Our Community & Region
Madison County, Iowa was established in 1846 and is named after James Madison, our fourth President. Madison County is home to over 15,000 residents who enjoy the fertile fields, wooded hills, gentle streams, abundant wildlife and majestic limestone bluffs. Nestled in the picturesque rolling terrain, you’ll find proud communities filled with friendly people.
Madison County is famous as the birthplace of John Wayne, one of the world’s favorite movie stars. He lived in a small house on Second Street. The four room home is open to the public and is decorated with authentic period furnishings and features the largest collection of John Wayne memorabilia available. Patricia Barry, an acclaimed actress is also from Winterset and still has ties to Winterset and Madison County.
Our historic, world-famous covered bridges were popularized by Robert James Waller’s novel, The Bridges of Madison County, and the feature film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. Five of the original covered bridges remain, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridges were covered by order of the County Board of Supervisors to help preserve the large flooring timbers which were more expensive to replace than the lumber covering the sides and the roof. Most of the construction was done by farmers to pay their poll taxes. The bridges were usually named for the nearest resident.
Each year since 1970, Madison County residents gather under the brilliant hues of autumn, on the second full weekend in October, to celebrate their covered bridges on the historic Courthouse Square in Winterset. The Covered Bridge Festival features old-time craft demonstrations, a wide variety of food, music, storytelling, an antique vehicle parade complete with bands and floats, and much more!
If you are seeking to recapture that old “hometown” feeling you remember from your youth, or you simply find the small-town, rural way of life appealing, it still exists in Madison County. We’re only a short drive from the big city benefits and cultural delights of Des Moines, the state capital.
Madison County Courthouse, Winterset