Madison County, Arkansas
- Formed: September 30, 1836
- County Population 1860: 7,444
- Slave Population 1860: 557
- Civil War Engagements
- Suffered constant guerrilla warfare
Image courtesy of the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection
Madison County, Arkansas as abundant sources of fresh water, including Balden, Fleming, Miss, Kinney, Lollar, Drake, Cherry, Brush, Daden, Robinson, Whorton’s Henderson, Reed, Berry, Poynor, Jackson, Lee, and Glade Creeks. Madison was a very bountiful region containing fertile soil, timber resources, natural mineral deposits of lead, iron, coal, zinc and abundant wild game, fish, and honey, all of which drew early settlers to the area.
Early settlers began arriving in the late 1820s. The first recorded non-Native American settler was Thomas Cunningham, who settled in the King’s River area in 1827. Cunningham was quickly followed by George Tucker, who settled in the Richland area in 1828. Other early settlers included Henry King, John and Stephen Holmesley, and John J. Coulter. In 1832, Samuel and David Vaughn settled in the county in 1832 from Tennessee. The area where they settled is now known as Vaughn’s Valley.
Madison County was officially established September 30, 1836 from parts of Washington, Carroll, and Newton Counties. The first county court sessions were held in resident Evan S. Polk’s home until a county seat and courthouse were established. The county and county seat were named after Madison County, Alabama, and its county seat of Huntsville. As a first act, the court named several townships, including Bowen, King’s River, Hilburn, Prairie, Richland, and War Eagle.
About 100 Madison County men left to fight in the Mexican War in 1840s under General A. Wood in the Arkansas State Militia. Only 30 of these men returned. The population continued to grow despite these early losses, reaching 7,740 by 1860. When the Civil War began in 1861, most residents sympathized with the Confederacy. A Madison County Home Guard unit was raised by the end of 1861 to protect the county residents from any troop action. Several Madison County men, including Patrick Sanders and Lark Burch, fought in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in Greene County, Missouri in August, 1861. The Confederates quickly raised companies in most of the townships in Madison County. By 1862, these included: a Huntsville company under Captain John W. Moody, a Bowen company under Captain John Parks, a St. Paul company under Captain Hiram Combs, a Hindsville company under Captain Samuel Phillips, and a Kingston company under H.M. Moore. All of these companies combined to form the 3rd Arkansas Infantry, which fought in the Battle of Prairie Grove on December 7, 1862. After the terrible Confederate defeat at the Battle, many of the same men enlisted in Union regiments, including the First Regiment, Arkansas Volunteer Infantry under Captain John W. Bivens. Other Confederate regiments included troops under Captain John Carroll, who troops served as a body guard for General Stand Watie.
Though Madison County men fought in several prominent Civil War battles, none of these battles took place within Madison County boundaries. Most of the armed conflicts took place between residents and guerrilla Bushwhackers. After the war, the population grew despite the losses accrued in the war. By 1870, it had reached 8,231, and by 1880, it had reached 11,455 people. A railroad company began construction, which helped speed recovery. St. Paul was established and became a railroad town.
- Harry Shinn, et.al. Fading Memories: Stories of Madison County People (Huntsville, AR, 1989).
- James F. Keefe and Lynn Morrow, Eds , The White River Chronicles of S.C. Turnbo: Man and Wildlife in the Ozarks Frontier (Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1994).