Madden's Tavern

Historical Significance

One of a few relics of pre-Civil War black entrepreneurship surviving in rural Virginia, the Madden Tavern was completed in 1840, owned and operated by a free black man, Willis Madden (1800-1879). In the 19th century, free blacks in Virginia were able to earn and keep wages and to own and operate a business, but were forbidden to vote, bear arms, testify against a white person, or be educated.

Madden was born to Sarah Madden, a bi-racial woman who was an indentured servant to James Madison, Sr., President Madison's father. Because Madden's mother was free, under the law her children were also free. Madden worked in many trades (farm laborer, blacksmith, nail maker, distiller, cobbler, and teamster) before going into business for himself and purchasing eighty-seven acres in Culpeper County. At the crossroads of Old Fredericksburg Road and Peola-Mills-Kellysville Road, Madden erected the four-room main building, as well as several outbuildings and sheds. A pre-existing general store and a blacksmith wheelwright shop were also included in his business property.

Madden's business declined with the construction of the railroad in the 1850's. The property sustained extensive damage during the Civil War as Union troops fought their way south in the winter of 1863-64. In 1949, T.O. Madden, Jr., Willis's great-grandson, found family and tavern records in the attic of the main house. The papers included Willis Madden's free papers. 

Physical Description

The Madden Tavern is a log structure. The western half of the tavern contained the family living quarters, and the eastern portion consisted of a downstairs public room and a loft for overnight guests. The property is still owned by Madden's descendants.

Geographical and Contact Information

Rt 610, 1 mile North of Lignum
Lignum, Virginia