The Richmond Register

May 6, 2013

From bison path to I-75, ‛the way’ goes through Madison County

By Fred Engle
Register Columnist

RICHMOND — The late Thomas D. Clark is the best and most well-known Kentucky historian.  He wrote about the path through Madison County, from ancient to modern times, in his introduction to the book “Madison County: 200 Years in Retrospect” by Ellis, Everman and Sears.

First came the bison, breaking their way through the cane, brush and trees, traveling from salt lick to water source and fording creeks and rivers along the way.

Next came the Native Americans, with their trails through Madison County. Then came Boone and the other “long hunters” following and expanding these trails.

The Wilderness Road was actually a number of routes running more or less south to north through the county.

Rivers became routes of transportation in colonial and frontier Kentucky. Trees were floated to Valley View, where they were cut into lumber and sent on. Flat boats also floated down river after river to New Orleans with a variety of Kentucky products.

The county split over slavery and then brother was set against brother in the Civil War.

In the area in and around Berea the people were largely pro-Union and anti slavery. Most of the rest of the county generally favored the Confederacy. Kirby Smith chose Madison County for his invasion route, and  the battle of Richmond was the largest and most complete Confederate victory of the war.

With the advent of the automobile, commuters, tourists, long distance truckers and joy riders traveled US 25 through the middle of Madison County, taking the long snaking drive down to the Kentucky River and Fayette County.

The construction of Interstate 75 increased the long-distance traffic through Madison County as traffic that once followed US 27 and US 127 was funneled into the interstate. We now find even more Canadian snow birds, Michigan wolverines and Florida travelers in Madison County restaurants, motels and stores.

Whitehall and Fort Boonesborough still draw tourists from around the nation and the world. 

Eastern Kentucky University’s phenomenal growth is at least partly attributable to its location and ease of access for a large portion of the population of the eastern United States.

Madison County’s location on I-75, the fourth busiest highway in North America, has attracted manufacturers to the county.

Berea College has carefully developed and maintained a worldwide reputation as an arts-and-crafts center and living repository of Appalachian culture.

It is all here. You just have to follow the way through Madison County.

PUBLICATION NOTE: Dr. Fred Engle passed away March 8 at age 83. He had already written a number of Madison’s Heritage that his family is making available for publication.

Readers are reminded that a compilation of some 60 Richmond Register articles from over the last 40 years by Dr. Engle and Dr. Robert Grise is available in the paperback book, “Madison’s Heritage Rediscovered.” Combined with relevant photographs selected from Eastern’s Archives by Dr. Engle’s granddaughter, Kathryn Engle, who edited the volume, the book is available for $19.99 plus tax.

Autographed copies may be purchased at the Richmond Tourism Office (Irvinton House) on Lancaster Avenue as well as ClearSight Optometry, 5019 Atwood Drive, and Baldwin CPAs, 713 W. Main St.

Autographed copies also are available by calling Kathryn Engle at 893-0947 or 623-1150.

These books make excellent birthday presents for family or friends. Keep in touch with out-of-town family and friends by sharing this gift of home.