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A Review

Every community has a history, but relatively few have thorough and comprehensive published accounts of their history. Such was the case of Madison, Tennessee until the publication by Hillsboro Press of Dr. Guy Bockmon's Madison Station.

Madison Station tracks Madison from wilderness to frontier to a whistlestop town with a train station to small town Americana of the 1950's.

From prehistoric bison trail to Madison's 100th anniversary in 1957 (the Madison Station post office was chartered on May 21, 1857), this book allows the wilderness to evolve gracefully into Madison, Tennessee. Along the way, the reader learns the great stories of this area including: the Indian captivity of Mary Neely, perhaps the most compelling story of pioneer captivity and perserverance in American history; the location of the house where Andrew Jackson met Rachel Donelson; the birth and death of Haysborough, an ancient town of pioneers that disappeared over the years; the personal hardships of war from the Civil War, Reconstruction and the Nashville National Cemetery (unverified rumor "held that the remains of three Union soldiers were entombed" in the entrance to the cemetery) to the World Wars of the twentieth century; and finally the community festival of Hillbilly Day (50,000 attended Hillbilly Day in 1955).

The trail of tales includes, of course, churches and church leaders from the Reverend Thomas Craighead, a pioneer Presbyterian minister who established a church and school in Madison prior to Tennessee statehood (and who was suspended from the ministry by the Presbytery for several years); to Edson White and other Seventh Day Adventists who established the Madison Sanitarium and Madison College after arriving here in 1904; to City Road United Methodist Church which contributed to countless community activities; to Dr. Ira North, minister of the Madison Church of Christ, who gave the devotional at the first meeting of the Madison High PTA in 1953 (250 parents attended).

The trail also includes manufacturing and businesses from world famous Gray's Ointment (used by President Andrew Jackson) to Odom's Tennessee Pride Country Sausage (operating in Madison to this day).

Intertwined with the historic stories are sketches by Juanita Bass, maps and old photographs. Madison Station utilizes census information and old deeds to underscore the flavor of the community at the time. Using the 1880 census, Madison is described as: "a community of farmers, laborers, servants, people 'At Home' and 'Keeping House,' youngsters who were 'At School,' a few tradesmen, a handful of professional people, a couple of 'Hucksters,' three fishermen, one steamboat pilot and one banjo player."

An earlier census shows the number of free servants and slaves in Madison households.

Madison Station provides a thoroughly researched and extraordinarily well documented account of the hardships, concerns, and triumphs in the evolution from wilderness to suburb.

As a Madisonian, I recognize names of grandfathers and great grandfathers of people I know, I recognize the historical places I have taken for granted and I learned the origins of street names and neighborhood alliances. Even to those who are not Madisonians, Madison Station has a more general appeal as a history of a Middle Tennessee frontier, a Middle Tennessee railroad town, and finally a Middle Tennessee small town community.


The reviewer, Mark North, a native Madisonian, is an attorney practicing in Madison and has served as the President of the Madison Chamber of Commerce.


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