Madison History

Madison, Tennessee, is rich with musical history, tales of pioneers and American Indian heritage, and stories about its whistle stop town days.  Johnny Cash loved the railroad stories and saved Amqui Station from demolition.  The Station is now restored to its glory days thanks to the Cash Family and the Memorial Foundation.  Opry stars called Madison home and world class songwriters wrote hit tunes along the river on Neely’s Bend.

Old Hickory Boulevard (State Route 45) is a section of the Trail of Tears, the route of the forced removal of Cherokee Indians from North Carolina to Oklahoma, directed by U.S. President Andrew Jackson. This route passes directly by Jackson’s estate, The Hermitage, in the neighboring community of Old Hickory, Tennessee.

Historically, Madison acted as a connecting suburb until being annexed into Nashville in 1963 due to the consolidation with Davidson County. Madison funnels traffic to Goodlettsville, Hendersonville, Gallatin, Inglewood, and downtown Nashville.

Madison, TN, Historical Timeline:

This information courtesy of Amqui Station. Researched and Compiled by Executive Director, Cate Hamilton.[1]


About Amqui Station. Discover Madison, Inc. (DMI) is the parent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization of Amqui Station and Visitor’s Center. Formed in 2006, DMI’s mission is to celebrate, educate, promote, and preserve Madison, Tennessee, through the historic Amqui Station and Visitor’s Center. DMI and Amqui Station depend upon the efforts of our members and volunteers to continue our ambitious interpretive and educational programs as we establish the Amqui Station museum. The Visitor’s Center meeting room, pavilion, and our lawn and grounds provide a unique venue for special events…and the historic Amqui Station unquestionably provides the perfect backdrop!

We invite you to start your journey with a visit to our largest artifact: Amqui Station!

1910 to 1970s. Amqui Station and Visitor’s Center. The Amqui, Tennessee Passenger Station and Signal Tower was built by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad in 1910. Typical of southern station designs found in the region, it had deeply over-hanging eaves supported by triangular knee braces, had an agent-operator’s office and baggage room, an engine room, a battery room, a second-story signal operator’s room, and separate waiting rooms for black and white passengers (following dictates of the period that mandated segregation of all transportation-related facilities). Although passenger service came to an end in the 1960s, Amqui Station continued to serve as a signal and switching station. However, with the need for modernization of switching and signaling on the railway system, the L&N vacated Amqui in the late 1970s.

1970s to 2006: Johnny Cash often visited the signalmen at Amqui Station during the 1970s. During a television show in the early 1970s, Johnny sang “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” while walking around Amqui Station. Because of his love of trains, railroading, and Amqui Station, he purchased the old train station in 1979, saving it from demolition. After Johnny and June Carter Cash passed away, the Station returned home to Madison in 2006 and has since been restored for a museum. The visitor’s center and pavilion were added for special events and programming.

Madison History Timeline: Native American History—Early Historic Period. The Shawnee had established many villages along the Cumberland River by 1689. A French trading post, called French Lick, had been built to trade with the tribe. The Shawnee left the area in 1745. There was a small Cherokee village in the area during the 1750s, which was abandoned when white hunters started making frequent trips in 1760. There were no permanent Indian villages in the French Lick area; however, there were probably small Native American settlements within a 20-mile radius up until several years after the arrival of the Robertson-Donelson party in 1779-80. (Native History Association)

Native Americans and the First White Settlers. The Robertson-Donelson party, the first group of white settlers, arrived at the French Lick during the Revolutionary War. Most Southern Indian tribes, or factions of certain tribes, sided with the British because of increasing American demands for Indian land. The Chickasaws, the Chickamauga band of Cherokees led by Dragging Canoe, and the Creeks carried out many raids against the early Cumberland stations. After the Revolution, the Chickasaws made peace and became important allies of the frontier city of Nashville and the surrounding area. The Chickamaugan band of Cherokees and the Creek attacks continued until 1794 when they signed the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse. (Native History Association)

Long-hunters. Collectively known as “Long Hunters,” individuals had ventured across the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains by the 1750s. Like the traders who preceded them, the long hunters sought furs; unlike the traders, they did not engage in barter with the Native Americans. Instead, they concentrated in extensive hunting and trapping expeditions. The best-known long hunter was Daniel Boone; others included Kasper Mansker, who would become a leading citizen in the Cumberland settlements, and Thomas Sharp “Bigfoot” Spencer, whose wilderness prowess and physical strength became legendary. The risks were not insignificant. Long hunters struggled for survival with the wilderness environment as well as with Native Americans. At times, Native Americans confiscated the furs and equipment of the long hunters, whom they viewed as trespassers and thieves, men who offered nothing in exchange for the furs they removed. From another perspective, the long hunters represented the first essential steps in the settlement process. They located the best access routes into the trans-Appalachian West and the most suitable land for settlement. They identified springs for water and sources of salt, traveled through valleys and mountain passes, and trapped along countless rivers and streams. Their names are well known—Boone, Mansker, Bledsoe, Stone, and Spencer—and became place names in the areas where they once hunted and explored. (Tennessee Encyclopedia of History & Culture)

Mary Neely’s Capture. In the summer of 1780, William Neely and a group of men from Mansker’s Station left the settlement to go to Neely’s Lick for salt. His daughter, Mary, went along to cook for them. The company returned to Mansker’s Station, leaving both William Neely and Mary at the Lick. They were ambushed and William was killed. Mary, who had witnessed her father’s murder, was captured and taken to a Creek encampment. She remained with the tribe, travelling north and east, for two years. After being left at a British trading post and stockade, Mary escaped and eventually found her way to Virginia where she was employed as a domestic. She married George Spears, moved to Kentucky, and at the age of 82 returned to the Neely’s Bend area for a visit. (Madison Station, Guy Alan Bockman)

Spring Hill, the Meeting House, and the Minister. Thomas B. Craighead was a 1775 “New Light” graduate of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton). He became Nashville’s first minister when James Robertson and other pioneering settlers invited him to the Cumberland region to establish a Presbyterian church and school. Before coming to Nashville, Craighead had held preaching engagements in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, and he began his Nashville career shortly after his arrival by mounting a stump and preaching to all who would listen. In addition to preaching, Craighead also established Davidson Academy, chartered by the legislature of North Carolina in 1786. Like other schools of the period, Davidson emphasized classical education, with heavy emphasis on Greek and Latin. The enrollment remained small.

Although described as calm, sober, even eloquent in his preaching, Craighead conducted a ministry often controversial with Presbyterians as well as other denominations. During a period of religious revivals, when emotion sometimes overcame common sense, Craighead challenged his listeners to think. Craighead, suffering from the misfortunes of poverty, ill health, and blindness, died at Spring Hill, where he had lived since his arrival in Nashville. He was buried near his home, called “Evergreen”, and school. At the time of his death, friends and colleagues remembered him as a scholar, an independent thinker, and a man of dauntless courage. (Tennessee Encyclopedia of History & Culture)

Expansion, Growth, and Madison Station. In 1800 members of the Haysborough community began work on improving a wagon road that was once the old Bison trail. That wagon road became Neely’s Bend Road. With this improvement, there was an influx of new families including Thomas Stratton and his family. His son, Madison, began purchasing land. Due to his efforts, the Tennessee General Assembly, in 1853, granted a charter to the Edgefield and Kentucky Railroad to begin laying tracks linking Bowling Green, KY and Clarksville, TN. On May 21, 1857, the Haysborough community received a charter to be renamed “Madison Station” in honor of Madison Stratton and his civic contributions. (Madison Station, Guy Alan Bockman)

The Civil War and Madison Station Area. With the outbreak of the Civil War, several men in the community volunteered to take up arms. Both the Confederate and Union armies were concerned about the area surrounding Madison Station because of its accessibility via the railroad, the Louisville Branch Turnpike, the Gallatin Turnpike, and the Cumberland River. During 1862 there were several skirmishes and actions around Madison Station: August 20—Skirmish near Edgefield Junction; September 6—affair (incident) on Gallatin Pike/Wheeler’s Raid; October 5—skirmish at Neely’s Bend on the Cumberland River; October 15—skirmish at Neely’s Bend; October 20—skirmish on Gallatin Pike; and November 15–20—Reconnaissance from Edgefield Junction toward Clarksville. (The War for Southern Independence: The Civil War in Tennessee)

The National Cemetery. On July 3, 1866 a large portion of the Craighead property was transferred to the United States government for the establishment of the Nashville National Cemetery. By January 1867 more acreage was added. The site was chosen near the Louisville & Nashville railroad in order that “no one could come to Nashville from the north and not be reminded of the sacrifices that had been made for the preservation of the Union.” (American Military Cemeteries: A Comprehensive Illustrated Guide to the Hallowed Grounds of the United States, Including Cemeteries Overseas, Dean Holt)

From Madison Station to Madison. By 1900 “Station” was no longer a part of the community’s name. In a community profile published by the L&N RR in 1887, Madison was listed as having a population of 100; daily mail service with Samuel Crews as postmaster; 3 dry goods/grocers, 2 physicians, 2 justices of the peace, a lawyer, a constable, a Presbyterian minister, and a telegraph operation/express and railroad agent. (Madison Station, Guy Alan Bockman)

Sweetbriar and the Madison Equal Suffrage League. About 1914 artist, noted author, and suffragette Maria Thompson Daviess made her home in Madison at Sweetbriar Farm. In September 1911 she was elected Vice-President of the Nashville Equal Suffrage League and by 1915 the Madison Equal Suffrage League was organized when Miss Daviess hosted a barbecue at Sweetbriar Farm. According to Daviess, she “gave parties and barbecues and chicken dinners and had week-end assemblies and editors and illustrators came down from New York and we all lived riotously and well….” She published 16 novels between 1909 and 1920 with 13 short stories published between 1912 and 1918. (Maria Thompson Daviess: The Making of a Writer and Suffragette, Kay Baker Gaston, Tennessee Historical Quarterly (Vol. LXX, Fall 2011, Number 3; Seven Times Seven, Maria Thompson Daviess)

From 1910 Onward. On January 1, 1910, southbound and northbound trains would pass two railroad stations in the Madison community: Edgefield Junction and Madison Station. By the Fall of that year, the Edgefield Junction station was replaced with a new station: Amqui. According to Charles Castner, volunteer archivist with the Louisville & Nashville Railroad archives, the combination passenger and signal tower station was required because of the new double tracking; also it was more economical for the L&N to construct the new Amqui Station than to remodel the Madison Station, which was, at that time, more than 50 years old. ( List of Stations and Names of Agents, No. 522—Louisville & Nashville Railroad, January 1910; Charles B. Castner, interview May 1993)

Dupont Comes to Town. In the Sunday February 3, 1918 edition of the Nashville Banner, residents of Madison and Nashville read a news item of only 29 words: “Wilmington, Del., Feb. 2, The United States Government has commissioned the Dupont Engineering Co. to act as its agent in the construction of a smokeless powder plant on the Cumberland River near Nashville.” At the peak of the powder plant’s (ammunition factory) production, 32 trains daily carried 17,000 workers and an average of 275 freight cars. Madison thrived as a bedroom community as well as a gateway to the new plant. (Nashville Banner, February 3, 1918; Madison Station, Guy Alan Bockman)

The 1920s, the 1930s, and FDR. The 1920s began the advent of modern growth for the Madison area. The Montague subdivision on the east side of Gallatin Pike was a place you “couldn’t even visit…unless you had scads of money.” The Madison Red Sox baseball team gave a musical show in 1920 that featured Joseph MacPherson, the first voice to sing on radio station WSM’s initial broadcast in 1925. The 1920s – 1930s saw the formation of the Madison Civic Club, the Madison Park Land Company, the Madison Realty Company, the Madison Water Company (Madison Suburban Utility District), Douglas & Levine Subdivision, and Forest Park Subdivision. President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Nashville and Madison on November 17, 1934. Arriving by train at Union Station, FDR and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the tomb of President James K. Polk at the State Capitol, had breakfast and toured The Hermitage, stopped by J. Taylor Stratton Elementary School in Madison, and toured Vanderbilt and Fisk Universities. (Madison Station, Guy Alan Bockman; Historic Nashville, Inc.)

World War II leads into the Nifty Fifties. Madison residents volunteered for service in the armed forces and the Tennessee State Guard, bought Bonds and Stamps, and scanned the night skies for air raids. The Fifties began a decade of tremendous growth: the first traffic light, development of Neely’s Bend area, new buildings in the downtown business district, the organization of the Madison Chamber of Commerce, the construction of Madison High School, the first Hilly-Billy Day event, the incorporation of Odom’s Sausage Co., Inc., the development of Madison Square Shopping Center, and the construction of homes and subdivisions, apartment buildings, and shopping areas. (Madison Station, Guy Alan Bockman)

Nashville’s reputation as a country music center can be traced to the 1920s, when WSM radio launched the WSM Barn Dance (later the Grand Ole Opry), a radio show used as a marketing tool by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company. The “Nashville Sound” emerged in the 1950s and is given credit for the successful comeback of country music after the advent of rock music in the late 1950s. Many of the early country musicians, now considered legends, made their homes in Madison. Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright, Cowboy Copas, George Morgan, Jim Reeves, Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, Eddie Arnold, Floyd Cramer, Patsy Cline, Earl Scruggs, and Bill Monroe are just a few of the many Grand Ole Opry legends who called Madison “home” as well as Col. Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s long-time manager. (Madison Station, Guy Alan Bockman; Interview with Jean Stromatt, niece of Kitty Wells)