15 Thousand Miles by Stage
By Carrie Adell Strahorn, 1911, Page 545-547
But wherever a town is needed, obstacles to its success seem but spurs to the ambition. Chicago rose from pestilential swamp lands to the second city in America; Seattle was cloven hoofed by adobe mud, and smothered in fog and pelting rains, its seven hills were steep, slippery, and seemingly unsurmountable, but like Rome, its hills have melted into rolling landscape beauties, and a marvellous city crowns their summits. The same pioneer spirit does it all and Ontario, with its weight of sand, is rising in the same marvellous way, and its streets gleam in their adamant hardness. And now, as if a special Providence were rewarding the citizens for their years of dust laden sufferings, oil and gas have been revealed lying in the substrata of the locality, and a second Pittsburg may yet make eastern Oregon as famous for illuminating products as Pennsylvania.
When the townsite was first located and platted, Pard and Jim Clement opened up a lumber yard, the same as Pard (Robert Strahorn, author's husband) and G. J. Wilder had done at Caldwell, for lumber and hardware are the first requisites of a town. Jim Clement is the very bone and sinew of Ontario to this day. A man upright, honest, and honorable, whose word is as good as his bond, a veritable rough diamond whose value ever glints through the unpolished but tender surface. As an old resident of the Payette valley, his knowledge of the people and the lands was invaluable. He was a royal entertainer in his own home, with never any pretence of anything but his own natural, big-hearted self. He would bring out his old dulcimer and trip the sticks over the strings as only one can do who loves the rhythm and harmony of music.
Soon after our experience at his house on the farm, when the team ran away, he was greatly bereaved by the loss of his wife, for home life was all in all to him with his wife and little daughter. About the time of the opening of the new town Jim learned that an old sweetheart was then a widow. Away back in war time they were engaged to be married, but fate was unkind to them, letters were lost, and they drifted apart with aching hearts, and each had married, but now that both were free again their hearts bounded with the old love, and after twenty years they were to be wedded. The whole West is full of such romance.
When Jim went East to be united to this first love, he started out under most disheartening circumstances. The train that was to bear him away was many hours late, there was as yet no depot at Ontario, and a number of waiting passengers held down the chairs and the neversweat bench in Fred Keisel's general merchandise store. Outside the storm blew and banked the snow in giant drifts.
Among those in waiting was a woman with two small children, and when the approaching train finally blew its long whistle, Mr. Clement took a child under each arm and with his grips in hand made a dash out of the back door, which opened toward the track. The night was dark and starless and he had hardly started across lots through a woodyard to the station when he tripped and fell, spreading his six feet four as far as possible, and fairly burying the two children in the snow. The snowstorm had been the worst ever known in eastern Oregon and paths had not yet been established when the night closed down. He reached the station all out of breath with a crying baby under each arm and it somewhat dampened his ardor for matrimony when the mother berated him for his carelessness in a manner that nearly broke his heart.
He handed over the infants and went limping into the car before he learned that in the fall he had torn his trousers most disreputably, but the time was set for his nuptials, the train was moving, and he snuggled into a seat to wait for something more to happen. He could not meander through the cars nor go out at any station, and when Pard got aboard the train at Caldwell, the man with rent trousers gave a shout of joy. It was not until they reached Green River City in Wyoming that a tailor and his goose blended the tattered garment, during which time the owner of it was stowed away in bed in a lean-to back of the shop. That happened when passengers from the Northwest had to transfer at Green River to the main line of the Union Pacific, and had several hours to wait between trains.