Madison can trace its beginnings back to the late 1700s. What is now the multi-lane highway through Madison was only a bison trace when famed long hunters Thomas Sharpe "Big Foot" Spencer and Kasper Mansker trod that path between what is now Sumner County, Tennessee and the Big French Lick on the Cumberland River. Reports by these early explorers of the beauty and bounty of the area fired the interest of others to come to the area, among them James Robertson and John Donelson. In the spring of 1778, Robertson led a small group of settlers on a trip to explore out the land the Long Hunters were raving about. Pleased with what they found, they returned with a larger group of men and boys the following year and broke ground on Fort Nashborough on Christmas Day, 1779. When John Donelson arrived by flatboat in the spring of 1780 with the families of the pioneers, the beginning of Madison was not far behind.
Over the next few years, the settlers expanded out from Fort Nashborough. One of these expansions was about eight miles from the fort (less than a day’s journey) and was named ‘Haysboro,’ the predecessor of present-day Madison. In 1785, Rev. Thomas Craighead, a Presbyterian minister from North Carolina, established a church know as the “Spring Hill Meeting House” which was located on the property upon which Spring Hill Funeral Home would be built. This was the first church erected west of the Cumberland Mountains.
Rev. Craighead also established the first school in the territory in 1786. Classes were first held at the Spring Hill Meeting House, but were later moved to the basement of the Reverend’s home, named Evergreen Place, which sat on the land where the Inglewood Home Depot resides.
In 1799, Colonel Robert Hays sold 160 acres of his land south of Haysboro to George McWhirter and 160 acres of his land north of Haysboro to Thomas Hudson. Hudson immediately divided his land into 72 parcels, which he marketed to both new and old settlers. On October 23, 1799, the residents all came together to rename their town “Haysborough.”
By 1830, there were three stage coach lines running out the Haysboro Road (now Gallatin Road) to the old William Donelson residence (where McHenry Center now stands). This is supposedly where Andrew Jackson first met Rachel Donelson whom he later married.
As the community contined to thrive, Thomas Stratton and his family, including a son named Madison for whom the community would later be named, arrived from Virginia and purchased 1,000 acres of land for fifty cents an acre. On May 3, 1834, Madison Stratton, the son, turned 21 years of age. Three years later, he began buying his own land and continued to expand his land holdings over several years, becoming a leader within the community.
In 1852, the General Assembly of Tennessee granted a charter to the Edgefield and Kentucky Railroad to build a railway line connecting Bowling Green and Clarksville. With Madison Stratton’s land emcompassing a lot of the area through which the railroad would be built, he saw this as an opportunity to use it for the community. He sold the land to Charles E. Woodruff on which Madison Station (later to be know as Amqui Station) would be built. On May 21, 1857, the Haysborough community received a charter to be renamed Madison Station in honor of Madison Stratton and his contributions to the community he loved.
With the start of the Civil War in 1861, the Confederate and the Union armies had reason to be concerned about the area around Madison Station, as the railroad including the Louisville Branch and Gallatin Turnpikes, were firmly established at this time. The waterways around Madison Station were also considered to very important, so much so that the Confederate Military Board of State demanded that additional defenses be set in place to protect them.
After the war, the people of Madison Station began healing like the rest of the nation. By 1873, the town was described in the Nashville City Directory as a “small station of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.”
The Powder Plant Boom of 1916 in nearby Old Hickory caused an influx of workers to the area, many of whom moved to Madison. After World War I, with the growth of Old Hickory as an industrial center for the DuPont Cellophane and Rayon Plants, Madison continued to draw families from all parts of the country.
The 1927, the Lakewood Water Company was established by Mr. Norman Cheek, mainly for his personal use, and later extended to supply the entire community of Madison and surrounding areas. In 1939, the Madison Utility District was formed, which still serves our community.
In 1943, Douglas Odom, Sr. founded Odom Sausage Company on Neely’s Bend Road. Today, “Odom’s Tennessee Pride” can be found in stores nationwide.
With a population of only 600 in 1930, Madison continued to grow until in 1950 the official population count was 9,985. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Madison’s population was 35,192.
In 1956, Madison Square Shopping Center opened, the first of its kind in Davidson County and a harbinger of great changes which were to come in retail shopping. Also completed in 1956 was the Old Hickory Dam, which not only generated power for the area but also was of immense importance in flood control. It was also one of the largest recreational lakes in the state and, best of all, was only ten minutes from Madison.
Two momentous events took place in Madison in 1977: the opening of the Madison Library and the opening of Cedar Hill Park. The library was a long-standing dream of the community and quickly began a important part of it. Cedar Hill was, and remains, one of the most beautiful parks in the Metro system.
In 1979, Johnny Cash purchased the old Amqui Station and moved it to the House of Cash. In 2003, Halo Properties purchased Amqui Station and donated it back to Madison.
Today, Madison would hardly be recognized as the sleepy little town of only a generation ago. Although Madison is unincorporated, its unofficial boundaries stretch north from Briley Parkway to the Sumner County line and east from Dickerson Road to the Old Hickory bridge. Madison, being part of Metropolitan nashville, enjoys the convenience and advantages offered by a large city while retaining the atmosphere and friendliness of a small town.