A History of the First Settlements in Madison County

Click on the link to the left to see a history of the earliest settlers who came to Madison County prior to 1850.

Early Settlers from Clayton County Clayton County, in northeastern Iowa, was the source of many early Madison County settlers, especially to Jefferson Township. Herman Mueller recalls many of these settlers in this narrative.
Pioneer Life in Madison County

Read about the life and times of the Hollen family of Madison County early settlers as recalled by Emma Hart Hollen, a lifelong Madison County citizen.

Reminisces of Fred Runkle covering families surrounding the Runkle farm in the Union Chapel area of South Township.

Reminisces of William Sidney Wilkinson, early settler, Civil War soldier, school teacher, farmer, and prominent member of the Madison County Historical Society.

Early Grain Mills and Saw Mills

Being  able to grind grain and to saw logs into lumber was crucial to the early settlers. Madison County was fortunate to have three rivers upon which to locate water powered mills and many were built.


The earliest known newspaper in Madison County was the Hawkeye Flag, forerunner to today's Winterset Madisonian. Read about this and many other Madison County papers and the people who ran them.

Post Offices

Many post offices came and went as Madison County grew and prospered.

Madison County Courthouses

Three courthouses have served the citizens of the county since 1849. The first for a little over 20 years, the second for 4 years and the third since 1878.

Historical County Officers Lists of Madison County officeholders from inception to the mid-1900s. Included are the County Attorneys, the County Auditors, the County Board of Supervisors, the County Clerks of Court, the County Recorders, the County School Superintendents, the County Sheriffs, and the County Treasurers.
Historical Events A 1903 newspaper article summarizing the historical events of Madison County from inception to about 1880
History of the Irish Settlement

Northeastern Madison County (particularly Lee Township) and northwestern Warren County was the destination of a large number of Irish immigrants, leading to the area being know as the "Irish Settlement."

Iowa Exploration A summary of Iowa exploration and settlement from the 1600's to the 1800s.
Iowa Old & New (Wikipedia) Learn more about Iowa, both recently and historically, at this general Iowa Website .
Kentuckians Settlement

Pressured by the divisiveness of the slavery question in the border states, a group of Kentuckians immigrated to Scott and South Townships in 1860. They were led by Rev. John Blair and included several well know Madison County pioneer families. Read about their migration and settlement here.

Madison County's First 50 Years An excellent history of the first 50 years of Madison County presented in the semi centennial edition of  The Winterset Madisonian, 01 Nov 1906.
Map and Photos of Covered Bridges

Madison County is well known throughout the US for its covered bridges; we include on this site a map of where the bridges were located and a number of historical photographs showing the bridges when they were newly built.

Old Newspaper Articles Old Madison County Newspaper Articles are available at the Iowa Old Press web site.  See selected extracts from Madison County newspapers from as early as June 1870.  Included are births, marriages, deaths, and other items of interest.
Pioneer's Reunion Photo (1908)

See an old photograph with names from a pioneers' reunion in St. Charles in 1908.

Pioneer's Photo (1872) A true treasure of early Madison County photography, see a group of 88 named residents standing on the steps of the newly built Courthouse. This may have coincided with the first old settler's meeting which took place on March 30, 1872.
The Railroad Comes to Winterset

Read an account from the Madisonian of the day the tracks were completed and the first railroad train arrived in Winterset.

The Underground Railroad in Madison County

The underground railroad was active in Madison County from about 1850 until 1862. Read about three early settlers who were known to be active participants in the railroad.


Maintained by the County Coordinator
This page was created on July 10, 2004.
This page was last updated Thursday, 13-May-2021 22:52:40 CDT .