The Story of Jane Stewart
Mrs. Wayne Casey Stewart of Dayville, Oregon
Given January 30th, 1953
When I was visiting my sister at Vancouver Barracks and later at Tacoma, Washington, and
enjoyed the west so much, I hated to think of going back to the Middle West right away as
planned, so I decided to get a position teaching in a high school someplace in the Northwest.
The John Day high school had a vacancy at the time for a teacher of Latin and English, and I
was delighted to start out for Eastern Oregon, early in January of 1919.
Since John Day was not on the railroad map, the conductor out of Portland didn't know where
I wanted to go unless it was to the mouth of the John Day River, just east of The Dalles. So,
in mid-afternoon, he had the train stop at a siding and I got off with my handbag. The only
building in sight was a big water tank. There were a number of foreign section hands working
on the railroad ties at that time. Fortunately another woman, Mrs. Pieburn, got off at the
same time - I will love her to my dying day. She was carrying her baby, and her husband met her
in a wagon at the foot of the hill. After a few minutes she spoke to me and wanted to know if I
was expecting someone to meet me there, and I told her, "No, I suppose no one will meet me,
I am the new teacher and have come to teach at John Day." She said, "Oh, my dear, John Day is a
hundred miles or more from here." My heart sank, as the train had pulled on. But, Mrs. Pieburn
took me home with her to her family that evening - a little dry-land ranch way up on the hill -
and they were so sweet and hospitable and kind to me that I still count them amoung my good friends.
I still hear from her occasionally. The next morning they knew I would like to ride a horse and go
over to the edge of what they called "cliff," to look down at the John Day River, so the children
took me over and let me ride the horse and look down into the canyon of the John Day River.
After dinner at noon, they got me ready to take back down to the train and each one of us was armed
with a large white-flour-sack teatowel to wave at the train, for fear it would go on. And, it did
start to go on - we thought - and we waved frantically, and then it backed up onto the siding and
picked me up. It took me on to Baker where I spent the night at the old Geiser Grand Hotel. Bright
and early the next morning the little narrow gauge Sumpter Valley train left for Prairie City, and I
was on it. It was a cold morning, January 7. The small engine burned wood, and meandered around through
the beautiful snow-covered mountains and little river valleys in a most interesting way - much as the
deer chose their trails, I was told.
On that little train I made my first friends from the John Day Valley, two fine woman from Scotland,
Mrs. Bessie Finlayson and Mrs. Johnnie Mason. They were so kind to tell me of the John Day Valley and to
offer me a ride with them from Prairie City to John Day. The mud was deep and slippery and we were
fortunate to have Tom Mason for a driver. He landed me safely at the old Hackney Hotel, and "Mother"
Hackney took me in charge in the wonderful way of pioneer women of the Western country.
©1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved
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