resemble carved stone. They date from the 1850's and 1860's and show the influence of the Italian Villa style of architecture which was so popular over the country at that time. Main Street, Madison possesses some very fine examples of this style.

Ad Circa 1915



     In the year 1831, a Volunteer Fire Fighters Club was organized in Madison. Their headquarters and meeting place was a small one room frame building on the corner of Main and Walnut Streets, the present site of the Soldiers and Sailors monument.

     As the city grew, so grew the Volunteer Fire Fighters and on September 15, 1841 the organization set up a Constitution, changing the company's name to "Fair Play Fire Company Number One". A charter was granted for the same on September 6, 1849. 

    This company, being the oldest volunteer fire company in the state of Indiana, first saw action as a "Bucket Brigade". The company then purchased a hand drawn piece of fire equipment in 1851. It was called "Neptune" and had to be pulled to all fires by its members with the aid of a long rope. It is still in the possession of the fire company.

    On April 3. 1888 the Company purchased their present home located at the N. E. corner of Main and Walnut Streets. The first meeting was held on October 1, 1888. 

    In 1871 the Fair Play Company purchased the first steam engine (horse drawn) manufactured by Chris Ahrens. On September 15. 1886 the Company participated in a Fireman's Tournament, held at Cincinnati, Ohio and walked away with first prize for throwing water the farthest distance. The prize was $400.00. 

    As the city of Madison grew, new companies were organized and at the present time Madison is fortunate enough to have six volunteer fire departments. Each company has its own constitution and by-laws, its own officers and owns all of its equipment. The total cost to the city of Madison is far less than one paid fire department would cost. 

    Madison also is one of the few cities that still has approximately 35 cisterns in which water is stored as a sort of reservoir, for use in fighting fires. These cisterns are filled from the city water system and at times of fires valves are turned on to furnish plenty of water.



"Little Jimmy", a weathervane, atop the Fair Play Fire Co. No.1 is one of the landmarks of Madison. Mr. Peter Hoffman, a tinner by trade, cut him out of tin working in his spare time all one winter. The figure is more than 95 years old. A favorite story about Jimmy is: the bells rang one day and the firemen on the horse drawn engine started down Main St. A farmer coming along, looked up and said, "Look at that, the firemen are going the wrong direction, Little Jimmy is pointing up the street". 



    George Grey Barnard, the world famous sculptor, lived in Madison with his parents, Dr. and Mrs. J. H. Barnard. (The house is now the Gans Funeral Home). It has been said that what Walt Whitman was to American Poetry and Abraham Lincoln has been to American government, that exactly was what George Grey Barnard was to American Art, namely the great exponent of real democracy. 

    Among his masterpieces are his "Lincoln", the original of which is in Cincinnati and a replica in Louisville on the Public Library lawn. and also his "Let There Be Light" in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville. Madison possesses a replica, in marble, of "Let There Be Light" at the resting place of the noted sculptor's father and mother in Springdale Cemetery, Fifth St. 

    Edward Eggleston, the author of the well-known "Hoosier Schoolmaster" was born in Vevay in 1837 and later moved to Madison. In 1891 he married Frances E. Goode and made his home here for several years. 

    Moody Park was the first mayor of Madison. He established a cotton mill in 1822-23 on the west side of Central Avenue above Front Street. He operated it a few years and then brought Thomas Gibb to Madison to take charge of it. 

    William Hendricks, who was Indiana’s third governor, established the second newspaper ever to be printed in this state. He came to Madison bringing his printing press in 1814. Hendricks served as governor over twenty years. He died in 1850 and is buried at Madison. 

    George DeBaptist was the servant of General Harrison at the White House. He had lived with J. F. D. Lanier in Madison and was door- keeper when Harrison visited Lanier. Harrison asked him to go to Washington with him and he was with Harrison when he died. DeBaptist worked with the underground railroad while in Madison.

     Sarah Bolton, author of the well known poem, "Paddle Your Own Canoe", was a native of Madison. 

    Harvey W. Wiley, author of this nation's basic pure food laws, was born in Jefferson County, near Madison, and attended Hanover College. 

Fielding Bradford Meeks (1817—1876), American geologist and  paleontologist, the son of a lawyer, was born at Madison, Indiana, on  the 10th of December 1817. In early life he was in business as a  merchant, but his leisure hours were devoted to collecting fossils and  studying the rocks of the neighborhood of Madison. Being unsuccessful  in business he turned his whole attention to science, and in 1848 he gained employment on the U.S. Geological Survey in Iowa, and  subsequently in Wisconsin and Minnesota. In 1852 he became assistant to  Professor James Hall at Albany, and worked at paleontology with him  until 1858. Meanwhile in 1853 he accompanied Dr F. V. Hayden in an  exploration of the “Bad Lands” of Dakota and brought back valuable  collections of fossils. In 1858 he went to Washington, where he devoted  his time to the paleontological work of the United States geological  and geographical surveys, his work bearing “the stamp of the most  faithful and conscientious research,” and raising him to the highest  rank as a paleontologist. Besides many separate contributions to  science he prepared with W. . Gabb (1839—1878), two volumes or the  paleontology of California (1864—1869); and also a Report on the  Invertebrate Cretaceous and Tertiary Fossils of the Upper Missouri  Country (1876). He died at Washington, on the 22nd of December 1876.


Irene Dunne

The noted movie actress, Irene Dunne, though born in Louisville, Kentucky, spent her entire girlhood in the house located on w. Second Street. Following her graduation from Madison High School, she went to Chicago, the first step of her road to fame. 


    From a military standpoint Madison has not been lax, either. Major Sam Woodfill, a native of Jefferson County, rivaled the deeds of Alvin York with his military exploits of World War L A monument dedicated to his memory is in the Court House yard. Walter Krueger, during World War II, reached the rank of "Four Star General" and was destined to lead the invasion of Japan late in 1945 had it become necessary. The house at 610 West Main Street, was once the home of Emilie Todd Helm, widow of General Ben Hardin Helm, who commanded the First Kentucky Brigade of Infantry, of the Confederate Army. Mrs. Helm was also the half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln. After the death of her husband, she was forced to leave her home in Lexington, Kentucky and come to Madison. While here, she was the organist at the Christ Episcopal Church.

 In 1958, Madison was the setting for the movie "Some Came Running"




During the early days of Madison, the activity was along the riverfront. Here were located the hotels, commission houses, the railroad station and many business houses. At the corner of Central Avenue and Front Street was located a famous dive known as the "Red Onion Saloon", and it was just as hot and notorious as the name implies. For years the river trade frequented the place.