A Thumbnail History of Madison County

Dublin Core


A Thumbnail History of Madison County


For those readers who are new in our community here is a thumbnail history. Madison County was formed in 1785 out of Lincoln County and was number seven in line. It was a big county and gave up part of its territory to form Garrard, Estill, Rockcastle, Jackson, Nicholas and Clay Counties. Named for James Madison (before he became president), it is still the largest of the Bluegrass counties. The original county seat was at Milford, but in 1798 the court was moved to Richmond. The first person at Richmond was Col. John Miller, who built a log cabin where Main Street is now in 1798. Miller named his new settlement after his birthplace in Virginia. It was incorporated in 1809. The county courthouse was built in 1849, costing $40,000. Its designer was Thomas Lewinski, who had been brought from Poland by Cassius M. Clay to design Whitehall. The courthouse and courtyard served both as a hospital and a prison during and after the Battle of Richmond on Aug. 30, 1862. The South won the battle, moved on and took Lexington and Frankfort, installed a Confederate Governor of Kentucky, but failed at the Battle of Perryville and withdrew back through Cumberland Gap. White Hall was the home of Cassius M. Clay, a Republican abolitionist in a hostile environment. Clay was U.S. Ambassador to Russia during our Civil War. His daughter, Laura, was a woman suffragist, who left her father's party and was a candidate at the 1924 Democratic National Convention. Clay was one of the founders of Berea College. An old house of interest is the John Miller house, built in 1810 and found on the backside of the Courthouse Square. The Bybee Pottery is worth the drive to see. It was established around 1809; records date to 1845. Its pottery is now sold in New York City and around the world. Fort Boonesborough is a replica, but is well worth seeing. It is not built on the original site; that spot is subject to periodic flooding. This should get you started. In our books, Madison's Heritage, there are maps with various historical locations marked so you can drive to see them. The books, reprints from our Register articles, are available at The Little Professor Bookshop, Kroger Jewelry Department and EKU Bookstore.


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “A Thumbnail History of Madison County,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed March 3, 2024, https://madisonsheritage.eku.edu/items/show/920.