By Mike Miller Updated December 17, 2022
Madison, Florida is a small city of 2,800 people in North Central Florida about 55 miles east of Tallahassee and 112 miles west of Jacksonville.
It is located on US-90, the historic East-West main highway in North Florida, and is just north of I-10 not far south of the Georgia state line.
The land that became the town of Madison was originally owned by Madison C. Livingston.
Even though Mr. Livingston was the first major landowner, most historical sources say that Madison County and the town of Madison were both named for former President James Madison.
Madison was founded by cotton planters in 1838 at a time when cotton was king in the old south.
This northern region of Florida was part of the old south plantation region and still has many southern cultural traditions.
In the days before and during the Civil War, Madison raised long staple cotton and had the biggest long staple cotton gin.
Madison was a boom town in those days. Madison County plantations had a population of more than 4,000 slaves during the years before the Civil War.
The African American slaves were critical to the prosperity of the community both before and after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Even after the Civil War, Madison produced a lot of cotton. Things were great for the planters until the boll weevil arrived in 1916 and wiped out the entire cotton industry.
Madison is a regional agricultural center, and was named by Visit Florida as one of the "Best Little Towns In Florida".
In 1996, the citizens of Madison raised money to build a stone memorial to the slaves who had labored on the plantations.
The memorial is located in Four Freedoms Park in downtown Madison.
The memories of the old days of Madison can be seen in a park on the south side of town near the railroad station.
The oldest house in town was built in 1849 and is still occupied.
St. Mary's Episcopal Church is a historic Carpenter Gothic Episcopal church located at 108 Northwest Horry Street in Madison.
It is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and was completed in 1881.
The Wardlaw-Smith-Goza house in Madison is a large mansion built just before the American Civil War.
It served as a hospital for wounded Confederate soldiers. It is also known as the Smith Mansion.
Four Freedoms Park in downtown Madison has a monument dedicated to Colin Kelley, Jr., a Madison County native, who is recognized as the first American hero of World War Two.
He was killed fighting the Japanese a few days after Pearl Harbor and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his skill and bravery in aerial combat.
The Civil War veterans of Madison County were remembered for many years by the Confederate Memorial located in Four Freedoms Park.
When I visited Madison in early 2022, local people told me the monument was going to be taken down in the near future.
Downtown Madison is a busy little place with many gift shops, antique stores and restaurants.
The small town is the seat of government of Madison County, and is the home of North Florida Community College and has an out-campus for St. Leo University.
The downtown area has numerous classic homes and buildings more than 100 years old.
Four Freedoms Park is beautifully landscaped and home to monuments to heroes of various wars in our nation's history.
558 W. Base Street
Madison, Florida 32340
O'Neal's Country Buffet is on US-90 on the western edge of downtown Madison, Florida. It's about 3.5 miles from busy Interstate Highway 10.
These highways are the main thoroughfares between Jacksonville and Tallahassee.
The building is not fancy, but that's the way a good restaurant with Southern cooking should be.
The restaurant features a country buffet with many favorite Southern favorites. They serve smoked chicken, for example, smoked on their own property.
It's an "all you can eat" venture, so it's best to come in hungry and leave well filled.
Fried chicken, fried catfish, green beans. butterbeans, are among the daily vegetables, always fresh.
On some nights they have seafood offerings like large shrimp prepared various ways. The menu changes daily.
The salad bar is fresh, and there is a large variety of vegetables. Your glass if kept full of ice water or ice tea (sweet tea, please), and the servers come by frequently.
Desserts include peach or blueberry cobbler, banana pudding, ice cream.
O'Neal's is open 7 days a week.
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By Mike Miller, Copyright 2009-2023
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