In this, as in other counties generally throughout the State, the different varieties of grasses constitute the principal natural source of wealth. Blue-joint is the most valuable kind, and from the valleys and uplands an abundance of excellent pasturage and nutritious hay is obtained. A little buffalo grass is still visible on the sandy plains, and several kinds of coarse slough grass grow on the bottom lands. When the earliest settlers came into this county, considerable timber was found along the Elkhorn, and the creeks in the southern part of the county. Cottonwood trees a foot in diameter were found, and there were to be found box elder, elm, willow and other kinds. That growing naturally has been mostly utilized in building and for fuel, and the planted groves do not yet equal in quantity of timber the original natural forests.
There have been planted numerous groves of cottonwood, walnut and ash, the former especially making rapid growth, the total number of forest trees planted up to 1881 being over fifteen hundred thousand, and of hedges 213 miles.
There have been planted also 2,700 apple trees, 760 cherry trees, 540 plum trees, 270 peach trees a few pear trees and thirty-eight acres of grape vines.
There is an abundance of good brick clay in the county, in the vicinity of Norfolk and Madison, brick made from which is extensively used in the erection of business blocks and dwelling houses.
Madison County is well watered by the Elkhorn, which flows through the northern part a little to the south of east; by the North Fork of the Elkhorn, which flows through the northeast corner by Battle Creek, which rises in the western part and empties into the Elkhorn from the south, about the middle of the county from east to west; by Union and Taylor Creeks in the southeast, Shell Creek in the southwest, and by Buffalo, Deer, Dry and Meridian Creeks.
Water is found in the valleys by digging wells from twelve to twenty-five feet, and on the uplands from thirty-five to one hundred and twenty-five feet. The water found in these wells is of excellent quality, clear as crystal, but often quite hard, necessitating the use of alkalis to soften, it for washing purposes. Springs are found in various parts of the county, some hard, some soft. The soil is abundantly fertile, yielding large crops of all kinds of cereals, except wheat and vegetables.
Source: Andreas, A. T. History of the State of Nebraska. Chicago: The Western Historical Company. 1882.