Around 1948-49, a history of Madison was compiled by Miss Mary Humphrey, daughter of Frank and Marie Bassett Humphrey.  She was the only high school student who, when told of Dr. Turner’s offer to the student body of prizes for the three best writings on the history of Madison, tackled the tremendous job of research which this undertaking required.  The history was published as installments in the Madison Times and then a complete manuscript was turned over to the Missouri Historical Society at Jefferson City.  Thanks again to Kathleen Wilham for providing us with the Nannie Brown Collection, from which this history was extracted.  LPP 

“I find in looking over old records, that the first permanent settlement made in what is now Monroe County, was made in 1820 by Ezra Fox, Daniel and Andrew Whittenburg and families, 3 ½ miles east of Middle Grove’s present site.  These people, who came from Kentucky, came in clans, that is, people united by ties of blood and kinship.  In May 1825, Joseph Stevens; Joel and Jim Noel; the Boulwares; William and Evan Davis; Reuben, John and Jerry Burton; Harve, Robert and Austin Swinney; Jacob, Pleasant, Daniel, and Tyre Ford, and families from Oldham County, Kentucky, settled north and east of this location.  Jesse Elsberry led this band.  He returned to Kentucky in the following year and brought back more settlers.  Among them were David Enochs, Sam Quirey, the Ownbys, the Noels, and other families who settled just west and south of Madison. 

James Davis married Betsy, the daughter of Ezra Fox.  The youngest descendant of the first settler is Lonny Elsberry, son of Mr. and Mrs. A.E. Elsberry, who lives near the old Fox settlement.  From 1829 to 1830, immigration increased rapidly from Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.  Mr. Elsberry made seven trips on horseback to lead these settlers.  Joseph Stevens was the first representative to the legislature from this county, serving from 1832-1836.  His daughter, Amanda, married John Davis.  She was beheaded by a slave in July 1857.  Their daughter, Sally, was the first young lady of the community to own a piano. 

Monroe County, at that time, comprised several counties.  What is now Monroe County, was then Union Township.  The governor, Daniel Dunklin, appointed Reece Davis, first Justice of the Peace.  The first election held in this county was held at his home, August 1832 (where Herbert Johnson’s home now stands).  The first county court met February 26, 1831.  The grand jurors of this part of the county were David Enochs, Joel Noel and John Burton.  James R. Abernathy was appointed commissioner of the Township School lands.  A road from Hannibal to Hunstville was opened soon. 

In 1837, the town of Madison was laid out by James R. Abernathy, a native of the Old Dominion, born in Lunenburg County, February 25, 1765.  The name of no man is so closely identified with so many initial enterprises of the county as that of James Abernathy.  The ancestors of both of his parents had settled in that state long prior to the Revolution.  In 1797, they removed to Kentucky and his father was one of the pioneer settlers of Fayette County, one of the first counties in the bluegrass state.  He was reared there, learned the hatter’s trade, and came to Missouri in 1817, locating at Howard County.  Having received a good education, he taught school for several years and came to Monroe County in 1823.  Prior to this, he had been engaged in agricultural pursuits; was at New Madrid at the time of the great earthquake, and lost all he had by that unfortunate event.  During leisure hours, he studied law and was admitted to the bar.  Abernathy was accounted one of the most successful prosecuting attorneys of the time; he was the county’s first treasurer, resigning after twelve years.  He was Constable, Justice of the Peace, Judge of the County Court, and Circuit Attorney.  He was a soldier in the War of 1812, and the Union for which he fought, he could not forsake in the hour of peril of 1861.  He had been married three times: his first wife was Miss Jennie Winn.  He then married Rosana, a daughter of William and Nancy Swinney Davis.  Their daughter, Nancy, married Dr. Hugh Glenn, who went to California in 1849.  He took up thousands of acres of rich land in the Sacramento Valley and became a multi-millionaire.  He laid the foundation of one of the largest fortunes on the Pacific Coast by becoming the wheat king of the world.  He owned Tulare County.  In those days, every boy hoped to go to California.  The first place they struck was Hugh Glenn’s ranch, “The Willows.”  Glenn was killed by Huren Miller, his best friend.  Tyre Ford was the prosecuting attorney and Eugene Bridgford, judge, both being Monroe Countians, where Miller was tried.  So few were the murders in those days, the daily progress of the trial was printed by the metropolitan papers all over the United States.  Miller was sent to San Quentin prison and released after 10 years. 

Madison was established as a trading center.  It was half way between Old Allen (now a part of Moberly), and Paris, the county seat.  A stage line was established between Glasgow and Hannibal during the 1830’s.  Since the stagecoach ran day and night, fresh relays of teams were kept ready at stations along the route.  The David Enochs home, one mile west of Madison, was a stopping point.  The coaches were beautifully painted.  Mail was carried on horseback. 

In the days of slow transportation, a trading center was greatly needed between the two towns.  James Abernathy entered 40 acres and laid out half of the tract into 90 lots, selling the lots for $1,000 and naming the town for the President, James Madison.  The part of the city in which the business section is now located comprises most of the lots surveyed and sold by him.  From an abstract of one of these lots, I learned that the lots were sold in 1837, but the abstract was not recorded until 1891.  The abstract, revealing the width of the streets, stated that Broadway was 72 feet wide, Washington, Marion, Jefferson, Main, Cross, and Lafayette streets were each 60 feet wide, the alleys 12 feet wide, and the lots each have a 60 foot front on the streets, running back 124 feet. 


The first home was erected by Abernathy just west of the Baker Lumberyard.  Later Henry Harris built a home which was used as a tavern in 1837.  The Martin Groves family settled where the Moss Dawson home now stands.  He was the town’s first merchant, operating a general store.  In 1834, he donated a plot of ground for a cemetery; his little daughter being the first of the settlers to be buried on Sunset Hill.   

In 1838, Daniel and James Eubank, who came from Tennessee, opened a store.  It was a two-room log house facing west on the grounds where the Chowning Brothers’ store now stands.  This building stood for 75 years.  Then the cloth, itself, as well as the clothing was made at home.  Miss Virginia Swindell bought the first lawn for a dress at a cost of 30 cents a yard.  It was the talk of the community.  

The grocery stores sold mostly spices, sugar, coffee and tea.  The first lawyer was Champ Clark, who made his home for a short while with Elder J.C. Davis.  Later Monroe Stevens was a lawyer.  Dr. Ray was the town’s first physician.  Others have been Ladd, Venaugh, Tucker, McNutt, Todd, Perry, Davis, Wilcox, Forrest, Johnson, Atterbury, and Drace.  Dr. T.R. Turner is our present physician.  The first blacksmith shop to be erected was built by Harve Collins, who hammered out plow shares used by farmers of this section.  Madison was quite a manufacturing town.  A carding mill was operated by John Dawson on South Main Street.  Fleeces of wool were picked and carded. 

On August 31, 1861, about 31 men left Madison under the command of J.R. Chowning and J.W. Atterbury.  Marching to Middle Grove, they joined the forces of the Confederacy under Capt. Frank Davis.  Their first actual encounter was at Boonville, where they had a skirmish with the Union forces.  They were unsuccessful in capturing the position, but they secured the release of about ten prisoners.  J.W. Atterbury Sr. received a wound in his ankle, having to return to his home. 

The other men proceeded to Lexington, where they fought their second encounter.  They joined a battery under the command of Captain Tull, in Springfield, and consolidated with Bledsoe at Mobile, Ala.  For the remainder of the time, the battery was in the South.  The cannon used by Bledsoe’s battery was called “Old Sacramento.”  There was a battle at Paris.  The old Glenn Hotel shows the marks of that battle today. 

Some of the men from this section who served in this famous old battery were J.S. Dunaway, Jack Overfelt, J.R. Chowning, Bill Edwards, Nick and Les Farrell, Joespeh Hersman, Henry Wade, C.A. Overfelt, D.T.C. Mitchell, J.W. Atterbury, Wes McKinney, Jim Elsberry, Ed Lynch, Sam Houchins, C.L. Enochs, and G.E. Green. 

As the following men: Joe Boulware, Will Klugh, Simp Dry, Neut Turner, Curt Mitchell, Charles McKinney, Elsea Dry, Bos Botkins, Adolphus Elsberry, and Henry Clay Bryant were returning home, four of their comrades were drowned when “Old Kentucky” their boat, sank on Red River, Louisiana, September 9, 1865.  The four were: Mac Wilson, William Baker, Ben Houchins, who was the father of Frank, Benny, Eddie and William Houchins, and Mrs. Mary Swindell, and Doc Dry, the grandfather of John Dry.  Captain George Waller fought with Gen. Sterling Price, as did William Farrell. 

The M.K. & T. Railroad, now the Wabash, built from Hannibal to Moberly, was completed in 1872.  The land given by owners and citizens for the county bonded the county for $250,000 for the road.  The depot was a very busy place.  Fifteen and twenty trains a day ran through Madison carrying longhorn Texas cattle to Chicago.  Stock was shipped out almost every day.  T.B. and H.T. Davis were stock buyers.  Many young men who became telegraphers received their training at this station. 

An era of great prosperity followed.  Lun Palmer built an imposing house just south of the depot, known as the Southern Hotel.  Madison boasted of two other hotels, the Brown Hotel and the Morris House.  W.C. Davis was a boot and shoe maker; William Ownby owned a livery and feed stable; Reeds had a restaurant; H.C. Baker was a merchant and stockman; Farrell and Roberson sold hardware and implements; Mrs. S.A. Morris was a milliner; J.R. Chowning had a dry goods store; Buckner and Bassett were druggists; C.T. Quisenberry was a butcher; C.F. Jackson had a bakery and restaurant; Butler and Branham owned a meat market; Manning and Davis ran a millinery.  C.H. Eubanks owned a grocery and lumber store; Todd Lightner & Co. had a dry goods store. 

In 1875, a tobacco factory for the curing of tobacco was built by a firm from Hannibal.  It employed about 50 men and stimulated the growth of Madison.  Much tobacco was of a very fine quality was grown as the soil was well suited to its culture.  Mr. J.R. Chowning, Peter H. Bassett, and James Davis operated this factory for several years.  A brick kiln furnished brick for the local use.  Cicero, the father of our postmaster, Waller Eubank, built the first brick building on the corner of Broadway, now a part of the Baker Lumberyard. 

In January, 1885, Charles Reed gave Madison her first newspaper.  It was called “The Madison Watchman.”  The next year J.E. Kribs became editor and changed the name to “The Advance.”  The first edition was printed on a “hand press,” where the type was linked each time that it was used.  Henry Wade got the first paper that came off the press.  M.A. Leftwich purchased the paper and again changed the name to its present name, “Madison Times.”  After a few months he sold it to Margaret and Nora Waller and Clyde Eubank, who edited the paper from 1890-1909.  Clyde and Waller Eubank later became owners and editors for a number of years. 

William Sumpter for many years furnished the house-wives with hand-made brooms.  William Brownfield, who lived in west Madison, furnished the community with ice and fresh meat during the summer months.  During the coldest weather he cut ice and stored it in his large ice house.  Artificial ice was then unknown.  The Brownfield, Dixons, Turpitts, Bloodworth and Burnsworth family located in and near Madison after the war.  They were from Pennsylvania. 

Though Abernathy had laid out the town of Madison, it was James R. Chowning, J.W. and I.N. Atterbury who practically made the town.  James R. Chowning erected brick buildings south of the bank and sold dry goods.  His sons, Orville and Scott, were later associated with him.  His grandson, Wray Giddings Chowning, now owns this clothing store.  This firm was established over 80 years ago.  Chowning was admitted to the bar in 1905 and represented Monroe County in the Missouri House of Representatives in 1916.  J.W. and I.N. Atterbury, brothers, helped to build up the town of Madison in a substantial way by forming a partnership in 1867 in the mercantile, livestock and farming business, which continued for 54 years.  In 1884, J.W. Atterbury was elected to the state legislature by a large majority, after one of the hottest contests in the history of the county. 

The Madison Bank was organized in 1888.  Marcilus Harvey, a traveling grocerman of Boonville, was president; William T. Armstrong, vice president; J.R. Chowning, cashier, and Ed Thomas, assistant cashier.  It opened for business March 1, 1888, and George Lenhart was the first depositor.  Soon after, J.W. Atterbury was elected president, which position he held until his death in 1921.  J.W. Atterbury, Jr., now president, has been with this bank since 1888.   

The brick block west of the bank, including the old post office building, was erected by the Atterbury brothers during the 1880s.  I.N. Atterbury and Ed DeYoung made a trip to England to purchase a load of horses.  Probably no other men of the county have contributed more to the livestock industry, especially horses, than the Atterbury Brothers and H.C. Baker.  They owned some of the finest horses in the country.   

In 1884, Charles Atterbury engaged in the furniture and undertaking business.  He was one of the town’s most influential and progressive business men.  In previous years Henry Wade was the town’s furniture dealer and undertaker.  The art of embalming was then unknown. 

Madison was indeed very proud of her new Opera House (which was over the Noel & Cunningham store).  On the opening night Miss Katy Castleton, a very noted actress of the day, was the principal entertainer.  This was the social center for many grand occasions, for years.  Masquerade socials were very popular.  There was always a community Christmas tree at the Opera House. 


Christian Church

The first Christian minister was Elder Donan, who traveled over this section on horseback, preaching for the free will offerings of his members.  The Christian Church was organized in 1838 at a log school house on the farm of Martin Grove west of Madison.  There were five charter members.  The preacher was Martin Vivian.  In 1841, another church was organized.  It stood where the Lack Broaddus property now stands, facing west.  These charter members were sturdy and heroic men and women, who came from Kentucky and Virginia and subdued the wilderness.  The old record bears mute testimony to a beautiful and abiding faith, which sustained them in their early struggle.  Many of their descendants yet live in and around Madison, and exhibit the same sublime faith and loyalty to the church, which characterized their forebears.  The church discipline of those early days may seem harsh and unreasonable to the present generation.  Dancins was a rock over which many of the new converts stumbled and there are found these words after their names, “Excluded for dancing”; and after the names of slaves who became members of their master’s church are the following words, “blackwoman” or “blackman.” 

In spite of the many hindrances, the church grew and prospered.  Those were the days of protracted meetings; many new members were added in these revivals, until the total reached 300.  E.J. Lampton, so fondly remembered and beloved by the members of the present generation, served that church from 1860-1863.  In 1873, a primitive, but commodious frame building was built on East Broadway on land donated by Ed DeYoung, a public spirited man.  It was constructed without regard to beauty, like all village churches of that day.  The only ornamentation was a glass fan light over the door, the lettering “Madison Christian Church.”  In spite of all the material handicap the church grew and prospered mightily, exerting a wonderful influence over Madison and surrounding community.  J.C. Davis held the pastorate; Miss Sally Gove and Cicero Eubank organized the first Sunday school.  In 1896, the next church was built at a cost of $5,000.  This church burned in November, 1910.  The first funeral preached in it was that of Mrs. Milton Forsythe; the last was her husband’s 14 years later.  Some of the pastors were Brothers E.M. Richmond, Briney, Corwine and Bailey.  One of the greatest revivals held in this community was by A.N. Lindsay. 


The first Methodist Church stood where Del Miles’ new home now stands.  They sold this building to the Baptist denomination and it was moved.  The new church was dedicated on August 5, 1900.  It was erected at a total cost of $3,000, with an immense crowd in attendance at its dedication.  Reverend A.S. Bowles was the pastor.  Some of the members were the Mitchells, Lenharts, Brownfields, Turpits, Burnsworths, Sumpters, and Quisenberrys. This church burned in the early 1930s.  They are now using what used to be the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  In June, 1903, J.W. Kimball broadcast a sermon over the telephone, on 14 rural lines averaging 10-20 telephones each.  He was unable to get to his country church due to high waters.  He became one of the leading Methodist ministers of the state.  


The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized at the home of C.H. Atterbury November 1, 1894, with a membership of 32.  J.W. Sr., I.N. and C.H. Atterbury, Mary Atterbury, Mrs. Thresher, Mr. Leightner, Mrs. Sally Hulen and M.A. Leftwich were some of the members.  Reverend Sharp was their pastor.  Their new church building was dedicated October 24, 1897, by Reverend Morris, D.D.  Part of their interesting equipment of the church was a bell listed as a blyner monister, weighing 1,150 pounds and costing $103.  Reverend Morris was the first pastor and Miss Juanita Grimes was the organist.  It is now used as the Methodist Church. 


The Baptist Church was organized in 1903 by Reverend Painter at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Farrell with these charter members: Mrs. Griffith, Mrs. Diltz, Mrs. Ella Timbrook, Mr. and Mrs. George Owens, Mr. and Mrs. George Farrell.  They bought the Methodist Church building and moved it to the lots on which the present building stands.  The first pastor was Reverend Mansfield.  Others have been Joseph Smith, R.T. Colborn, R.A. Jones, H.C. Barton, P.F. Sears, Rev. Green, PD. Mangum, and L.M. White, and under his faithful leadership the church prospered with a substantial increased in members, and renewed working force.

 Second Christian Church

The Second Christian Church was organized in 1873, but no building was erected until 1882.  Logs for the building were cut on the John Lepper farm and built on the site of the present building.  Some of the members are the Burtons, the Johnson, Gooches, Burgesses, and Tydings.  Rice Burton is the oldest member of this church.  His son has been pastor for years.  Their new brick building was erected in 1921. 


The first school building was erected on the grounds now owned by Frank Houchins.  Some of the early teachers were: Sam Houchins, Joe Grove, Lucy Holmes, and Emma Grove.  The next school was erected by the Christian denomination on the lots where the Broaddus property now stands, taught by William Featherston and later by Eugene Lampkin and T.J. Harley.  A three-room frame building was next used.  After a few years it was moved south of the tracks and used by the colored school.  At the turn of the century Madison had one of the best schools in this section.  J.B. Rogers was superintendent.  Pupils came from surrounding counties.  We now have a first class school; one of the best in the state for a town of its size.  Misses Mag and Nora Waller and Vada Lenhart were among the best known teachers of the county.  At present, Miss Mary Lear has been honored by Lindenwood College by a lifetime job as Professor of Chemistry. 

Colored School

The first colored school was known as “Bush College,” a one-room log cabin, southwest of Madison about two miles near the railroad crossing on the Bud Engle farm.  It was built in 1854, later in a dwelling on the late J.W. Atterbury farm at the south edge of Madison.  Later the present building used by the white pupils was moved and used by the colored pupils.  The first teacher was Ken Atterbury. 


For a number of years Madison was known for its annual Street Fairs.  The first one was held here in 1904.  They were real homecoming events.  Having a number of training barns in the vicinity, excellent hors shows were a usual part of the program.  In 1905, Madison experienced another great boom.  The Farmers & Merchants Bank was organized.  The Bake Addition was added to north Madison.  Many business houses and homes were built.   

During its history, Madison has had several fires.  The most destructive fire swept away property valued at $40,000.  About half of those affected carried no insurance, and the loss meant ruin to more than one of them.  The fire broke out in the J.R. Chowning block and spread with such speed comparatively nothing was saved on the block.  Every building on the opposite block was destroyed except the Farmers & Merchants Bank and the Arcade Building, owned by W.T. Willis.  A list of those affected by the fire included thirty individuals.  Brown and Davis was the oldest business firm.  Other fires which were minor in comparison, but nevertheless affected several individuals and the appearance of the town, included a barber shop, two grocery stores, two churches, a school building, a garage and several dwellings.  The garage fire resulted in a loss of $19,000 by the owners, besides 21 patrons lost their automobiles.

 Chautauquas used to be events of considerable importance.  Before the days of radio, this was about the only opportunity the local people had for hearing good music and lecturers.  (Transcriber’s note: Tent shows, known as “chautauquas”, brought popular education and entertainment to small towns in America from coast to coast.)

 The Fourth of July, 1895, was celebrated by a reunion and picnic under the auspices of Bledsoe Camp of Confederate Veterans.  The crowd was the largest ever assembled in or near Madison.  (The following is a clipping from the Moberly Monitor of that date, July 1895): “Right in front of the speaker’s stand was an elegant picture in a massive frame of the monument erected on the battlefield of Chickamauga in honor of Bledsoe’s battery.  This battery had the distinguished honor of firing the opening shot of this terrible battle and yesterday the whole drift of talk, both public and private, was of the battery, nearly half of the gallant captain’s company being from the vicinity of Madison.”

 The three oldest houses left are the homes of Mr. and Mrs. George Hayden, the Walker home, and the brick cottage near the school building that was the first home of the J.R. Chowning family. 

 In 1906 our present bank was erected with the Odd Fellows hall above.  Doctor Turner recently purchased this hall and made it into modern apartments.  John Forrest, son of Dr. Forrest, was the town’s druggist for 50 years.  Dr. E.J. Dunaway has been practicing denistry here for over fifty years. 

 The people of Madison have always been God-fearing people; noted for hospitality, kindness and loyalty.  Most of the business men of today are descendants of the pioneers who built Madison.  The End.”

Madison, Mo. Pop. 481

Madison at one time had two banks - the Madison Bank which was owned by the Atterbury family 
and the Farmers and Merchants Bank.  The Farmers and Merchants Bank has not existed for some 60+ years, but the Madison Bank is now the Madison Honeywell Bank.

Early bank information was revealed to me by my aunt Willie, who will be 100 years old in 
February, 1999. She told me she and her husband used to bank at the Farmers and Merchants Bank because it was smaller and her husband knew the president personally.

(Submitted by: Barbara Lusk Savalick, St. Louis, MO, 
formerly of Woodlawn, Monroe County Missouri)

It is also a quaint town that at one time not so long ago had a bank, Rexall Drug, and beauty shop. The friendliest little restaurant," D&J's.", have daily specials with catfish noted to be the best in the area. It is surely one of my very favorites! Beecher's fine evening dining and cocktails adds to this list of small town favorite areas for shopping or business needs.    (submitted by Cathlene Stewart)


The town of Madison was named by James Abernathy, who came to Monroe Co., in 1817. It was named in honor of James Madison, President of the United States. Mr. Abernathy entered 40 acres of land where the town was located. The first house in the place was put up by Henry Harrison, who came from Madison Co., Ky., and used as a tavern in 1837. James Eubanks, from Tennessee, opened the first store in 1838. George Cunningham was the pioneer blacksmith. The town contained a population of 500 to 600, and had a public school, 2 churches, 2 general stores, one harness shop, three drug and grocery stores, 1 grocery and meat market, 1 flouring-mill and a saw-mill, 1 furniture store, and 1 wagon shop.

--Directory of Towns, Villages, and Hamlets, Past and Present, of Monroe Co., Mo. ,  p. 173, 174;

--Campbell's Gazetteer, p. 380                         (submitted by Robin Gatson)


From the MADISON TIMES, Madison, MO.
"Recalls Early Days Around Madison"
Blackwell, Okla., July 13, 1931 

I notice in your number of July 9th, a write up of early days of the city of Madison, which was read by me with much interest.  Being an Old Settler myself, I was born and raised about three miles northwest of Madison in the year 1843.  Am now 88 years old, my name is Monroe DAVIS.  My fathers name was Madison DAVIS, was generally known as Mat DAVIS, who settled where I was born in 1833.  

James R. ABERNATHY was an uncle of mine by marriage.  I can recognize the name of all the Old Settlers mentioned, however, I only find one name that I can recognize that is living among all of my acquaintances, that one is John Dunaway.  Probably he would remember me.  

Among the old industries you failed to mention the old grist mill, that was owned by John DAWSON, that was run by the power of an incline wheel and was driven by horses walking on the wheel and the weight of the
horses would revolve and which would also run the millstone.  The parties that brought the grist to mill had to furnish the horses.  The miller that run the mill was named WYSINGER.  

Just to show the younger boys how milling was done at that mill, I will explain just how it was done.  The mill was equipped with a set of mill stones that was used to grind either corn or wheat. If it were corn the meal was scooped into a sack and if it were wheat it was scooped into another sack and carried upstairs and put through a bolt that was run by hand. It took two men to do it.  One man would turn the reel while the other fed the stock into the reel. The flour would fall into a chest below.  The miller, Mr. WYSINGER, would take a turkey wing in his hand, open up the chest and divide the fine flour from the middlings by drawing a line between the fine flour and the middlings and shorts also.  He then would put the shorts on the bottom of the sack then tie a string around the sack, then do likewise with the flour and middlings.  All three then would be in the same sack.
The bran was then put into a separate sack.

This is a letter written by my GG-Grandfather, Monroe DAVIS who was born in Madison, MO Nov 8, 1843 to James "Madison" DAVIS and Elizabeth (Evans) DAVIS.

Submitted by: Marla Andrus
Web Site: Marla's Tree House