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June 11, 1883, William Morfitt, James W. Virtue, Daniel Smith and Mary Richardson formed a new town site just south of confluence of the Malheur and Snake rivers, with the knowledge that the railroad would be coming soon, and the hope that their investment would pay off handsomely.

Naming the town was difficult for the founders. Morfitt wanted it to be named Ione (another city in Oregon, by the way), after his only daughter, and Virtue wanted it named after his birthplace in Canada. Local legends cite both h the flipping of a coin and a random drawing from a hat as the method of solving the dilemma, but regardless of the actual method, Ontario was the name selected.

The town was incorporated in 1896, and E.H. Test was its first mayor. During Test's administration, the first jail was built for $100. July 16, 1896, the city council instructed the city marshal to collect $7.50 a month from prostitutes, and deposit the money in the city's coffers.

Today, Ontario is a largely agricultural community of around 10,000.  Crops include onions, russet potatoes, sugar beets and peppermint. The people in this part of Oregon have diverse cultural backgrounds, such as Japanese, Basque, Mexican, American Indian and European.  It is also the home of the Snake River Correctional Facility, one of the largest prisons in Oregon.

Ontario is the largest city in the far eastern part of Oregon. In fact, it is the only sizable city in the far eastern part of Oregon. And it is one of the largest cities in Oregon east of the Cascades. A few of the other hubs in the sparse agriculture country of eastern Oregon are larger, but most are not much larger. Ontario's current population is around 10,000 people, which would make it a small suburb in most places, but which makes it a hub in Eastern Oregon. Its population is actually growing: mostly due to an influx of a Hispanic population coming to work in the food processing industry.

Ontario is a series of contradictions. It is Oregon's easternmost city, but it really is not "in" Oregon in many ways. It is far removed, in geography and culture, from the Willamette Valley, which makes up the political and economic heart of Oregon. Its closest tie to the state is that it houses one of the main state prisons, probably because it provides both an economic incentive and provides an isolated, secure place to keep prisoners. Ontario is the largest city in Malheur County, a county the size of Massachusetts, but it is actually in many ways removed from that county. The greatest geographic expanse of Malheur County is sagebrush and cattle range and desolate mountains, and the flat, well-tilled fields of the Ontario area don't look like much of the country. Ontario, Oregon is actually a suburb of Boise, Idaho, and is therefore closer to the Mountain States than the Pacific Northwest. But Boise and the area around it are not actually part of the Rocky Mountains. The Boise area, lying in a wide, flat valley where agriculture is a matter of economic productivity instead of nostalgia is actually quite different than much of the Mountain States, and resembles the midwest more than it does Idaho. And while Ontario is in the eastern part of the state, often stereotyped as a uniformly white, rural area, it is actually much more ethnically diverse, with close to a third of the population being of Hispanic origin, than is the cosmopolitan Willamette Valley. And Ontario also has the burden of sharing a name not only with a much more famous entity, but of not even being the main entity that does so. Because of Ontario, California, Ontario, Oregon is the other other Ontario.

And thus we see that in one small rural community that could seem to be described fairly simply, we see contradictions, and exceptions within exceptions. And such is the mosaic of American made of.

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