Marshall Chosen as County Seat
The basic facts of the history of Madison County are that it was formed in 1851 from Buncombe and Yancey; it was named for James Madison and its county seat—the town of Marshall—bears the name of the great chief justice, John Marshall.
However, there is always a story behind the simple facts. In our case, the story stems from the selection of the location of the county seat.
First County Seat Located in Jewell Hill
Madison’s first county seat was Jewell Hill (in early years this community was known as Duel or Dewell Hill) in the community known as Walnut since after the Civil War. But the area was not close to travel routes (the Buncombe Turnpike had opened in 1827) and the 1852-53 legislature appointed a commission to decide on a more suitable location.
Jewell Hill Marker for first Madison County Courthouse
Selection of the New Location for the County Seat
Among the several “settlements” which desired to become the county seat, Lapland, on the French Broad River was one. However Lapland was barred by the act of the legislature (1850-1), which required that the “county seat is to be called Marshall which is not to be within two miles of the French Broad river.” The commission decided on the land owned by the Vance family but the legality of that selection became an issue. But David Vance (the father of Civil War Governor Zebulon Vance), in order to comply with the terms of the act, deeded fifty acres of land to Madison county for a town site on April 20, 1853. So the legislature of 1854-5 passed an act calling for an election to be held in June, 1855, to determine whether the new location should stand or another location be chosen. There is a tradition that Marshall won by only one vote and that this vote was cast by a man persuaded to go to the polls in return for a package of turnip seeds to plant in his garden. And, the town of Lapland became the town of Marshall and the county seat, although the county court was still held at Jewell Hill up to the fall of 1859.
First Madison County seat at Jewell Hill