The Story: 1920s - 1930s

Every family had a milk cow. Every family raised chickens both for eggs and for meat, and everybody raised a pig for meat. In a space of a very few years, the milk cows and the pigs and the chickens vanished. People were able to go to the supermarket.

Jerry Plemmons

"The supermarket"
- Jerry Plemmons

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While many changes had occurred, some things in the county remained the same. A study conducted in 1922 found that Madison's farmers were still producing much of their own food. Almost every family raised a milk cow, pigs for butchering, and chickens for their eggs and meat. Most farmers ground their own corn meal and grew large vegetable gardens. Profits from cash crops were down but, by raising their own food, small incomes were enough for most families to live relatively comfortably.

Comforts such as running water, electricity, paved roads and automobiles were slow to reach poor and remote mountain communities, but they began to appear throughout the first half of the twentieth century. By 1920, the county had just over one hundred miles of what were then considered improved roads and by 1922 about one in sixty residents owned a car. This was no great number considering that about one in ten Americans had cars and the county ranked ninetieth out of North Carolina's one hundred counties for car ownership. Nonetheless, state highway officials moved to provide more paved roads and by the end of the 1920s most Madison County residents who could afford cars owned them.

"Electricity" - Jerry Plemmons

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Around this same time Carolina Power and Light Company (CP&L) established a hydroelectric power plant on the river just south of Marshall. It ran lines to Mars Hill and Hot Springs to power businesses and public buildings, and families who were fortunate to live within reach of the lines began to get electricity. However, the majority of rural homes remained without electricity into the 1940s.