From our Files
Memories of Old Madison
July 16, 1997
"Many people from the North have already settled in this splendid community, and few, if any, have ever expressed regret of making their home in the fertile fields of the sunny South."
J. Willis Cargile made this observation about Madison in The Weekly Mercury, a Huntsville newspaper that was published earlier this century.
"One whole colony from Indiana has purchased small farms and built nice homes, and are satisfied and happy in their new homes."
Cargile's comments in the Dec. 17, 1913, edition of the Mercury, could just as easily been written about the current tide of newcomers from Missouri who are seeking homes, if not farms, in Madison.
Eighty-four years later, the "splendid community' still charms visitors with its "extreme elevation, pure air, mild climate and very best of water." These attributes once made the town "a delightful and beneficial summer resort, a winter home for Northern tourists or a location for those afflicted with tuberculosis affections."
Furthermore, the bustling and progressive spirit of a community moving forward is as evident now as when Cargile declared, "Though the population of this growing town is yet something under a thousand, it is strictly modern in every way, and enjoys the distinction of being the highest point in altitude between Memphis and Stevenson, Alabama."
Madison offered "good and acceptable citizens elsewhere who desire a new location, a good farm, or a pleasant home place where the health conditions are unexcelled and where the best of schools are to be had, a high moral place of pure society, and where the effect of a wholesome religious influence is manifest on every hand," Cargile wrote.
Judging from recent headlines in the Record, the exemplary character of the residents hasn't changed much since the Mercury's own headline declared "Busy people-They look after their own interest and also work together."
Cargile asserted, "Everybody is always busy in Madison all the time. No drones there. Upon the writer's first visit there, after being directed to the Mayor's place of business and finding him not in; being told that his Honor was up town, we asked 'where does he usually hang out up town?' when our informant smilingly replied, 'he don't hang out at all, he tends his shop and mill.'"
"And so it is-every citizen has his own line of business 'and he tends to it,'" Cargile said with conviction. "To this one fact may be attributed in a great measure the wonderful strides that have been made from year to year. They are also hardy believers in the very keystone to success, and they practice it, too-cooperation. No matter how large or how small the proposition, they all pull together; and it is really a privilege to visit that town and view the wonders they have performed: the magnificent school house and beautiful campus, fine churches, elegant homes, pretty premises artistically beautified with rare flowers, shrubs and palms, the pretty trees that adorn these splendid streets-a prettier combination of urban features could scarcely be imagined."
Madison's enthusiasm for public works did not escape Cargile's notice, as he exclaimed over "the splendid concrete sidewalks that gracefully line every principal thoroughfare of the thriving town. Over two miles were recently constructed at an approximate cost of $5,000, and the citizens paid it, some of the individuals paying as much as $300 as their pro-rated share. That's the kind of stuff Madison people are made of."
Cargile further commended "the noble young people of that model little city for their sterling qualities and refined daring. It is noticeable," he remarked, "that the young men of the community love their homes and are entering into pursuits in their own town, and there are many merry Madison maids who prefer home and mother in preference to parading the streets and gathering at the Depot to flirt with the blue coats and brass buttons who may have daughters at home older than they are. All Madison is proud of the elevated society among her most worthy and highly refined young gentlemen and young ladies."
Perhaps that devotion to its children spurred Madison to rank with what Cargile called "the principal progressive little cities of the whole Southland. More good and less bad can be truly said of Madison than of any other town and community of same population anywhere on earth."