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May 24

The Nicest Bicycle Shop in Georgia

Posted on May 24, 2023 at 9:49 AM by Ken Kocher

As noted in an earlier blog post, the 100 block of E. Jefferson Street had been consumed by fire in 1873. The Greensboro Herald reported that “the buildings destroyed belonged to Col. Albert Foster and Mr. Lester Markham, and were all old wooden structures, of little value.” Markham’s building was the Post Office where he had been the Postmaster since 1865. Lester Markham chose not to rebuild though in 1888 he offered to donate the lot to entice the construction of a “mammoth hotel.” This did not occur, and development of the site fell to Markham’s son.1893 Chicago World's Fair Bicycle Exhibits

Despite appointment as Deputy Postmaster in 1879, C.B. Markham, known to most as Butler, was not to follow in his father’s footsteps. By 1894 Butler Markham was a clerk in S.W. Booth’s store and was selling bicycles there. In 1893, Messrs. D.P. Few, L.H. Foster, Wood Poullain, and Butler Markham had traveled to Chicago to see the World’s Fair. Could it be that Butler visited the bicycle exhibitions in the Transportation Building  and was so impressed as to make a career choice? Whether or not this was the influence or even an influence, Butler Markham became an integral part of the 1890s nationwide bicycle craze as expressed in Madison. The craze was precipitated by the invention of the “safety bicycle,” which was much easier and safer to ride for both men and women, as opposed to the old “penny-farthing bike.” Butler became known in Madison as “the bike man.”

sketch of building and 1909 map

According to a 1930 article in the Madisonian, Butler Markham “drew plans for his own [c. 1897] office building on the square, did most of the brick and woodwork with his own hands, and laid the flooring doing a fine job all round.” In the left half of this building, he sold Columbia, Hartford, and Clipper bicycles. Butler also repaired bicycles. The Madisonian declared his to be the nicest bicycle shop in Georgia. Butler Markham maintained the bicycle shop through the nineteen-aughts, though it may have been more of a hobby in the later years. He was a familiar figure on E. Jefferson sitting under the old mulberry tree in front of his building “reading the baseball dope.” By the 1910s C.B. Markham had turned to investment, especially real estate investment, as his livelihood.

C.B. Markham bicycle ad

During this period, Markham took to spending the winter months in Fort Meyers, Florida, where he had substantially invested in real estate. While the newspaper would joke that a Yankee widow had drawn him there and that he was serving as judge for the bathing beauty revue, Butler evidently spent his time fishing and conducting business. Butler Markham sold his building in 1919 to its next-door neighbor, the First National Bank of Madison, who planned to potentially expand – they never did. Meanwhile, Butler continued to split his time between Florida and Georgia eventually becoming a full-time resident of the Sunshine State. The year 1924 saw his office convert to a barbershop.


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