My childhood years were spent on a farm 12 miles from the nearest town (population 1,000) that sat on the banks of the Malheur River in Eastern Oregon.
We usually ventured into town twice a week – once for my piano lessons, and on Sunday for church. Mom usually did her grocery shopping while I pounded the ivories. If my lesson wrapped up early and the weather was nice, I sometimes waited for Mom outside, studying the old buildings, imagining what the town might have been like when they were constructed.
One building, in particular, always fascinated me. It was made of stone and the oldest building in town.
Through the years, I learned more about the Stone House, as it’s called.
Built in 1872, this sandstone structure was the first permanent building in Malheur County, Oregon.
Jonathan Keeney had previously settled there, near the banks of the Malheur River where pioneers on the Oregon Trail crossed it, and enjoyed the hot springs bubbling nearby. He sold his property to Lewis and Amanda Rinehart, who replaced the log house Keeney had built with the sandstone house. The house opened to all on New Year’s Day 1873 with a grand ball upstairs.
Just picture how welcoming that lone two-story house would have looked to weary travelers. After crossing the Snake River, it was about twenty miles across sagebrush-covered hills to reach the Malheur River. In the summer, it would have been miserable. Hot. Dry. Dusty. With mile after mile of sagebrush, rocks, hills, and not much else.
In fact, one weary traveler is said to have perished (supposedly from thirst) not far from the river, given up his battle to survive just a few yards too soon.
But on the other side of the Malheur River stood the Stone House. In fact, many referred to the community as Stone House for years, until the town was incorporated as Vale.
The house became a wayside stop for travelers until the early 1900s. It was a stage stop where travelers could wait to board. And during the Bannock Paiute uprising of 1878, it served as Field Headquarters to General O.O. Howard as well as a refuge for settlers on outlying ranches and farms.
Amanda Rinehart was known as a gracious hostess, welcoming visitors to her home.
Originally, the house had six “rooms” downstairs: a main lobby area for passengers waiting for the stage with a curtain separating it to create a space for women and children. The dining room took up most of the first-floor space, with a sizeable kitchen, a pantry, and the Rinehart’s bedroom. Upstairs was originally a ballroom which was then converted to rooms for guests. And the stairs to reach the second story were located outside.
Today, the Stone House is a museum that reminds of us the past. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
When I was invited to participate in the Regional Romance Series again this year, I thought about how fun it would be to write a romance set in the community of Stone House before it became the town of Vale. A few old records refer to the town as Rinehart’s Crossing, and I loved the way Romance at Rinehart’s Crossing sounded. All those times I sat and imagined the stories of the buildings in town were finally going to be put to use as I envisioned the Rinehart’s Crossing of my story.
Before I started writing, I made a trip to visit the Stone House and took my dad along. He had a grand time because he knew the volunteer working there that day and they farmed at least two acres while I wandered through the rooms, snapping photos of the things on display.
Like this horse hair coat (which I mention in the story!).
And just look at all the neat antiques in the kitchen.
I will proudly note the stove was donated by my dad to the museum. When I was very young and we lived in what we called the “old house” it had a place of honor in our dining room. The stove originally belonged to my sister-in-law’s grandmother. It was sitting out in a shed and she asked Dad if he wanted to buy it, so he did. I love to think of all the meals it cooked and all the memories it holds.
This enormous hook was used with the ferry at the Snake River Crossing. The volunteer (thanks, Gary!) gave a detailed description of how the hook worked, and how the ferry could be adjusted to flow with or against the current.
When we finished up at the museum, we drove a few miles out of town to Keeney Pass, named for Jonathan Keeney, were you can actually stand right on the Oregon Trail. With the dried weeds and grass, it’s a little hard to see, but where the dip is on the right and left are the actually ruts made by the wagons that rolled through the area. I get goose bumps every time I go out there, picturing the hot, tired, weary travelers as they head up another hill to see the river and a little town in the distance.
It was fun for me to write about an Oregon Trail town, especially one where I grew up!
Tenner King is determined to make his own way in the world far from the overbearing presence of his father and the ranch where he was raised in Rinehart’s Crossing, Oregon. Reluctantly, he returns home after his father’s death to find the ranch on its way to ruin and his siblings antsy to leave. Prepared to do whatever is necessary to save the ranch, Tenner isn’t about to let a little thing like love get in his way.
Austen – After spending her entire life ruled by her father, Austen Rose King certainly isn’t going to allow her bossy older brother to take on the job. Desperate to leave the hard work and solitude of the Diamond K Ranch, she decides a husband would be the fastest means of escape. If only she could find a man she could tolerate for more than five minutes.
Claire – Two thousand miles of travel. Two thousand miles of listening to her parents bicker about the best place in Oregon to settle. Two thousand miles of dusty trails, bumpy wagons, and things that slither and creep into her bedding at night. Claire Clemons would happily set down roots that very minute if someone would let her. What she needs is her own Prince Charming to give her a place to call home. When a broken wagon wheel strands her family miles from civilization, she wonders if handsome Worth King, the freighter who rescues them, might just be the answer to her prayers.
Kendall – Anxious to escape her mother’s meddling interference, Kendall Arrington leaves her society life behind, intent on experiencing a Wild West adventure. Hired as the school teacher in a growing town on the Oregon Trail, Kendall hopes to bring a degree of civility and a joy of learning to the children of Rinehart’s Crossing. However, the last thing she expects to find is a cowboy with shaggy hair, dusty boots, and incredible green eyes among her eager students.
Will love find the three King siblings as Romance arrives in Rinehart’s Crossing?
Read all the books in the Regional Romance Series featuring historic locations, exciting drama, and sweet (yet swoony) romance!
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