The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Medford Pioneers: The Van Dykes

Vern Van Dyke, August 22, 1965 Medford Mail Tribune - See more at: http://s630.photobucket.com/user/BenTruwe/media/BenTruwe001/VernVanDyke1965-8-22pB2MMT_zps0e759bcf.jpg.html?filters[user]=92711281&filters[recent]=1&sort=1&o=1#sthash.2k5qeR3J.dpuf
Vern Van Dyke, August 22, 1965 Medford Mail Tribune - See more at: http://s630.photobucket.com/user/BenTruwe/media/BenTruwe001/VernVanDyke1965-8-22pB2MMT_zps0e759bcf.jpg.html?filters[user]=92711281&filters[recent]=1&sort=1&o=1#sthash.2k5qeR3J.dpuf
August 22, 1965 Medford Mail Tribune
Vern Van Dyke, August 22, 1965 Medford Mail Tribune - See more at: http://s630.photobucket.com/user/BenTruwe/media/BenTruwe001/VernVanDyke1965-8-22pB2MMT_zps0e759bcf.jpg.html?filters[user]=92711281&filters[recent]=1&sort=1&o=1#sthash.2k5qeR3J.dpuf
Vern VanDyke Recalls When Steelhead Were Area's Great Asset

Mail Tribune Staff Writer

    The greatest asset the Rogue River Valley ever had was steelhead in the river.
    That's the judgment of Vern VanDyke, who rates as "the greatest years" of his life the years when fishermen came to catch the "greatest sporting fish of them all"--the Rogue River steelhead.
    Now retired at his home, 301 Murphy Road, Medford, this member of the fourth generation of VanDykes to live in the Medford area still tells the kind of story that drew fishermen to his counter from many corners of the world when he was owner and operator of Lamport's Sporting Goods Store.
    His shop, though modern and amply supplied with the latest sports equipment, retained that certain charm which Corey Ford of Hanover, N.H. gives to "Uncle Perk's" store in his stories of "Hardscrabble," carried in Field and Stream.
Came to Hear Vern
    It's common knowledge hereabouts that those fishermen didn't come just to buy. The Hardy reels, the Leonard rods, C. C . Filson coats, English waders and English boots, they bought. But they also came to hear Vern spin a fishing yarn and to learn from him the whereabouts of the best fishing water.
    "They were real fishermen," VanDyke recently declared as he reviewed the days when anglers from faraway places were constantly swinging the doors of his shop.
    "They had lots of money and they weren't snobs. They wanted the best and they were willing to pay for it. Why, Guy Kibbee bought a small farm up Elk Creek for a fishing camp. When he was through fishing he just gave it to a boy to keep. Yes, I'm sure that was Kibbee (referring to the longtime comedian of stage and screen). Big fellow, wasn't he? He came into the store, found a Filson coat that fit him, so he bought three. Never kicked about the price.
    "Mario Lanza, the singer, was another one. He loved to fish the Rogue. He wanted the best equipment with which to do it. Wallace Beery, too. He was a great guy," VanDyke paused as he went through the list of actors who cast their flies on the riffles of the Rogue.
Calls from Grants Pass
    "Clark Gable," he continued. "He called me one night from Grants Pass. Said he was going to be late getting here and he was in need of tackle. 'Will you wait for me?' he asked. We were open when he got here. He bought three Hardy reels among other things.
    "I sold lots of tackle to Andy Devine. George Murphy, too. Then there was Harry--what was Harry's other name?" No one volunteered to answer. "I knew Harry as well as I knew you. He caught eight steelhead, eight steelhead in one morning."
    "How  much did it cost to outfit a fisherman before World War II?" VanDyke was asked.
    "I sent to England for their waders," he answered. "They wanted them thin and they wanted them to fit. The same with their boots. It was about $75 for a rod, the kind they wanted. There weren't any glass rods then. They wouldn't have used them if there had been. They were fishermen, real fishermen, strictly bamboo rod men: Fred K. Burnham, Frank Noyes, Nion Tucker, R. B. Young, Hubert Fleishhacker." The listing sounded like a review of the business directory of the San Francisco telephone book of the period.
Cost of Equipment
    "A reel was about $35, a Hardy reel I mean. Line $15. Waders $35 to $40. Cork [calk] shoes $15. Then the flies. Oh, we won't count the flies.," VanDyke hesitated. "About $175 I'd say to start them off."
    "They had to know how and they always used good equipment," the retired merchandiser added. "They never quibbled about price."
    "There were 15 teachers who used to come up every year from Southern California," VanDyke volunteered, to show that all his customers were not very wealthy Bayites.
    "They used to stay at Sunset on the Rogue. Lee L. Yancey was one of them. He later came to stay. He works now at North's Chuck Wagon. They used to start out on Friday night as soon as school was out and just keep coming until they got here. It was the steelhead fishing that drew them.
Come to Fish Steelhead
    "Those were the days when fishermen came to fish and there were steelhead to be caught. They didn't go for salmon fishing. That's not sport.
    "Jim Webb, scenario writer for 'Cheyenne Autumn' and 'How the West Was Won'--his father Brown Webb and his uncle, Cox Webb, used to come to the Maud cabin on Rogue River every summer. They fished for steelhead at the mouth of Butte Creek and the Three Pines.
    "One morning Brown Webb caught 17 steelhead, turned them all back but one. No, they weren't hurt, VanDyke answered the shocked interjection. "They were caught on a fly. All these men I've talked about were fly fishermen. They wouldn't use anything but a fly. I know, I supplied their tackle. No spinning reels either. Harry was that kind, too.
    "At first they stayed at McDonald's Rogue Elk Hotel. Then they built homes of their own on Rogue River. There was B. R. Pierce, who raised fancy horses in California. He was a real fisherman. So was G. A. Hunt, an orchardist and school teacher.
Would Start at Park
    "They used to start at Casey's (now a state park), come down the river to Big Rock at Trail. You surely know where the big rock is. Then to Jackson Falls. Curry Riffle at the Elks picnic ground down to the Grapevine, the mouth of Little Butte Creek. Three Pines. John Mace's High Banks, then below the Gold Ray Dam. It was all good fishing water when there were steelhead in the river. The best? The very best of all? Three Pines," VanDyke answered with an extra gleam in his eye, "was the best riffle on the Rogue. The pines are gone now, one or two of them anyway. These new fishermen wouldn't know where to find it. We knew the spot. The Grapevine is good, too.
    "Aubrey Norris and Dick Isaacs know. They are about the only real fly fishermen left here," VanDyke said, paying the Medford merchant and Ashland banker about the highest tribute in his book.
    The "best trout stream in the world" used to be Spring Creek in Klamath County, according to VanDyke.
    With Bill Muller, then employed by William F. Isaacs in The Toggery, and Charley Isaacs, brother of "Toggery Bill," VanDyke made the trip into Spring Creek. He couldn't recall the year, but it was long before Flounce Rock Grade on the Crater Lake Highway was paved.
    "Did you ever see the pumice dust roll up in clouds on Flounce Rock Grade?" he asked as he moved into a tale of the trip.
Rented Team, Wagon
    "We rented a team and wagon from the late Doc Pickel (Dr. E. B. Pickel), who then had the 401 Ranch. We got both for $1.50 per day. It took us four days to get to Spring Creek. They make it now in two hours. We camped on Butte Creek, Whisky Creek and at Arant's Crater Lake Camp. At the lake we went down the squirrel trail to the water, took a leaky boat over to Wizard Island, put our names in a bottle and tossed it into Wizard Island's crater."
    The next day the trio arrived at the Indian agency and camped below Spring Creek. It was true to its reputation. They caught strings of beautiful rainbow trout.
    It was VanDyke's great-grandfather, Samuel G. VanDyke, who chose Southern Oregon as [his] homeland and established the name of VanDyke in this area. From that day to this there has been a Sam VanDyke in Medford.
    Samuel G. VanDyke, the first, came from Pennsylvania and farmed the region south of Medford, now known as Voorhies Crossing [where Old Stage Road crosses the railroad tracks]. He was joined in San Francisco by his Pennsylvania sweetheart, Sarah Stewart. They were married and rode horseback from the Bay City to the Rogue River Valley. Years later, when Samuel VanDyke died, his widow married "Preacher Williams."
    "That's what he was always called," Vern commented.
    Jackson County history lists him as Moses Allen Williams.
Started in Merchandising
    Vern's maternal [sic] grandfather VanDyke started him in the merchandising field, which became his life's work. The grandfather had a dry goods store on Medford's Main Street. There were very few stores here then: Hutchison and Lumsden, Cranfill and Plymale. Just one that is still operating--Hubbard Bros., VanDyke recalled. It was then run by Fort and Asahel Hubbard in the same location it occupies today. At that time, however, half the area it now covers was site of George Merriman's blacksmith shop.
    VanDyke worked for his grandfather in the dry goods store until 1917, when he joined Ed Lamport in the sporting goods store, now owned and operated by his son, Sam VanDyke, and Jack Murray as Lamport's Sporting Goods and Saddlery.
    Vern's maternal grandfather was Claus Kleinhammer of the Applegate area, another pioneer. Vern's roots are deep in pioneer and contemporary soil. His father, another Samuel VanDyke, chose orchard and farm instead of merchandising in keeping with the preference of his grandfather for whom he was named.
Interested in Fishing
    Obviously more interested in fishing than the probing into his family tree, VanDyke turned the talk back to the river.
    "There may be some men someplace like those fishermen who used to come here and breathe new zest for living into the community," he opined, "but I don't know where. These kids don't know how to fish. But what's the use, anyway. There aren't any steelhead in the river."
    "What was Harry's other name?" He was asked again. He shook his head, and the interview ended with a typical VanDyke remark, not to be quoted, but clearly expressing his true opinion of present-day sportsmanship on the river.
    "Scott," he declared a few days later by telephone. "Harry Scott, of course. Did I tell you Jackson Falls was a good fishing spot? I meant to. It was one of the best, and Harry Scott was one of the best fishermen."
Medford Mail Tribune, August 22, 1965, page B2

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    Merchant John Van Dyke accompanied his mother, Mrs. J. G. Van Dyke, and sister, Miss Sadie, to Colestin last Saturday, and remained until Sunday evening to get their camp in order. The ladies will remain there for about a month.
"Purely Personal," Medford Mail, July 25, 1902, page 6

    Dr. J. E. Shearer, attorney L. C. Narregan, jeweler E. D. Elwood and Ed Van Dyke left last Saturday for a ten days' hunting trip into the Elk Creek country. From Elk Creek they will go by pack train thirty miles north to Fish and Wizard lakes, in the Umpqua country.

"Purely Personal," Medford Mail, September 19, 1902, page 6

Married--Van Dyke-Cox.

    Speaking of surprises! There was one sprung on Medford people Wednesday when a telegram came from San Francisco to Mr. Rufus Cox announcing the marriage of his daughter, Miss Minnie, to Mr. J. G. Van Dyke, Jr., a member of the J. G. Van Dyke & Co. mercantile firm of this city. While the wedding was a surprise to all it is conclusively evident that it had been prearranged by the parties interested. Some weeks ago the bride left Medford for San Francisco to receive treatment for an imaginary catarrhal trouble. She accompanied Mr. C. B. Williams, of the Fish Lake Ditch Company, and while in the city was a guest at his home, and at whose home the wedding took place. Mr. Van Dyke left Medford Monday evening, ostensibly to purchase goods for his store, and not even did members of his family know of his contemplated matrimonial venture--and the same is true as to the bride's family.
    The groom is one of Medford's most successful business men, a man of excellent qualifications, exemplary in social and business circles and a prime favorite with all who know him.
    The bride is one of the belles of Medford--a lady of culture and refinement, and possesses the many qualifications which have always made her prominent in all social gatherings of the city.
    The friends here are all awaiting their return, which will probably be within ten days or two weeks, to shower upon them their heartiest congratulations--and there will be no one-sided congratulations--they can be, and will be, expressed with equal lavish unto both.

Medford Mail, October 10, 1902, page 2

    Everett Van Dyke of the Phoenix district was in Medford spending the week and transacting business and visiting with friends.
"Local and Personal," Medford Sun, April 13, 1915, page 6

Last revised August 23, 2016