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28 Walnut Street
Madison, NJ 07940 (map)
LOOKING BACK COLUMN
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
Blacks have been in this area since colonial times, most likely as indentured servants or slaves for wealthy landowners. Jacob Davis was probably the first black settler in Madison. He was a former slave of the Kitchell family, whose estate was on Kitchell Road. Archibald Sayre, also a slave master, gave Jacob 1/4 acre of land on Morris Place in 1853 where several other black families lived. Davis built a house for himself and his wife, a Madison woman named Qually, and donated a piece of his land to build the African Union Church at Cherry Hill (now Fairwoods) where it remained until 1863.The building was then moved to the south side of Kings Road at Cross Street on a lot deeded to the church from Judge Francis Lathrop. That building was destroyed by fire, and worship services were moved to Madison Academy and the Presbyterian Session House. In 1885 the Bethel AME Church was built on the corner of Chapel Street and Central Avenue on land donated by William and Helen Brittin.
The First Baptist Church on Cook Avenue was organized in 1896, built on a lot purchased for the sum of $400.00 from B. Warren Burnet. Prominent organizers for the church were: George Burroughs, Trim Felton, John Milton, Richmond Barrow, Jacob Boone and Isaac Garrish. Mrs. Emma Burroughs was the president of the Women’s Sewing Circle. The first service was held in 1902. Pictured is William Burroughs, grandfather of George Burroughs.
Madison also had a small part in the “Underground Railroad.” Legend states that the Boisaubin mansion on Treadwell Avenue had an emergency escape route from a nearby barn to a hollow pillar near the front entrance and from there the fugitive slave could climb a slat ladder to a small attic hideaway. Other “stations” in the “railroad” were the Sayre house on Ridgedale Avenue, and the Icabod Bruen house on the corner of Division Avenue and Kings Road. The Civil War produced many heroes, one of which was Madison’s Isaac Gordon, who was born a slave. Not only did he guide Union forces through Virginia, in 1864 he warned the Union Army of an impending attack by Confederate forces. The northern army was prepared, due to his warning, and able to reinforce their troops and ward off an attack by the Confederates. Gordon died in 1917. Another African-American, William Henry Kyse, enlisted in 1861 and served four years with the Illinois Infantry. Not only was he wounded several times, he was also taken prisoner by the Confederates and was made to walk barefoot from Nashville, Tennessee to Louisville, Kentucky. Upon his release, with a war record of genuine distinction, he came to Madison where he lived for 50 years. His son also made Madison his home until his death in 1934. By 1905 the African-American population in Madison had grown to 351.
Researched and written by staff member Helene Corlett