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Madison Green

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Madison was originally part of Guilford, the western half being purchased by the Guilford colony under the leadership of Reverend Henry Whitfield in 1641 and the eastern half in 1650. It is not known when the first family settled in the area, but a bridge was constructed over the East River in 1649 allowing easier access to Easterly Farms or East Guilford, as the western portion of Madison was then called. In 1685, John Grave constructed his home near what is now the southeast corner of the green. By 1695 there were about 30 families in the area.

When permission was obtained by Madison in 1703 to establish a separate society, the area considered common land was much larger than the present green. It was swampy, particularly in the northern part, and uneven. As the number of residents grew, homes were constructed in the dry areas while animals pastured in the wetter areas. Ox carts crossed at random.

The first meeting house was constructed on the southeast section of the common, in 1705, thereby establishing the area as the town center of Madison. Because many worshippers still lived a distance from the meeting house and could not return to their homes during the lulls in the long Sunday sermons, Sabbath Day houses were built on the green. Records show that the first house was constructed in 1710. Grants were made for eight more in 1722 and nine more in 1742. Sabbath Day houses remained on the green for more than a century; the last one was not removed until 1836 when it was moved near East Wharf to be used as a fish house. In c. 1740 a new meetinghouse was built near the first one.

Madison gained its independence from Guilford in 1826. In October of that year, land was formally appropriated for a "Public Square and parade ground, and for all public purposes, for all citizens of this society, and others to use, improve, and enjoy." However, the green continued at least for a few more years to serve as pasture because in 1830 the geese had become such a problem that they could not be allowed to roam freely unless they wore a large yoke.

The present Congregational Church was erected in 1838 north of the old meetinghouse which was removed. In 1845 a committee was appointed to improve the Public Square. Land was donated to complete it and it was railed in. Neighbors carted in landfill to level it, laying a subsurface drain from the north side to the southeast corner to carry surplus water to Tuxis Brook to the east. Paths were created, and spruce and elm trees planted.

In 1855 the green improvements were continued by a group of local men. A stock company was created and 2 shares were sold, each for $15.00. The income was enough to grade the green and create roads around it.

A Beers Atlas from 1868 shows the green as a rectangular "Park" with paths crossing through the center in each direction. A more detailed Bird's Eye View of Madison in 1881 shows the green with additional diagonal paths and trees planted around the perimeter as well as in a circle in the center. It is likely that a flagpole stood in the center of the green.

In about 1905 the white rail fence was removed and in 1938 many of the mature spruces were destroyed in the hurricane. In that same year, an observer commented on the "beautiful well-kept lawn" as a "rather recent improvement."

The Madison Green dates from the earliest days of the community when it was used as common pasture and the site for the first meetinghouse. The green remains the focal point of the residential neighborhood that developed around it and continues to be the civic and religious center of town. Its broad expanse is still used as a public gathering place for community events.



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