Old Madras
by Stephen Hillis
  • April 7, 2022
  • 3 mins story
1. Maybe you have an idea for a story. Feel free to tell that story.

Willow Creek, as it wanders through Madras has an interesting history. Prior to making the creek straight and having high banks to make it more like a canal than a creek, the creek ran year-round and had fish in it. At the corner of B and 10th Street, the creek was quite different. As the creek left C Street by the Lutheran Church, it ran north to the cliffs and hugged them before turning south and west running through what is now the community garden. It ran all the way to 10th Street, then headed north and crossed B Street at the current intersection. A bridge crossed at B Street by B street climbed a very steep hill. Just after the creek, if one looks today, one will see a footpath going north, but that was actually a one-lane street going north. between that and the creek was a building that housed the community well where farmers would bring their wagons with water tanks to fill to take to their farms.

For years the main highway was 5th Street and it turned at Friendship Corner ( D Street) to head for Culver and Redmond. There was a flashing red light at that corner to stop traffic briefly. On the lamp post on the corner of the insurance building ( ODD Fellos) was a light that would flash when the police were needed. If the telephone operator got a call for the police, she would turn on the light so the police would know to call in to her to find out what was needed. 

the Madras Hotel, a two-story plus basement building, on Friendship Corner was a major establishment for Madras. Inside the hotel were a restaurant, a barbershop, and a huge lobby. That corner seemed to be cursed as in 1960 the hotel burned to the ground. A nice furniture store was built in that spot and it also burned down. A park replaced the buildings and was a well-known gathering place. In 2020, an outdoor dining restaurant (offering Sushi, Korean and Mexican) was located at Friendship corner.

On the corner of 10th and C Street is an old house. In 1912 it was the Free Methodist parsonage of my grandfather. His family lived there for two years and during that time used the well on 10thStreet for all their water. It now looks like a wishing well, but then there only a wood covering and a pail to drop into theater and bring it up. People from Warm Springs would bring their families to the well and camp there while the men went east to hunt. 

The Madras Waster Transfer Station ( dump) at Box Canyon, use to be on the Culver highway west of the current skate park. THe dump dug huge trenches and buried the garbage there for years, blocking the entrance to the canyon. Before there were there it was an easy walk into the canyon and enjoyed the year-round flowing creek and climbing the cliff banks. Near the top, the lava rocks made an interesting place to play. Near the entrance to the canyon, on the south side was what we called the Keyhole Cave. Not very big, but one could go inside. Further into the canyon were overhangs where one could climb up to and view the canyon, pretending one was in a place like the cliff dwellings of the Southwest. 

Leaving Madras on C Street and following the path along Willow Creek, one is actually walking on the old railroad bed. About 1/2 mile into the canyon one would find the Twin Tunnels. two tunnels were built for the railroad. In the 50s, the US Army decided it would be great practice to blow them up. For about a year, the canyon was off limits and there were guards posted at the entrance, near the trestle, to keep people out. Once they blow up the tunnels, they filled them in with dirt, but one can still find where they were. 

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