Madison County, North Carolina lies tucked away in the heavily forested Appalachian Mountain region. Madison County formed from parts of Buncombe County and Yancey County in 1851. This rugged patchwork of communities took its name in honor of James Madison, the nation’s fourth President.
According to the 2000 Census data, Madison County has a population of 19,635. The 452-square mile county divides into 11 townships and three towns, of which Mars Hill is the largest. The remaining towns, Hot Springs and Marshall, each have less than 1,000 residents.
Marshall, the county seat, has a population of 840. A small, but progressive pro-business atmosphere makes Marshall competitive in the region. Hot Springs, population 645, lies along the Appalachian Trail, providing a paradise for nature lovers. This popular resort community is also home to NC’s only hot mineral baths. Residents of both of these pastoral towns enjoy a laid-back way of life.
Mars Hill, population 1,764, occupies nearly two square miles of this scenic region. Only 15 miles north of Asheville, Mars Hill is also part of the massive Ashville Metropolitan Statistical Area. Mars Hill has the only high school in the area. The Madison County Public School System also includes four elementary schools and one middle school.
The Rural Life Museum and Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre are located on the Mars Hill College campus. Founded in 1856, this four-year liberal arts college shares affiliation with the North Carolina Baptist Convention. The college, which offers five degrees and 31 majors, ranks as the oldest in western NC. The co-ed campus boasts a typical enrollment of 1,500 students. The student population does not figure into the census information for the town’s population.
Located in western NC, the major interstate highways such as I-26, I-40, and I-81 provide easy access to Asheville and other major cities throughout the east coast and the nation. Madison County features a healthy economy where agriculture provides more than $18.6 million in income to the residents each year. More than 1,500 individuals in Madison County grow tobacco, and another 500 families raise cattle. Service companies, factories, and plants also comprise a significant portion of the job market. Jobs in the retail sector account for one-fifth of Madison County’s jobs, and government jobs make up another 10 percent.
The mountainous Madison County region attracts outdoor enthusiasts to the area year round. Activities include canoeing, fishing, golfing, horseback riding, hunting, kayaking, bicycling, skiing, and snowboarding. The Appalachian Trail brings more than 4,500 hikers through Madison County each year on their way between Georgia and Maine. Madison County’s largest river, the French Broad River, flows north-northwest through Marshall and past Hot Springs. This river brings more than 25,000 whitewater rafters each year. Other popular destinations include Marshall Depot, the Parkway Playhouse, Pisgah National Forest and the Weizenblatt Art Gallery.
Madison County, North Carolina offers stunning panoramic views and recreational fun. Great schools, low crime and a wide range of affordable housing make Madison County the perfect place in which to live, work and raise a family.