317 Church Street

Charles and Sandy Nola live in a landmark house in the southwest corner of Mill Road at Church Street. The house was built in 1998, and the tax assessor's website shows it as having about 2,906 square feet. Its appearance exudes an appealing ambiance of Southern comfort and functionality. Charles and Sandy both have been active for years in the Madison Station Historical Preservation Society and now in the Derby Days celebrations in the town.

200 Main Street - Humphrey – Hughes Drug Store

This building was constructed around 1908 as the Burton & Wise Drug Store.  The Burton and Bradford families owned it until 1975, but G. W. Hughes rented it from 1925 to 1972.  The early manually-operated telephone switchboard for Madison was located here, in an upstairs apartment for many years.  Operator Viola Styles Keel slept on a cot beside the apparatus, while her two sons Buddy and Percy shared a bedroom in the apartment.  The downstairs was used as the drugstore of long-time pharmacist George Walton Hughes, known to all as "Doc" because he attended to a variety of medical conditions in the town.  When the town had only two telephones, one was in Doc's store so that he could provide medicine and news to the town folk.  

For many years during the Great Depression of the 1930s, this building was the location of Madison's renowned “chicken toss” on Christmas Eve.  Doc Hughes would go onto the roof and toss off live chickens that would fly to the waiting crowd on the streets below.  Each chicken had a prize coupon taped around its leg.  The coupons were redeemable for merchandise in Doc's store.  Many families of the time received their only Christmas presents in this manner, as well as getting a fine chicken dinner.
In later years, Doc moved his chicken toss to the 75-foot tall city water tank that stood at Garner and Martin Streets behind the 2-story second City Hall.

There are many stories of the Christmas Capers from Madison's early history.  One is that the event was so popular and the resultant crowd so large during the Great Depression years that one time a chicken was able to fly all the way across Main and Front Streets to land under the house at 25 Front Street now owned by Dennis Vaughn.  As the crowd chased the chicken to get the bird and the merchandise certificate, the press of people knocked down the fence in the front yard by the street.  Several men crawled under the house, and one finally got the fowl.  The certificates were not always for really large prizes as we think of such today.  I (John Rankin) have heard that sometimes they were for pencils or pads of notepaper and such, but for those who otherwise would have nothing to take home to their families for Christmas, the chicken and the pencils or just about anything was welcomed.

208-210 Main Street

Frank G. Hertzler, son of Dr. John Hertzler, operated a hardware store at this 208 Main Street site in partnership with Matthew Harvey Anderson, the banker who lived at 17 Front Street.  Frank built and resided in the house at 25 Front Street.  The original store structure here was destroyed in the 1912 fire, and the tax office records of the county show that the current building was constructed in 1940.  

A couple of years after Robert Edgar (“Pud”) True and his wife Gladys McFarlen True moved to Madison, they bought the building and operated a grocery store from 1944 to 1976.  In fact, during their first three months in Madison, the True's rented a room in the former residence of Frank Hertzler at 25 Front Street.  

The True's built a house in 1941 that was then in the county, just outside the town limits, at 318 Church Street.  They moved into their new residence on January 1, 1942, and became leaders in the community and in the Methodist Church on Church Street for the rest of their lives.  After Pud died, Gladys donated funds for the electronic chimes in the church that still sound throughout the historical district of Madison.  

For a time this building was also operated as an annex to the post office.when the post office was located next door in the 206 Main Street location. 

According to the 1890 Hartford Insurance Company map of Madison, an early structure at 210 Main was the office of Dr. Richard M. Fletcher.  A later use of the location according to the 1905 Alabama Mercantile Book was the drugstore of Pride & Bradford.  

Thomas Logan Bradford was only 35 years old when he committed suicide by taking an overdose of morphine from this drugstore.  He had married Fannie Burton, a daughter of John Mullins Burton, who owned the competing drugstore at the 216 Main location.  The Bradfords had bought the house at 306 Church Street in 1906 and had a daughter born there.  Thomas had been employed by his father-in-law for a while, but resigned to go into partnership in the store at 210 Main by about 1904.  His suicide note mentioned failing health and business losses.
After the passing of Tom Bradford, there are indications the drug store reopened as the Phoenix Drugstore.  However, it may have also been the name for the rebuilt store after the fire of 1912 heavily damaged the structure. Tom's wife Fannie moved into her father's house at 21 Front Street and wrote a weekly column about Madison for the Huntsville newspaper for the remainder of her life.

A vintage comic book business utilized the 208 building in the 1990s, but it was later renovated by Walt and Larry Anderson to become the Bandito Burrito restaurant. The restaurant occupied not only 208 Main, but it later included the location at 210 Main Street.  

The Madison Drug Company was established at 210 Main by Dr. Luther Wikle and his partner Ben Porter in 1912.  It may then have been given the name of the Phoenix Drugstore.  Wikle later sold his interest to William Russell, a son of the constable of that name who also ran the gristmill for which Mill Road is named.  

Since 2015 208 and 210 Main have been occupied by Old Black Bear Brewing.  Old Black Bear is a favorite hangout for locals and guests.  Often on Friday nights during the summer there is live music on the patio to the east of 210 Main.  

206 Main Street

 Noteworthy in the time of an older generation of Madison residents was when this structure functioned as the store of Dea Theodore Thomas, who lived at 307 Church Street.  In much more recent years it has housed J's Salon.  The first known business to operate at this location was the store of George A. Fields, as shown on an 1890 Hartford Insurance Company map of Madison.  In 1912, this building along with 208 and 210 Main Street were damaged by fire.  The Thomas store had begun operations in 1904, and it was only slightly damaged by the fire, while the other two buildings were destroyed.  Dea continued operations in the store until his passing in 1917, when his brother-in-law, William Wann, took over the business and ran the store until 1940.  William Wann's sister Nora was Dea's widow.  When Dea died William was already was doing business as a retailer in the store on the other side the old bank building, at 202 Main Street where James H. Cain had his store.

There were a number of residents of old Madison who had come from Woodville in Jackson County, Alabama, probably due to ease of travel and moving household furnishings via rail between the two locations.  The Thomas and Wann families with children Dea Thomas and William Wann were enumerated in the 1880 Federal census as next-door neighbors in Woodville.  The father of William and Nora Wann was listed as Andrew, known to be a son of an older generation William Wann born in 1812 in Kentucky.  Andrew's occupations in various censuses of Woodville listed him as a schoolteacher, a merchant, and a Primitive Baptist preacher.  William Wann's wife was Vida Barclay.  Vida was a daughter of  James Barclay and Mary F. Woodall.  Vida's mother, Mary Woodall, also had roots in Woodville of Jackson County.  In 1900 the census of Woodville showed the family of James William Barclay with wife Mary and daughter Vida (at age 14, born Nov. 1886) living in dwelling 36, while Andrew J. Wann was in nearby dwelling 48.  Additionally, the Barclay family household included a nephew, Tabor J. Woodall at age 5.  The family of Emmett Woodall was living in 1900 in Woodville dwelling 50 per the census, while dwelling 49 was for a Gormley, another surname found in Madison.  Emmett Woodall soon afterward left Woodville and moved to Madison, where he was enumerated living next door to William Wann in the census of 1920.

From 1940 until 1962 the 206 Main structure housed the town's post office.  In the 1970s this was the location of J&B Electrical for a few years.

Affair At Madison Station

May 17, 1864

Both Civil War engagements fought in and around Madison occurred during unusual weather.  The one of December 23, 1864, at Indian Creek where Old Madison Pike crosses the water and along the campus of Madison Academy at Slaughter Road, was fought on one of the coldest days of a severely cold winter.  It was so cold that not only did the creek freeze over, but guns were of little use because no one could use their fingers adequately to reload after firing.  It was largely a saber fight.  However, artillery and guns were the weapons of the day when much warmer weather prevailed for the conflict that occurred on May 17, 1864.  

Both engagements began at dawn as surprise attacks on the entrenched forces.  The December Union attack started near the Indian Creek railroad bridge and continued west toward the town.  The May Confederate attack began in the town and continued east along the tracks to the Indian Creek railroad bridge.  May brought a Confederate rout of Federal forces, whereas the December struggle was a Union rout of rebel forces.  The December fight involved frozen water as a factor.  The May fight involved liquid water as a factor, because it was raining so hard that the combatants could barely see their opposition.  The Union accounts described the December event as a “grand victory”, reportedly involving far more rebels than could possibly have been present.  Some of the official reports claimed that 200 Union troops attacked a rebel force of 600, whereas more realistic descriptions show that a maximum of 150 rebels were surprised by over 300 Federals.  Yet, the official Union accounts of the May event term it as simply as an “affair” -- not even worthy of being called a battle.  However, the May attack by the rebel forces included four artillery pieces and over 1000 troops against a force of about 350 Federals who occupied the town of Madison.

Confederate reports are sparse from those last months of the war, but there are numerous documents of the engagement preserved in Union accounts.  The most descriptive Union reports were filed by Colonel Gorgas of the 13th Illinois Infantry.  He first told that a cavalry force of about 1,000 with four artillery pieces attacked on May 17 about 8 o'clock in the morning.  When General John Smith reported the engagement a day later, he stated that Madison Station had been attacked at 8 a.m. from all directions by a large force, numbering about 1,000 to 3,000 men with four pieces of artillery.  Gorgas recounted that “...we were obliged to fall back, after a severe fight, and, being completely surrounded, we cut our way through their lines, and fell back to the bridge and water tank, about three miles east.  We formed and returned to this place (Madison), and, after skirmishing, drove them from the town.  They captured several of our men, what number we are not able to say.  Our camp and garrison equipage, together with all the regimental and company papers, are either destroyed or carried off.  The depot buildings are burned, together with about 50 bales of cotton.  (He said 70 bales in a later report.)  The railroad is all right, telegraph lines cut.  We are left here without rations, and but little ammunition.”

A much more detailed account of the engagement was filed by Gorgas a day or so later.  In it, he specified that the artillery consisted of “four 12-pounder howitzers”.  He wrote that the attacking force was under the command of Colonel Josiah Patterson and included “two regiments of mounted infantry”.  He blamed the successful surprise upon local citizens guiding the rebels to the locations of his five pickets, who were then overwhelmed before they could sound the alarm.  In fact, subsequently the Union occupiers arrested Madison residents Dr. Richard Matthew Fletcher, Edward Betts, and James Harvey Pride.  They were taken into Huntsville to be tried and hanged as spies for complicity in the event.  After a gallows was constructed, a recently-transferred and remotely-located but friendly senior Union officer who knew that Dr. Fletcher had compassionately treated Federal soldiers during the occupation years came to Huntsville and had the men released.

(A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin, December 23, 2010) 

Veteran's Memorial Park - Madison AL

The Veterans Memorial Park is located on the southwest corner of the intersection of Church and Front Streets. The park was designed and constructed by Madison American Legion Post 229 in the spring and summer of 2001.

The park is dedicated to Jesse Ollie Wikle, Jr., who was the first
Madison man to lose his life in World War II and to the members of the United States Military from the city of Madison who lost their lives during the wars of the 20th century. Captain Wikle was a "Flying Fortress" (Boeing B-1 7) pilot, who named his aircraft "The Flaming Maymie" in honor of his red-headed Madison girlfriend, Maymie Louise Dublin. He was shot down and killed over Tunisia.

The flag pole was refurbished and relocated from its former location next to the old city hall on Main Street. Likewise, the monument was moved from its location on Main Street to its present location in
the park.

Water and electrical services were installed underground and the park was delineated by planting a hedge around it. A flower bed was constructed of landscaping bricks and is formed in the shape of a heart. The heart shape is symbolic of the Purple Heart Award presented to service men and women wounded or killed in combat operations.

There is a small plaque for each of the fifteen service men from Madison who gave their lives in our 20th century wars. Both the flag pole and the Purple Heart flower bed are illuminated during the hours of darkness.

The Veterans Memorial Park was dedicated on the 21st of September 2001 , only days after the
United States found itself in a new kind of war it had never known - a war with terrorists.