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Madras, named after the city in India, was incorporated in 1911 and serves as the county seat. A new county courthouse was built in 1961. County government is administered by a three-member board of commissioners.

The county's population at its first federal census in 1920 was 3,211. The 2009 population of 22,715 represented a 19.5% increase from 2000.

Principal industries are agriculture, forest products, and recreation. The fertile North Unit Irrigation District in the central part of the county produces seed, potatoes, hay, and mint. The eastern part of the county has dry wheat farming and grazing land for cattle, and the western part is timber country. Warm Springs Forest Product Industries and Kah-Nee Ta Vacation Resort, owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, provide many jobs in the area. The reservation is located on portions of land in four counties including 236,082 acres in the northwestern corner of Jefferson County.

The county owes much of its agricultural prosperity to the arrival of the railroad in 1911 and to the development of irrigation projects in the late 1930s. The railroad, linking Madras with the Columbia River, was completed after constant feuds and battles between two lines working opposite sides of the Deschutes River. Source: Oregon Secretary of State

Madras was incorporated in 1911, and has been the permanent county seat since a general election in 1916. The first (temporary) county seat was Culver, which was selected by a three-man commission appointed by the governor. Due to repeated tie votes over several days (with one vote each cast for Culver, Metolius and Madras). The deadlock was eventually broken by allowing the Metolius Commissioner to post the tie-breaker, by voting for Culver. Source Wikipedia