Madison County, North Carolina Visitor Guide

Jewel of the Blue Ridge

When the government of the newly-formed United States of America opened the land west of the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1783, many of the early settlers to the area were from Scotland and Ireland. They chose this place because it was like their homeland. Today many of their ways and customs still are evident—from the music and dancing to the preservation of the handmade crafts.

History of Madison CountyMadison County NC Courthouse

Before 1776 the only settlers in this area were the Cherokee Indians. When the land grants were given to Revolutionary War heroes, settlers began to arrive. In 1792 the House of Commons of North Carolina recognized a mountain constituency and created a new county to be known as Buncombe (for a Revolutionary War hero). This county included what is now Madison County as well as other lands. It wasn’t until 1851 that Madison County was formed—carved from Buncombe County and the western part of Yancey County—taking its name for President James Madison. And, during that century and even into the 1900s, the geography would shape much of its history because of the isolation created by the mountains. Those living closest to the French Broad River would benefit from the Buncombe Turnpike built through North Carolina’s mountains between 1824 and 1828 along the Drovers’ Road, so called because drovers used the road to lead herds of animals (droves) to market. The route served as an important road until the 1880s, when a railroad was built along the same route. One of the prosperous logging communities—Stackhouse—grew up along the River and this Road. The Drovers’ Trail also influenced the choice for the location of the county seat —which would be in the town of Marshall, named for U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall.

Isolation in the other communities was clear during the Civil War as Madison County had many stories of “brother versus brother.” The Presbyterian missionaries spread out into these communities and carved out history. Allanstand ( a location along another drover’s trail) became the home of the woman who would preserve handmade crafts and establish an economic outlet for such craft. This would eventually form the foundation for the Southern Highland Craft Guild in nearby Asheville. The Women’s Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church also saw the need to establish schools and a hospital in the rural areas of the County, leaving their mark on the land.