Madison occupies a central location on Long Island Sound, combining small town charm with a beautiful shoreline. First settled in 1641 by settlers from Rev. Henry Whitfield’s congregation in Guilford, Connecticut, Madison was originally called East Guilford until it was incorporated as a town in 1826. In the late 1640’s the settlers petitioned to have church services locally. After much delay, this was allowed in 1703. Later, petitions were made to Guilford that East Guilford might be made a separate town. In May, 1826, this was granted, and the name Madison, after the fourth U.S. President James Madison, was given to the new town.
It nestles between the East River and the Hammonasset River, which respectively form its western and eastern boundaries. Shellfishing was carried on to a large extent, as it was found that small vessels could anchor with safety around Tuxis Island. In 1792 a company from Rhode Island established a porpoise fishery on the western part of the beach. Porpoise used to be caught in abundance along the Madison shore. The skins of these fish were tanned, making good leather for many purposes. Oil for illumination was also extracted from the skins. White fish, caught in very large numbers, was sold for fertilizer. The shipbuilding industry also thrived.
Owing to the rich timberlands in the northern part of the town, sawmills prospered and charcoal was manufactured. Grain mills, sawmills, paper mills, and other mills were established all about the town. In North Madison magnetic iron was secured, and garnets were also found in a ledge of that section.
Education was not neglected in Madison in the early days. For a time Guilford managed the schools, but the town was soon capable of making the necessary provisions and its citizens took the affair upon themselves. However, most of the children were instructed at home by their parents. Today, Madison prides itself on the Connecticut Family History Center which focuses on early New England and Connecticut history. The center has the ability to order any of the films and fiche available through the FamilySearch Catalog. It also has books of local interest and family histories and a collection of books on the British Isles.
8 High Street, P.O. Box 32, Portland, CT 06480 • 24 Main Street, Centerbrook, CT 06409, P.O. Box 391 • Essex, CT 06426
Phone: 860-342-3778, 860-537-3011, 860-767-1920, 860-669-9674, 203-245-8660
Portland Fax: 860-342-4203, Essex Fax: 860-767-0442