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Ontario City

Ontario City Hall is located at 444 SW 4th Street, Ontario, OR 97914; phone: 541-889-7684.

Beginnings [1]

The extension of the Oregon Short Line Railroad (OSL) westward created incentive for farsighted entrepreneurs to vie for one of the train stations in their community. If so established, this would link the town to the outside world, in this case, the mid-west and the Pacific coast. In June of 1883, four individuals, William Morfitt of Malheur City, Oregon and James W. Virtue, Daniel Smith, and Mary Richardson of Baker City, Oregon, decided they would gamble on the location of one of the coveted depots. The surveyed route of the OSL brought the tracks across the Snake into Oregon for a mere fifteen miles before crossing the river again back into Idaho Territory. They each secured desert land claims adjoining one another at a site just south of the confluence of the Malheur and Snake Rivers along the proposed route of the OSL. Morfitt, a civil engineer, then traveled to Caldwell to meet with Robert Strahom and promote the idea of a depot at the location of their land claims. A deal was made for the depot to be positioned within the claim of James Virtue. As a native of Ontario, Canada, for which the newly established townsite was named, Mr. Virtue was a prominent figure in the development of the community. He owned mining claims and became a principal banker in the Eastern Oregon region.

With the site of the depot attained, a tent city was quickly created. Streets were laid out parallel to the tracks and avenues perpendicular to the tracks that bear northeast through Ontario. This provided for the establishment of more permanent businesses.

  1. Donna Hartmans, Arrow Rock Architects, Oregon Short Line Railroad Depot, Ontario, Malheur County, Oregon, nomination document, 1999, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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