A Very Short History of the Town of Madison, NH

Madison is a small town located in the foothills of the White Mountains. Originally the western portion of the Town of Eaton which was incorporated in 1766, Madison became a separate town by act of the State Legislature in 1852. About 1785, Samuel or John Banfield built the first frame-house in town on the property now owned by Ambrose, whose residence stands near the site of the old house. Nearby is the “olde burial grounde” , the first public cemetery in Madison. Farming was the mainstay of the community in the early days.  Records indicate that in 1840 there were 42 farms in production and supporting families throughout the town.

Madison Corner 1907

Madison Corner 1907

In the first half of the 1800’s the “commercial” center of the town was located in the area generally known as Madison Corners.  This is the area where two important roads converged:  the road from Saco, Maine, through Freedom and Madison to Conway (now East Madison Road) and the road from Dover, New Hampshire through Ossipee and Madison to Conway (now Route 113).   Madison was a stage coach center and horses were changed here.   The Crocker Inn and Tavern was built in 1824.  The property contained a large barn which provided stabling services for the stage coaches.   The tavern building still sits on the site, but it is believed that the barn which had also served as the site of the annual town meetings in 1880’s, was moved in the early 1900’s to a farm on Goe Hill.   Other properties in the vicinity of the junction, including the Churchill House also built in the 1820’s, offered accommodations for the traveling public.

Churchill House 1900

Churchill House 1900

The Corner area was also the location the Atkinson Store (razed in 1965), Nason’s manufacturing business and the First Madison Church, the present building for which was erected in 1855.

The coming of the railroad in 1870 brought significant changes.   The Madison Railroad Station, which was located at the head of Silver Lake, became a center for business.  In 1874 the Silver Lake House was opened for the entertainment of travelers.   This was the first of several inns in the area of the train station constructed to provide lodging for the summer people and many of the homes in this area date from the late 1800’s.    Accommodations often included offers of coach rides up into the white mountains to view the scenic beauty which continues to draw tourists today.

The historic character of the Town remains little changed as one drives the main road through town.  Evidence of its past of small farms and 1890’s accommodations is readily apparent, making it worth a short detour off  Route 16 to catch a glimpse of a northern New Hampshire community  of the 18th and early 19th century.

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