Among Madison County’s 14 civil townships, Lafayette is unique because it was named for the Marquis de Lafayette, a French general whose valuable assistance to the struggling American armies during our War for Independence gained him the immeasurable gratitude of the new nation.
To James Hollingsworth, who settled there in July 1836, goes the credit for suggesting the name for the only township in Madison County named for a foreign-born person. Perhaps the death of Lafayette less than two years before influenced the choice.
Not long after his arrival, Hollingsworth began a movement to officially organize the township. That occurred Nov. 9, 1836, making it 10th in the order of township organization in the county.
Although much credit goes to Mr. Hollingsworth, he was not the first to settle there. That distinction goes to Henry Ry who, in 1831, brought his family from North Carolina and settled in section 36 in the future township’s very southeast corner where North Anderson is now located.
The land surface of the township is generally flat. That once was a problem because standing water had no way to drain adequately, thus prohibiting successful farming. It was corrected in 1875 when an extensive system of artificial drainage was constructed. The standing water is attributed to the origin of an unusual place-name in the township.
Now known as Florida Station, it was originally called Clark’s Station in honor of the Honorable Thomas G. Clark, on whose land it was located in 1856.
Florida Station was a station on the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railway, and nearly all the trains stopped there for, among other reasons, delivery of the daily mail. The post office at Florida was abandoned in 1903 when free delivery of mail was instituted in rural areas.
A large amount of tiling was manufactured there during the 1870s and 1880s by Rains & Guisinger, but demand for the product declined with the completion of ditching and draining of the township wetlands during that period. The property was converted into a factory for the manufacture of brick.
It is believed the first steam sawmill in the township was built there in 1851 by George Millspaugh and James Stevenson.
The origin of the name was reported by a Florida newspaper correspondent in an article that appeared in the Anderson Democrat on April 20, 1874:
“I have just exhumed the origin of the sweet name of our village. Tom Clark started from Anderson in a canoe, and having paddled to this locality to dispossess the bullfrogs, he could find no terra firma to rest upon. A few water lilies in bloom delighted his eyes, and a solitary clump of dog roses exhaled sweet fragrance to the breeze, reminding him of the state of Florida, hence its immortality.”
Before Florida Station there was another stop on the railroad, one with several names.
Soon after the completion of the P.C. & St. L. Railway through the township in 1856, a large grain warehouse was built at a point a mile and a half northwest of the present site of Florida Station. For many years, it was known as Keller’s Station after John Keller, the owner of all the land in that immediate vicinity.
Soon, a general store was opened; however, owing to an insufficient patronage, it closed, as did the warehouse. The closures caused the trains to discontinue stopping there.
With the warehouse failure, Keller’s Station was abandoned, and Clark’s Station was established as the main railroad stop in the area.
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When Lafayette Township continues next month, the origin of another railroad stop in the same area fondly called Buttermilk will be revealed.