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Westward Bound — The Collision of Beauty and Fate

The Hiles view the grandeur of the landscape but also experience the vagaries of life.

Oscar, Ella and the kids ate breakfast on the train as they left Denver the morning of May 1.

The scenery was beautiful from the time we left Denver we could see the dark mountains in the distance but we were sorely disappointed not to get a view of Pike’s Peak. It was a cloudy morning, hence our disappointment. We saw such immense boulders and we saw snow in the ground in places. We passed through Colorado Springs and about noon we reached Pueblo. Here Oscar bought some hot rolls and a raisin pie for our dinner. We could not get a very extensive view of the Pittsburgh of the West, for one never really sees any city in merely passing through.

Ella Hile Diary, 6.

About two thirty that afternoon, the train passed through Canon City. Ella noted that Oscar took the snapshot of the depot and that she was very sad as they passed through because her father was buried in Canon City.

Jesse Doran Smith was born January 19, 1836 in Pleasant Dale, Hampshire County, Virginia (now West Virginia since 1861), the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Doran Smith. Both sides of the family included Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, and Jesse was one of twelve children. Jesse married Josephine McBride in 1865 and together they had four sons and a daughter, Ella being the youngest.

Jesse died on July 30, 1904, when Ella was twenty-four, in a rural portion of Fremont County near Canon City. As the story goes, Jesse had gone to Colorado in search of work. His body was found by the sheriff without identification and he was buried at county expense. It was only after inquiries from the Smith family as to the whereabouts of Jesse that the officials were able to identify the remains., and so passing through Canon City must have been traumatic for Ella.

Being on a moving train with a scheduled destination does not leave much time for lingering, however, and soon the scenery began to look “very rugged, indeed.”

Oh, such high jagged peaks our vision beheld. We soon found out that we were nearing the Royal Gorge. Mere words cannot express the feelings we had as we passed through the narrow gorge with its towering walls on either side. Almost against the train flowed the muddy swollen Rio Grande. How shall I describe the wonderful picturesque beauty of this Royal Gorge. The beautiful many colored walls towered up and up and still upward, and we curved around corners seemingly to enter an impossible place.

Ella Hile Diary, 6-7

As they continued through southern Colorado, the collision between what Ella was seeing and what she had been feeling continued.

Some places it was almost dark. So we moved around until we reached the exit. From there the scenery was wonderful. We soon passed through Salida. The glistening, snow-covered mountains looked like beautiful hand painted pictures, which indeed they really were, having been touched by a master hand. They made me think of the angels and how they must look in their dangling white robes, so very, very white.

We kept mounting higher, and yet higher, up the rocky steep until we reached Tennessee Pass, or the great divide. After leaving there we encountered a small flurrying snow storm, while descending into a seemingly impossible pass, in the mountains. While not so wonderful as the Royal Gorge, it was certainly an interesting place to behold.

Dusk was falling and things were beginning to look indistinct in the gathering shadows. we saw six dear little fawns, standing in a group, near the base of a mountain. I wished, for a while, at least, that I might have owl or cat eyes so that I might see at night and so miss none of the wonderful scenery, but wishes do not bring us our heart’s desires.

Ella Hile Diary, 8-9

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