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History

Museums

Historic Madison County Jail and Museum - The museum is located at 122 North Main, just north of the courthouse. The museum houses many interesting collections, books, photographs and documents. Open hours are Tuesdays 1-4pm and Fridays 2-6pm.

Battle of Fredericktown Civil War Museum - The museum is located one block south of the courthouse and directly across the street from the post office. Exhibits describe the battle here and identify local soldiers. Includes unique exhibits that are not just the ordinary facts and figures commonly known about the war. Group tours and school field trips welcome to see all of our historic sites. Please call 573-576-8528 or email foundation@fhphistory.org to make your reservation.

Historical Background

Madison County is in the southeastern part of the state in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. It is bound on the north by St. Francois County; northeast by Perry County; east by Bollinger County; south Wayne County; and west by Iron County.

The first persons to explore Madison County were Renault and La Motte and their companies about 1721-23. They discovered minerals, principally lead, but finding no silver ore did not establish a settlement. One of the first recorded settlement was in 1799. In 1806 the first brick house in the county was built two miles west of St. Michaels.

Madison was created by Territorial Legislation in 1818. Madison County was organized December 14, 1818 and was named for President Madison. The county was formed from Cape Girardeau and Ste. Genevieve. The first county seat was St. Michaels, but later moved to Fredericktown, 1819. In 1821 two new townships were organized, Twelve Mile and German. Originally the boundary on the west was Black River; it was reduced to its present size in 1867 when Iron County was formed. Originally the county was divided into three townships, viz: Castor (east), St. Michael (west), and Liberty (north). At present there are ten townships.

During the Civil War the county furnished soldiers to both Federal and Confederate sides. The people of Madison County found themselves victims of guerrilla fighting and military activity throughout the war. The battle of Fredericktown was fought just south of the city along Greenville Road on, October 21, 1861. A reenactment of the Battle of Fredericktown is now held every other year during the month of September.

Mining has been a key industry in this area with Madison County recorded as having the oldest lead mine west of the Mississippi River. Lead mined at the Mine La Motte has been used for the manufacture of bullets for every military action of the United States from the American Revolution to the Korean Conflict.

Want more details? Check our in depth history.

For more on Fredericktown's History check The Foundation for Historic Preservation.