Madison County, Georgia History

The area which is now Madison County was originally inhabited by the Creek and Cherokee Indians. By 1773, most of this land was ceded by the Cherokee Indians to the Colonial Governor of Georgia, opening the area to frontier settlement. Two large counties were formed out of this land; Wilkes County in 1777 and Franklin County in 1784.  After the American Revolution, settlers were encouraged to migrate to the new counties by the State’s Headright Grant system; each settler was granted acreage based on number of heads (wife, children, and slaves) in his family. Georgia’s Revolutionary War soldiers were also awarded bounty grants as payment for their loyal service. Several forts were built in Madison County -- Hillhouse Forge near Comer, Hillhouse Furnace near Rogers Mill, Jones Station (later named Fort Lamar), and Black Station near Black’s Creek and the Hudson River.

Wilkes and Franklin were soon divided into several smaller counties, and Madison was subsequently formed in 1811 from 281 square miles of Elbert, Franklin, Clarke, Jackson and Oglethorpe Counties, becoming Georgia’s 38th county. 

The earliest permanent settlement was in the Paoli area, settled mainly by pioneers from Virginia, Pennsylvania and the Carolinas. Madison County existed primarily as an agricultural community for most of its history. In 1860, 84% of the county’s population farmed. Farmers grew corn, beans and pumpkin at the start of the 19th century.   Eventually the agricultural base of the county began to diversify and cotton, beef, dairy and oats were grown. The soils of Madison County were heavily damaged by the cotton monoculture common in this region prior to the 1930s.  Presently, 23% of the land is considered prime agricultural land. Agribusiness dominates the local economy, with poultry and egg production particularly important.