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Sanderson shares city history at West Madison

MADISON – Where is Buttermilk Alley? What is Nubbins Ridge? What was the name of Madison’s first school?

Madison native Cindi Sanderson answered these questions and many others during her presentation on Madison’s history to West Madison Elementary School fourth-graders on March 28.

Madison’s first settlers arrived in the early 1800s and stayed here because of rich soil and abundant springs, Sanderson said. A town grew with construction of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad in the mid-1850s.

James Clemens of Huntsville bought 45 lots and founded Madison Station. An acre of land sold for about $1. George Washington Martin bought the first lot and opened a dry goods/grocery on Main Street in 1857. Today, Madison Station Antiques occupies this location.

Madison’s western edge was called Nubbins Ridge, now the site of James Clemens High School.

The town’s name was shortened to ‘Madison’ with the town’s incorporation in 1869.

The Roundhouse, circa 1898 to 1936, was built near Main Street Cafe and served as mayor’s office, city hall, card parlor and ‘pop-up’ barbershop. In 1986, Madison Street Festival volunteers built a replica of the Roundhouse on Front Street.

Madison had a train depot from the mid-1800s to 1961. “People would get off the train in Madison to buy vegetables out of the ‘Ice House Building,'” Sanderson said. The depot agent originally built the Ice House to store vegetables.

Madison has had four cotton gins. Madison United Methodist Church is Madison’s oldest church. Mules pulled logs to move the building from Hughes Road at Old Madison Pike to its current home on Church Street.

“The first organized public school in the town of Madison was the Madison Male and Female Academy in 1885,” Sanderson said. In 1907, Madison Training School also was moved on logs to Church Street.

Now housing Madison Elementary School, Madison High School was built for $55,000 in 1936. A lunchroom was added in 1954.

“The last graduating class of Madison High School was 1951. In December of 1972, Bob Jones High School was officially named. The first graduating class was in 1974,” Sanderson said.

The West Madison students learned that their school originally was built on Pension Row in 1936 with three classrooms. After a fire in 1949, the current building on Wall Triana was constructed in 1953.

Downtown, a narrow lane connecting Front and Arnett streets originally was called Hobson Alley. During the Great Depression, “Mrs. William Humphrey at 23 Front St. would put buttermilk and bread next to the alley for hobos riding the train,” Sanderson said about Buttermilk Alley, as it’s known today.

“There have been a lot of changes during my lifetime and even more since the early 1800s,” Sanderson said.

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