By the late 1890s, the young McHenrys seemed to have it all.
With the passing of Oramil's parents, Robert in 1890 and Matilda in 1896, he had inherited the Bald Eagle Ranch, the mansion in town and many other financial and real estate holdings.
He had his father's business acumen, which he used to great advantage as he expanded and developed the ranch.
In 1886, he married Louise Bilicke, whose father was a "hotel man" by trade. Bilicke had come to Modesto to manage Ross House, which was then considered the area's finest hotel.
Originally, it had been built in the small river town called Paradise City, situated on the Tuolumne River about four miles from present-day Modesto.
When Modesto was established by the Central Pacific railroad in October 1870, many buildings in the nearby villages were immediately moved to the new town, including Ross House.
The white, two-story hotel was cut in half and transported to Modesto in two sections. The moving of the first part went smoothly, but the second encountered serious problems.
After it had been loaded onto the wagons, to be pulled by a team of 60 horses, the building had gone only about 100 yards when the wheels sank into the soft, sandy soil. "More powerful apparatus has been sent for," reported the Stanislaus County News.
That apparently succeeded, because the refurbished hotel had a grand opening ball Feb. 22, 1871.
It was there, in the Ross House hotel, that Oramil, usually called Ora, and Louise were married during a candlelight ceremony at 11 a.m. on March 3, 1886.
After the service, the party moved to the hotel dining room for the "ample" eight-course wedding breakfast. The couple then departed on the afternoon train for San Francisco where, the News reported, they spent "the honeymoon season before returning to their already elegantly furnished home, some five miles from Modesto." This must have referred to the house on the Bald Eagle Ranch, originally occupied by Robert and Matilda McHenry before their move into town.
After their marriage, the newlyweds settled into life on the ranch and began to raise a family. Robert Albert (nicknamed Bob) was born in October 1887, Albert Hewitt in December 1888 and Ora Louise in October 1891. A fourth child, named Russell, arrived in May 1895 but died six months later.
By the mid-1890s, the McHenrys had outgrown their house, and they built a large, Queen Anne Victorian home on the ranch. That house still stands at 511 Crawford Road, off McHenry Avenue.
Sometime after 1896, the family moved from the Bald Eagle Ranch into their 15th Street home in town, which is today's McHenry Mansion.
The children were then enrolled in the 14th and the 17th Street schools, both within easy walking distance from their house.
But all was not sublime with the McHenrys. In March 1901, the newspapers announced Ora's divorce from Louise. She immediately left town, moving to Los Angeles. She was accompanied by her 9-year-old daughter Ora Louise.
They lived in the Hollenbeck Hotel, which was owned by Louise's brother, Albert Bilicke. Just three months later, Ora Louise burned to death in a hotel room fire.
This left Ora and his two sons living alone in the McHenry Mansion.
Bare is author of several books about area history and the official historian of the McHenry Mansion. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.