Documenting Madison County Agricultural History through our Barns
By Sandy Stevenson
Appeared in the News Record & Sentinel on April 11, 2012

Madison County has a rich history in the field of agriculture. Most residents are aware of the county’s place in the production of burley tobacco, but there are other stories to be told about our agricultural history. One of the most interesting ways to do this is by looking at the architecture of the barns and outbuildings scattered throughout the county. (See the related story about James and Geneva Roberts flue-cured barn.)

Realizing the need to record this history before we lose those stories, Ross Young, County Extension Director, formed a committee from a group of people who share his concern and vision. They met in January to begin the daunting task of documenting the barns. Daunting is an apt description as Ross estimates that there are over 11,000 barns in the county.

Representatives from the Madison County School District, the 4-H Club, the Madison County Library, The News-Record Sentinel, the Madison County Tourism Development Authority, Mars Hill College Center for Regional Studies, Madison County Economic Development, the Genealogical Society and the Community Centers joined with the County Extension office representatives and a Mars Hill College intern to brainstorm how to tackle this challenge. The first discussion was how to limit the documentation and all agreed that we should work with barns built before 1960 initially. Other topics were centered on how to achieve this goal.  The result will shape what the committee will be working on in the future.

Members of the committee are working on finding barns and their owners to record the history of the use. They will also be applying for a grant from Blue Ridge National Heritage Area to help in this process. The ultimate goal is to have a website with the information and to generate a self-guided tour through our beautiful county roads as visitors and residents alike learn more about Madison County’s rich agricultural traditions. To generate interest in the project, there will be a county-wide Photo Contest open to all ages (sponsored by the Madison County TDA and the Extension Office). Watch for information on that in a later edition or check your local schools or local libraries for posters. Details will be posted on the Extension website later in April.

The committee members recognize that help will be needed from residents of the county. You can help in two ways. Representatives are needed from all of the communities but especially from Sandy Mush, Laurel, Ebbs Chapel, Mars Hill and Marshall as there are no members from those areas on the committee at present.  Also, if you know of a barn in Madison County that was built before 1960, just provide the location–address, the name of the family to contact, a phone number or email for that contact. Call 828 649-2411 with this information or email Ross Young ( or send to Madison County Extension Center, 258 Carolina Lane, Marshall, NC 28753.