History of Madera
Madera County, officially established on May 16, 1893, holds a significant place in California’s history. However, its journey began back in 1876 when the first plots for the future Madera County seat were put up for auction.
At that time, the Southern Pacific Railroad was making its mark in the San Joaquin Valley, giving rise to towns like Modesto, Merced, Minturn, Borden, and Berenda, but Madera was notably absent from this initial development. In the foothills, mining communities like Buchanan and Grub Gulch thrived, while towns like Coarsegold, Finegold, and Fresno Flats (now Oakhurst) sprouted higher in the mountains.
Madera’s emergence wasn’t met with overwhelming enthusiasm because it wasn’t tied to mining or the Southern Pacific’s plans for the San Joaquin Valley. The town’s birth certificate was an article in the October 11, 1876 issue of the Fresno Expositor, naming it “Madera,” the Spanish word for lumber, as it was closely linked to the California Lumber Company. The article noted Madera’s potential for growth.
Soon after, a public sale of lots was announced for October 24th, and construction quickly followed. County Supervisor Hensley reported that building was progressing rapidly in Madera, with over a dozen structures under construction. The town’s swift transformation from a barren landscape to a bustling community amazed observers.
In a few months, Madera’s residents turned their attention to education, leading to the construction of a school building in 1877. The town’s growth continued with the establishment of its first church. By April 1877, Madera, without its own newspaper, began receiving regular coverage in the Fresno Expositor, reporting on various aspects of life in the town.
In 1896, Madera became the county seat of the newly formed Madera County. The construction of a courthouse, jail, zoo, and County Park marked this period of growth. The first Chamber of Commerce was established in March 1898.
Madera embraced the 20th century, and the City of Madera was officially incorporated on March 27, 1907. The town’s main street, Yosemite Avenue, was paved in 1912, replacing dusty and muddy roads. Various businesses, including grocery stores, saloons, hotels, banks, and restaurants, thrived, shaping Madera’s downtown landscape. The city’s cultural life included a skating rink, the Madera Polo Team, and venues for national radio broadcasts.
Madera’s history continued to evolve, with lumber playing a crucial role in its early growth. Despite facing challenges like droughts, fires, and economic depressions, lumber sustained Madera for over five decades. The Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company, under the leadership of Elmer H. Cox, was a pivotal player during this time, contributing significantly to the town’s prosperity. However, the Great Depression ultimately led to the closure of the lumber industry in Madera.
Nevertheless, Madera’s destiny remained intertwined with its economic endeavors. After the lumber industry’s decline, agriculture stepped in to fill the void. Diversified agriculture became a driving force in the region’s economy, ensuring Madera’s continued growth and prosperity. The legacy of the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company lives on, a testament to the industry’s importance in shaping Madera’s history.
Centennial Celebration: Celebrating 100 Years 1907-2007
In 2007, Madera celebrated its centennial, marking 100 years since its incorporation as a city. A dedicated Centennial Committee was formed to organize a year-long series of events for the public to enjoy and participate in. Here’s a summary of the Centennial festivities:
Old Timer’s Parade: The year began with the Old Timer’s Parade in September 2006, setting the Centennial theme in motion.
Centennial Kick-Off Celebration: In January 2007, the City of Madera hosted a memorable Centennial Kick-Off Celebration. This event began with an Open House at City Hall and was followed by a significant City Council meeting where Bill Coate read a proclamation, officially designating 2007 as the year of Madera’s Centennial Celebration.
Century Luncheon: On March 27, 2007, the Madera Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the Madera Rotary Club and Madera Sunrise Rotary, organized a Century Luncheon. This event celebrated Madera’s 100th Birthday and its rich heritage. It offered attendees a chance to reflect on Madera’s Past, explore the vibrant Madera Today, and envision the promising Madera’s Future. Additionally, this occasion paid tribute to two stalwarts of Madera’s business community: Jay Chapel and the Madera Tribune, both of which have served the city for over a century.
Centennial Park Dedication: The Madera City Council and Staff presided over the dedication of ‘Centennial Park,’ a renamed Swimming Pool Park, located at the corner of 4th and Flume Streets. This special moment was marked by the presentation of a Time Capsule to the city, generously contributed by Mr. Mike Hinton and students from Madera High School.
Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast: The Madera Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast as part of the Centennial celebrations. This event recognized individuals who have played and continue to play pivotal roles in shaping the City of Madera during its century of existence.
Centennial Tree Adoption: The City of Madera Parks and Community Services Department invited community members to participate in the celebration by adopting a Centennial Tree. Trees were planted on two occasions, April 27th and October 20, 2007, symbolizing Madera’s commitment to its past, present, and future.
These festivities provided a wonderful opportunity for Madera’s residents to commemorate their city’s rich history, reflect on the achievements of the past century, and look forward to a bright future ahead.