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Dan Valley Dot Com plans to showcase each town in the Dan River Basin. Our first town is Madison because I am more familiar with it. Therefore Madison NC will be our test, a place to experiment and work the bugs out of our system.
This picture was taken by me, standing in the street on a Thursday afternoon.
The town of Madison is one of the oldest towns in the North Carolina Piedmont, being chartered in 1818. The town is located at the junction of the Dan River and the Mayo River.
Madison, in the early days, was a river town. Barges traveled the Dan River with Madison being the inland terminus. Freight was carried up and down the Dan River on barges as the only other way of moving anything was by horse and wagon. Roads were not conducive to efficient wagon traffic.. The town was also known as “Hog Town” because the farmers from miles around would bring their hogs to market in Madison NC and then move them to other destinations down the Dan River.
Traffic across the river was by Ferry. Bridges began to appear in the early 1800’s but the area where the Dan and Mayo join is prone to flooding…..even today.
About 1888 the railroad began passenger service in and out of Madison. The rail roads replaced the barge traffic on the Dan River. Rail roads could move faster and to more diverse locations than river barges. Rail roads were more flexible.
Actually, as kid, I had the experience of boarding a train at the Madison (1944) depot for a trip all of the way to California. This was the time of the steam engine….Smoke and soot…steam whistles and such……Oh there is something about the good old days….
Amazing that we were so advanced
Madison no longer has passenger train service or barges on the river. The world changes and not always for the good. I suggest a trip to the North Carolina Museum of Transportation located in Salisbury.
Madison was a thriving tobacco town from mid 1850’s with several plug tobacco factories. John M. Galloway, a local planter, was reported to be the largest grower of tobacco in the world. Madison remained largely a tobacco town until after World War II when it emerged as a textile town. During the 1940’s and 1950’s workers would be bused in from eastern Stokes to work in Madison’s textile mills. The textile industry has evolved but is still the largest employer.
was the commercial center of western Rockingham County and Eastern Stokes County. Farmers from these areas would bring their tobacco to market in Madison where they would do their banking and purchase necessities which included food that could not be raised on the farm. During the 1940’s and 1950’s, Madison had many commercial enterprises such as an A & P super market, a bank, a Belk’s department store, 2 pharmacies, a doctor and a dentist. There were many smaller local merchants. It was really a thriving town at this time, but times rapidly changed.
A few of the older homes in Madison have been preserved.
Unfortunately the population of Madison, NC has been decreasing for years. In th late 50’s, the population was approximately 4400 people and today, 2016, the population has shrunk to approximately 2200 folks while at the same time the area of the town is almost 3 times what it was when the population was over 4000. For what was once a prosperous and growing town…things are not looking good. This is unfortunate because the area still has a work force that is willing to work.