Through the Eyes of Maud
  Ontario - Then and Now
The People
Teacher Resources

 Through the Eyes of Maud ~ The Land

In 1882, the Chaffey brothers bought land in what was called the "Cucamonga Desert". They paid $60,000 for the land. They named it "Ontario" in honor of the place where they were born, Ontario, Canada. 

Advertisements like these drew many farmers and ranchers to Ontario. Ontario was one of the first communities in California to have electric lights, a transit system, and a long distance telephone system.

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Most of the early settlers became ranchers. Many planted fruit trees, mainly orange and lemon. Some were called "dry ranchers" because they had crops of apricots, peaches, prunes, or nectarines which were canned or dried in the local canneries.

There were many dairy farmers also. Maud's father, Martin Van Wig, planted alfalfa and "kaffir corn" on his ranch. He was one of the first to plant eucalyptus trees for windbreaks. Many of them are still there 120 years later!

Labels like this one decorated the citrus packing crates

The arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1883 allowed more trade in agricultural products which led to an increase in population. The Santa Fe Railroad was built through Ontario in January 1887.At first, the train would stop at Ontario if someone waved his hat. Later the signal was changed to a red flag.

Rose's Hall after the Dec. 13, 1887 windstorm

First families had to be rugged and strong with a sense of purpose to live in and tame this land. The ranchers were constantly battling severe weather, scarce water, insects, strong winds, storms, and flooding.

One windstorm was particularly bad. The local paper reported:

"Dec. 13, 1887, was disastrous for the Ontario Colony and surrounding communities. The wind began on Dec. 10, but continued until Tuesday when the most severe and destructive wind set in. It continued all night and did the most damage about 5 o'clock in the morning. The second floor of Rose's Hall was blown over into the next lot.Fifteen houses were torn to pieces."

Eucalyptus trees formed windbreaks to protect the crops

Maud remembers the night vividly. She was only five at the time. When Stella (her sister) was just a small baby, an unusually hard windstorm came up.


The Wind
"As night came on the wind continued to increase. We were all told to stay in the front room. Mama put pillows in our big rocking chair and tied the baby in it. Fred (her brother) and I crouched down behind the chair. Papa told Mama 'if you feel the house going over be sure and blow out the lamp.' I know he was afraid of fire. One terrific blast hit the house and the door blew in and out went the lamp. Papa and the boys could not get the door to close so he had Martin (her older brother) go to the shed for a plank to brace the door shut. He had to crawl on his hands and knees for it was impossible for him to stand up in that wind. They finally nailed the door shut. The baby slept through it all and when we looked at her we could hardly find her for she was covered with the fine sand. In the morning I found myself in bed with all my clothes on. Mama had only taken off my shoes. The wind had died down, but it had wrecked all our flowers and the hay crop."