River Phoenix was born in Madras!

Madras, Oregon that is. I learned this when it was one of the trivia fun facts shown onscreen before the movie I went to last night. Pronounced MAD-res, the city had an estimated population of 6,640 in 2008.

While further research puts the Phoenix-Madras connection a little in doubt (some sites list his birthplace as a log cabin in Madras while others say he was actually born in nearby Metolius) the history of the city is kind of interesting.

According to the Oregon History Project:

Madras began as a town plat filed in 1902 by homesteader John Palmehn. Palmehn had come to the area in 1893. The town was incorporated in 1910, coinciding with construction of the Oregon Trunk Railway. According to legend, the town name was supposed to have been “Palmehn” but in the application process was misspelled as “Palmain.” Supposedly this was rejected by the Post Office as being too similar to “Palmer,” a name already chosen by another town. According to one version of the story, someone noticed a bolt of Madras pattern cloth and suggested that the town be called “Madras.” Others contend that the name was chosen because of the early settlers’ spiritual affinity with the city in India.

If I were to guess, I’d say the town was probably named after Madras pattern cloth rather than the city itself.

Photo: Madras, Oregon in 1912. Image used under Creative Commons from the Oregon State University Archives.

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