Education in Madison

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Education in Madison


It is not the purpose of this article to comprehensively study education in Madison County, but rather to quickly survey what schools have existed over the years. The first schools in the county were subscription schools. Madison County, like many others did little to implement the literary Fund law of 1820 or the common school system law of 1830.

Schools were in operation in the county though, mainly of the academy type begun by Benjamin Franklin in 1749. The Madison Academy was authorized by the General Assembly in 1798. It was not until 1816 that land was purchased from Robert Caldwell in north Richmond. The academy, sometimes called Madison Seminary and Madison Male Academy, remained in existence until 1890 when it turned its property over to the Richmond city school system. The Madison Female Institute was authorized in 1858 and operated in a building where the present Madison High now stands. During the Civil War battle it was used by both sides as a hospital. After the Civil War it became famous as a southern finishing school and drew girls from many states. In 1919 its property was leased to 99 years. Richmond Female Institute preceded this famous girls school, but not much is known about it, except that it was begun in 1845. Caldwell High operated in Richmond as a public school from 1890 until the 1919 merger.

Private academies were operated at Silver Creek (Peytontown), Foxtown, College Hill, Kirksville (Elliott Institute), and Kingston. Walters Collegiate Institute took over the old Central University buildings and ran as a preparatory school until it was succeeded by Eastern Normal between 1906 and 1910. Model High opened on the Normal campus in 1906.

In 1908, the County School Unit law was adopted and gradually the independent schools began to merge with the county system. In 1912 public high schools were organized at Waco and Kirksville. Union City opened in 1913, Newby and Speedwell highs in 1919. Red House and White Hall had high schools in 1921, followed by Valley View and Miller consolidation in 1924 and Bobtown was the last county high school organized in 1924. Consolidation reduced the number to four in the 1930's (Central, Kingston, Kirksville, and Waco) and these were merged into one, (Madison Central) in 1955. Madison High School in Richmond was set up in 1923.

Berea operated grade schools, for that city and surrounding area from 1915 on. A high school was founded in 1929. Berea Academy operated in conjunction with Berea College from its Civil War beginnings, lastly operating under the name Foundation School and just this year (1969) merging with the Berea City High to form the Berea Community School.

Richmond High School operated as the only secondary school for Negroes until it was abolished by integration into Madison High.


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “Education in Madison,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 26, 2022,