introduction

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.