The North Carolina Visitor Center





History of Madison County

Madison County, North Carolina

Madison was formed in 1851 from Buncombe and Yancey counties. It was named in honor of James Madison, the fourth President of the United States. It is in the western section of the state, and is bounded by Yancey, Buncombe, and Haywood counties and the state of Tennessee. The present land area is 449.42 square miles and the 2000 population was 19,635.

The first court was ordered to be held at the tavern house of Adolphus Baird at which time the majority of the justices could adjourn to any other place they determined until a courthouse could be erected. Seven commissioners were named to select a site for the county seat. When the place was finally decided on, the commissioners were to acquire a tract of land, lay out a town by the name of Marshall, and erect a courthouse. Marshall, named in honor of John Marshall, is the county seat.

According to the Depression Era WPA book entitled, "North Carolina - A Guide to the Old North State" within the Federal Writers Project named the American Guide Series, first published in 1939 by the University of North Carolina Press, the first County Seat for Madison County was at the small town of Walnut, formerly called either Jewell Hill or Duel Hill, from 1851 to 1855.

"Near the top of a mountain grade US70-25 passes the village of Walnut, 17 miles [from the Tennessee State Line and about 11 miles from Marshall] (2,000 alt., 500 pop.), where cars can be serviced. Formerly known as Jewell Hill or Duel Hill, the village was the seat of Madison County from 1851 until 1855."

In 1783, the newly-formed Government of the United States of America opened the land west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Most of the land was granted to veterans of the Revolutionary War. One of the first known settlers was Samuel Davidson in 1784. He was soon killed by the Cherokee Indians. Many of the early settlers from Scotland and Ireland chose this place because it was more like their homeland. Many of their ways and customs still thrive in these beautiful mountains.

At that time the large area of land that is now Madison County was a part of Rutherford and Burke counties. Buncombe was carved off partly from Rutherford and partly from Burke. It became Buncombe in 1792 and it then covered what is now eleven counties. These counties were sliced off Buncombe a few at a time. Between 1792 and 1851 Madison was a part of Buncombe county.

Madison County, North Carolina was formed in 1851 from Buncombe and Yancey Counties. It was named for President James Madison. The county seat of Marshall (originally called Lapland) was named for U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall. The western county is bounded by the state of Tennessee to the west, Yancey County on the North, Buncombe County on the east and Haywood County on the south.

In 1870, the aggregate value of real estate in Madison County was $284,272 with 207,616 acres of land listed. Total land valuation was $279,711 and town property, $4,700. 

Mars Hill College is located in one of the most beautiful and healthful regions of the eastern United States, the mountains of western North Carolina. The town, which derives its name from the college, has a population of about 2,200. It is eighteen miles north of Asheville via highway 19-23. Asheville is the largest city in the western third of the state with a population of approximately 65,000. Asheville has the sophisticated attractions of a major metropolis and is known for its quality arts, crafts, and music offerings. Its annual Bele Chere festival each summer draws about 300,000 people. The campus is also ten miles east of Marshall, the county seat of Madison County.

From the 194-acre campus, which sits at an elevation of 2,330 feet, an inspiring panorama of lofty peaks may be viewed, including the Craggies, Clingman's Peak, and Mount Pisgah. Such scenic attractions as Mount Mitchell, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Craggy Gardens, Linville Falls and Cavern, Biltmore House and Gardens, Big Bald Mountain, and the Blue Ridge Parkway are within easy driving distance.

Mars Hill is well suited as a residence college. Located in a small town surrounded by mountains, rivers, woods, and all the outdoor activities they offer, the college's environment offers ample opportunity for study and reflection. However, its proximity to Asheville (about 20 minutes by car) allows access to city amenities like shopping, restaurants, entertainment, transportation, healthcare, and other facilities.

Founders Hall, erected in 1892, stands in stark simplicity alongside a contemporary three-story structure, Blackwell Hall. The college's programs also reflect the merging of the traditional and the contemporary. The old symbolically represents the rich 149-year heritage of Mars Hill College and its tradition of serving many thousands of young people from throughout North Carolina, the United States, and the world. The traditional also points to the strong emphasis, throughout our existence, on providing students a broad liberal arts education which includes academic skills and knowledge that have been valued for centuries; and we note our Baptist roots, which are a significant part of our long commitment to education in a Christian context.

- Source: J.D. Lewis - Little River, SC


More Information

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 19,635 people, 8,000 households, and 5,592 families residing in the county. The population density was 44 people per square mile (17/km²). There were 9,722 housing units at an average density of 22 per square mile (8/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.63% White, 0.83% Black or African American, 0.27% Native American, 0.23% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.45% from other races, and 0.59% from two or more races. 1.35% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 8,000 households out of which 28.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.50% were married couples living together, 8.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.10% were non-families. 26.30% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.81.

In the county the population was spread out with 21.20% under the age of 18, 10.30% from 18 to 24, 26.50% from 25 to 44, 26.00% from 45 to 64, and 15.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 97.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,985, and the median income for a family was $37,383. Males had a median income of $27,950 versus $22,678 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,076. About 10.90% of families and 15.40% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.60% of those under age 18 and 19.20% of those age 65 or over.

- Source: Wikipedia