Located in east-central Kentucky where the rolling hills of the Bluegrass meet the
foothills of the Appalachians, the land encompassing Madison County has had a long
history. The largest county in the Bluegrass, it contains 446 square miles and ranks
twenty-first in size among Kentucky's 120 counties. Four geographic regions provide such distinct differences in soil, elevation,
and topography that the history of the county is as much a consequence of the geographical
features as it is a product of the endeavors of its people.
Centuries before the entry of European settlers, this physiographically varied land
provided food, shelter, and safety to human inhabitants. For thousands of years
prehistoric peoples roamed the hills, hunted game along the creek bottoms, fished in the
many streams, and eventually cultivated food in the fertile valleys. By the seventeenth
century the American Indian tribes of the Shawnee, Cherokee, and Wyandotte hunted
throughout the Kentucky River basin area.
As the entranceway for the white settlement of land beyond the Appalachians, Kentucky
was accessible from the south by mountain gaps and from the north by waterways. The same
was true on a smaller scale for Madison County. The Kentucky River which forms the north
and northwest boundaries of the present-day county was a major source of transportation
and communication, providing passage to the land from the Ohio River. Despite the river
access, the earliest routes into the county were from the passable southern terrain along
creeks, such as Muddy Creek, Paint Lick Creek, Otter Creek, and Silver Creek that flow
northward to the Kentucky River.