The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Medford Pioneers: Vern Gorst

Vern C. Gorst circa 1935, San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive
Vern C. Gorst, circa 1935

    The R.R.V.Ry. Co. has competition for the passenger traffic between Medford and Jacksonville. Mr. Gorst runs a Cadillac auto between the two places every ninety minutes.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, May 31, 1911, page 2

Jacksonville Secures More Trains Since Competition.
    JACKSONVILLE, Or., June 26.--(Special.)--Jacksonville, whose growth has been so long retarded because of poor transportation facilities, has at last come into its own. V. C. Gorst, who formerly operated a passenger launch between Port Orchard and Seattle, has established an auto passenger service between Jacksonville and Medford, and it has met with such favor that he will add another machine. He makes a round trip every hour.
    Shortly after the advent of Mr. Gorst the Rogue River Valley Railway increased its service and improved its accommodations, and now runs 18 trains a day.
    A similar auto service between Central Point and Medford, it is said, will soon be established. There is also some talk of a freight truck service between here and Medford.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, June 27, 1911, page 3

Gorst Ticket SOHS1969.9.4 M44FBox3

Medford-Jacksonville Service Is Heavily Patronized.
    MEDFORD, Or., July 1.--(Special.)--An automobile passenger service has been established between here and Jacksonville by V. C. Gorst, who formerly ran a passenger launch between Port Orchard and Seattle. A round trip is made at present every hour, but so well is he patronized that Mr. Gorst says he intends to put on another machine and a truck to haul freight.
    The new passenger and freight service is in direct competition with the Rogue River Valley Railway, which for years has made only three round trips a day between the two cities. Petitions have been circulated and presented to the railway management requesting better service. When no improvement was made Mr. Gorst was invited to put on an automobile service, which he did. Since that the railway company has put on 18 trains a day.
Sunday Oregonian, Portland, July 2, 1911, page D4

    Milan Richardson, the chauffeur, is making regular trips to Jacksonville, assisting V. Gorst to take care of the passenger traffic.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, July 27, 1911, page 2

    V. C. Gorst of the Jacksonville-Medford Auto Transportation Line has leased the brick building belonging to the Bruner estate, corner Oregon and Gold streets, and transformed it into a garage.
"Jacksonville," Medford Mail Tribune, August 6, 1911, page B4

    V. C. Gorst, proprietor of the Medford-Jacksonville stage line, has gone to Seattle to buy another automobile. It will be larger and better than the one now in use.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, September 2, 1911, page 2

    V. C. Gorst, who conducts the Medford-Jacksonville auto stage line, has returned from Portland with a new car for the run and put it in service today.

"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, September 6, 1911, page 2

    There is a merry auto war on for the passenger traffic between Medford and Jacksonville between V. C. Gorst and the Rogue River Valley Railway Company, each of whom has two machines in service. Rates have been cut nearly in two, and the round trip can be made for 50 cents.

"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, October 14, 1911, page 2

Eva Rushford, Aged 14, Suffers Severe Injury--Gladys Hinman Badly Bruised--
Jacksonville Auto Stage Running Without Lights.
    As the result of an automobile accident on West Main Street Sunday night, Eva Rushford, aged 14, lies at her home today with a fractured leg, Gladys J. Hinman, aged 16, is badly bruised and suffering from a serious shock, and Laurin E. Hinman, aged 18, is severely bruised, the carriage in which they were driving is demolished and the horse so badly bruised that it can hardly stand. The young people were struck by a machine driven by chauffeur Pierce and owned by manager Gorst of the Jacksonville stage line. The machine is said to have been running practically without lights, while young Hinman makes the serious charge that Pierce was drunk at the time of the accident.
    Young Hinman and the two girls were driving home on West Main about 9:30 o'clock Sunday evening. They noticed a car coming rapidly down the street, with an intermittent light showing in front. They drove to the curb on their side of the street, but in spite of this the machine struck them and dragged them down the road for nearly 100 feet.
    At this instant one of W. H. Barnum's cars arrived on the scene and conveyed the injured young people to their home, got a doctor and then went to Jacksonville, where Mr. Gorst was called and brought to Medford.
    Constable Singler showed up on the scene early and stated today that the tracks of the automobile were within nine feet of the curb on the wrong side of the street. The car was without lights excepting for a pocket flash which was held by a man riding well forward on the fender.
    No arrests have been made, but they are expected to follow. It is reported that they will be issued this afternoon.

Medford Mail Tribune, November 13, 1911, page 1

Manager Gorst of Auto Stage Line Considering Putting Large Truck
on Run To Handle Generally Freight Business.
    Manager Gorst of the Jacksonville auto stage line is considering the purchase of a modern auto truck for the purpose of entering into a general freighting business between this city and Jacksonville. An auto truck will make 15 miles an hour with a load of several tons of freight, and the venture is bound to pay.
Medford Mail Tribune, November 14, 1911, page 6

Manager Gorst States His Driver Was Not Drunk
But That He Let Him Go Because He Was
Running at Night Without Lights.
    George Pierce, driver of the Gorst car which hit a carriage on West Main Street Sunday night, has been fined and "fired." He was arrested, charged with reckless driving, and Justice of the Peace Taylor fined him $21. Later manager Gorst of the auto line "fired" the young man.
    Gorst says Pierce was sober at the time of the accident, but he was to blame for running without lights. It was for this he let him go. Mr. Gorst regrets the matter very much and assures his patrons that such an accident will not occur again.

Medford Mail Tribune, November 14, 1911, page 6

Drunken Chauffeur Crashes into Buggy;
Two Girls and Man, Badly Injured, Are Saved by Rival.

    MEDFORD, Or., Nov. 15. (Special.)--Alarmed by the frequency of auto accidents in Medford, particularly on the road between Medford and Jacksonville, local authorities have started an active anti-speeding campaign which resulted last night in the conviction of George Pierce, chauffeur on the Gorst Jacksonville line.
    Pierce was speeding into Medford from Jacksonville Sunday night with his lights out and smashed into a carriage driven by Laurin Hinman, with his sister Gladys and Miss Eve Rushford. All the young folks were seriously injured, the carriage was demolished, and the horse crippled.
    At his hearing before Justice Taylor it developed that the chauffeur was under the influence of liquor and he was fined $25 and costs. The authorities believe that the keen auto competition between Gorst and the Barnum Railway is responsible for much of the trouble.
    Gorst, with three autos in the Jacksonville service, threatened to put the Barnum railroad out of business, so Barnum bought three 60-horsepower touring cars, cut the fare in half, and has been exerting every effort to regain supremacy in the last three weeks.
    The rivalry has spread to the two cities, and Jacksonville citizens have organized a boycott against the Barnum auto, so that the railroad owner depends on visitors and Medford citizens for his patronage.
    The accident was particularly galling to the Gorst faction because Barnum, who was putting on all speed to overtake his rival when the accident occurred, had the triumph of transporting the injured folk to the Hinman home.

Morning Oregonian, Portland, November 16, 1911, page 5

    Miles Richardson has resumed his place as chauffeur for V. C. Gorst. Mr. Markham has been filling the position.

"Jacksonville," Medford Mail Tribune, November 25, 1911, page B4

Gorst & King Auto Line token

    C. O. King of Portland has purchased an interest in the Gorst auto line between Medford and Jacksonville. Another large new car has been added to the line and is now in commission, being driven by Mr. King.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, December 26, 1911, page 2

Gorst ad, March 28, 1912 Jacksonville Weekly Independent
March 28, 1912 Jacksonville Weekly Independent

Gorst's New Auto Service
    V. C. Gorst made a business trip to Grants Pass last week in connection with the opening up of his new auto service between that city and Jacksonville. The route will be by way of Ruch to Applegate P.O., Williams Creek, Provolt and Murphy into the Pass. An inspection of the proposed route will be made this week and the new line probably opened up about the first of next month. The residents along the route are anxious to see the early installation of this service, and we are confident Mr. Gorst has struck a popular chord in the contemplated addition to his auto stage system.
Weekly Independent, Jacksonville, March 28, 1912, page 3

To Scoop the Business.
    Poor old Grants Pass. Just listen to the wail of woe from the Observer, all because V. C. Gorst is to establish an auto line into that city. When the citizens of that country town wake up, and do things instead of looking for something to growl at, outsiders that have business heads will not have occasion to pick up business snaps that they now fail to grasp. But here is the story:
    "News comes to this city from a reliable source to the effect that auto men from Medford will in the near future establish a line of auto stages to ply between Medford and Grants Pass, by way of the Applegate, making two trips each day.
    "This move comes directly from the action of the city council in turning down the recent auto ordinance, gotten up by the local auto men in protection of the Grants Pass interests. By its provision the outsider was prevented from coming into the city and running a line of stage without paying a license. As the matter stands now, the Medford people will have opportunity to come to Grants Pass and operate a stage line from here without any license whatever. The auto business from this city to the Applegate and surrounding country promises to be heavy this coming season, and the people from up the line were prompt to act when they found that all obstacles had been removed.
    "The auto men in this city are very indignant concerning the news of the intrusion of the outsiders, and they are in a measure disgusted.
    "In conversation with one owner of a garage in Grants Pass [he] said his firm had invested over $2,000 in auto tires alone, keeps a force of four to five machinists steadily at work, own four first-class machines and had a large stock of supplies aggregating hundreds of dollars. He added that it was not a fair deal for the outsider to have privilege to come here and take way the business that really belonged to the local firms, and that some action should be taken in the matter. If this condition is allowed to continue the local garage man will be compelled to sell off his machines for what he can get and quit business. We will have Medford cars on every corner for rent and the local men will be entirely shut out."
    Ain't it awful, Violet! Sic 'em.
Weekly Independent, Jacksonville, March 28, 1912, page 4

    The Gorst auto stage line to Jacksonville has been abandoned, Messrs. Gorst and King going to Marshfield, where they will put on a similar stage line between Marshfield and North Bend. Whether someone else will put on a car or not is not known.
    The auto stage line was instituted by Gorst over a year ago and has definitely shown what an auto will do to a railroad where they are brought into competition. Gorst instituted the line with one machine, which cost him $700. Later he was forced to increase the number of machines to three, and he forced the railroad to hourly trips at half the old fare.
    When Gorst started the auto stage line the train service on the Barnum line was very unsatisfactory. Very few trips were run, the round trip fare being 50 cents. Later Barnum was forced to put his train on an hourly service and reduced the round trip fare to 25 cents. Barnum attempted at one time to run an auto stage line in competition with Gorst but failed after a month or two at it.
    It will be interesting to note whether Barnum, now that competition has been done away with, will drop back into his old habit of charging 50 cents with a service which runs according to inclination.
    Gorst in stopping says that he has a better route at Marshfield. He wishes to thank the many friends who patronized him during his operation on the local line.

Medford Mail Tribune, May 11, 1912, page 1

    V. C. Gorst and family and Chas. King with Messrs. Fernley, Sinclair and Kirkruff arrived here today after a rather strenuous auto trip from Medford. Mr. Gorst drove a Cadillac and Mr. King a Packard. They came in via Drain to Scottsburg and then to Allegany, from where they brought their autos down by boat.
    They were three days on the road between Drain and Allegany [about 40 miles as the crow flies], being the first machines over it this year. In many places, they had to fill mud holes at over a hundred feet to the stretch with brush and dirt to get their machines through. They wore practically all their chains, and most of their mud-hooks were broken. Otherwise, their machines went through unscathed. It was a remarkable test for the autos. The Cadillac proved the superior and was used as a road breaker and also to pull the Packard out when the latter got stuck. The Packard carried the trunks and baggage.
    Messrs. Gorst and King have been operating an auto line between Medford and Jacksonville and came here with a view of operating a line out of Coos Bay. They say that many are planning to come here from Medford to locate.

The Coos Bay Times,
May 16, 1912, page 2

    Charles Thompson left Friday evening for Marshfield, where he will accept a position with Messrs. Gorst & King, formerly of this city, but who now operate an auto line between Marshfield and North Bend.

"Local News," Jacksonville Post, November 30, 1912, page 3

    Vern C. Gorst and Charles C. King, who formerly conducted an auto stage line between this city and Medford and who now operate a similar line at Marshfield, called on Jacksonville friends Thanksgiving Day. The two gentlemen are making a trip to California points.
"Local News," Jacksonville Post, November 30, 1912, page 3

    After Aeroplane.--V. G. Gorst, of the firm of Gorst & King, who left this week to arrange for two new 20-passenger autos to be used in their excellent North Bend-Marshfield auto service, will also look into the aeroplane proposition and may take up the hydroplane. With the new waterfront road, they are able to make the trip between North Bend and Marshfield in less than seven minutes.
"Local Notes," The Coos Bay Times, November 30, 1912, page 5

December 2, 1912 Coos Bay Times
December 2, 1912 Coos Bay Times

    Gets Hydroplane.--Messrs. Gorst and King returned on the Redondo today from Los Angeles, where they placed the order for a three-passenger hydroplane. They also bought two eight-passenger trailers, to be used with their present cars in the North Bend-Marshfield auto service.

"Local Overflow," The Coos Bay Times, December 13, 1912, page 4

Aviator Christofferson Making Great Hit with San Francisco Flights.
    V. C. Gorst, who with his partner, Mr. King, returned a few days ago from Los Angeles and San Francisco, reports that San Francisco is greatly enthused over the hydroplane exhibitions by Silas Christofferson, the Portland aviator, who made the flights here under the auspices of the Coos Bay Times. The San Francisco papers are printing first-page stories and pictures of the aviator. It was the first hydroplane exhibition given at San Francisco.
    Just before leaving San Francisco, Mr. Gorst says he was on the Redondo eating supper. He heard a whirring and instantly realized it was a flying machine. He hastened to the deck and saw Christofferson flying above him; the aviator, evidently having recognized the vessel, flew near it.
    Mr. Gorst placed an order with Glenn Martin of Los Angeles for a three-passenger hydroplane, which will reach here shortly. He says that in California they charge the passengers from $25 to $100 for much shorter flights than Christofferson gave here for $15. Mr. Gorst while cranking an auto severely injured his knee and had to go on crutches for awhile.
    San Francisco papers report that one day last week Christofferson's engines went back on him and he and a photographer had to wade ashore. However, he is taking up many passengers, many of whom are notables. A San Francisco dispatch concerning one of his flights says:
    "It's the most exhilarating sport in the world," said Senor Carlos Sanjimes, consul general of the republic of Bolivia here, following a trip over San Francisco Bay in a hydroplane with Silas Christofferson, the Portland aviator. "I felt safer in the air than with the average chauffeur in an automobile."
The Coos Bay Times, December 16, 1912, page 4

    A new auto stage line between Medford and Jacksonville with E. Clement of Medford as manager was installed this week. The autos make hourly trips during the day, with less frequent trips in the evening. The institution of this line and the regular train service makes it possible for local people to visit our neighboring city at almost any hour they choose.

"Local News," Jacksonville Post, December 21, 1912, page 3

    Chas. Thompson, who is employed with Gorst & King, who conduct an auto stage line at Marshfield, arrived in Jacksonville Tuesday and will visit relatives in this city for a few days.
    Milas Richardson, who is employed with Gorst & King in the auto stage business at Marshfield, was in Jacksonville this week.
"Local News," Jacksonville Post, February 1, 1913, page 3

    Orders Big Auto.--V. C. Gorst returned today from Seattle, where he was called by the illness of his mother. She is still very sick. While at Portland, Mr. Gorst placed an order for a 24-passenger auto, similar to the Griffith sightseeing auto, for service here. The car is built to order and will reach here in about thirty days. He expects to get another one of them later for the Marshfield-North Bend service.

"Local Notes," The Coos Bay Times, February 6, 1913, page 5

Women of Jacksonville Accuse Councilmen of Bad Faith.
    MEDFORD, Or., Feb. 14.--(Special.)--Jacksonville is up in arms over a recent ruling of the City Council that auto stages running from that city to Medford should pay $20 a month tax.
    First, Mayor T. T. Shaw resigned, and now the women have held an indignation meeting and charge that the Council has been influenced by the Barnum Railroad, which is the only transportation line between the two places, in an effort to kill off competition.
    The owners of the railroad declare they had nothing to do with the Council's action, but that it was a move calculated to protect a Jacksonville corporation against the encroachments of Medford autoists.

Morning Oregonian, Portland, February 15, 1913, page 7

    Fine Hydroplane.--V. C. Gorst is planning to leave on the Redondo for San Diego to try out his new hydroplane. Mr. King may go with him. Edward Steele, who is now there, says the new hydroplane will beat anything ever turned out. Mr. Steele was formerly with Goodrum's garage here and may run the hydroplane for Gorst & King.

"Local Notes," The Coos Bay Times, March 2, 1913, page 3

    The Jacksonville-Medford auto stage line discontinued its service this week. This puts it up to the R.R.V.Ry. to handle the traffic between Medford and this city.
"Local News," Jacksonville Post, March 8, 1913, page 3

Chas. O. King, Formerly of This City, Sued for $10,000.
    Marshfield, Ore., April 23. Mrs. Iva M. Wells, of North Bend, has started suit for $10,000 for breach of promise against Charles O. King. The defendant is a member of the firm of Gorst & King, who conduct an auto line between Marshfield and North Bend. Mr. King came here last year from Medford. Mrs. Wells is a milliner and alleges that King promised to marry her on a certain date, then asked for a postponement. When the next marriage date came King refused to be married at all, and now Mrs. Wells wants damages in the sum named.
    King is well-known in Jacksonville, at one time being interested with V. C. Gorst in an auto stage line between this city and Medford.
Jacksonville Post, April 26, 1913, page 2

    Grover Bell and Ed Steele will fly by hydroplane from Balboa to Long Beach Friday of this week, to land on the sand near the entrance to the Long Beach Inner Harbor. V. C. Gorst, interested with them, made arrangements with the city council last night for landing here. Mr. Gorst informs the Press that he may establish a hydroplane headquarters in this city.--Long Beach Daily Press.
The Coos Bay Times, May 10, 1913, page 6

    Mrs. V. C. Gorst left for her home at Marshfield, after a short visit with friends living at Jacksonville.

"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, May 23, 1913, page 2

Former Jacksonville Man Now an Aviator.
    V. C. Gorst returned to North Bend last evening on the steamer A. M. Simpson and brought with him his flying machine which has been thoroughly tried out near Los Angeles. The machine will not be operated for two or three weeks yet, as there is some repairing to be done on one of the pontoons, and Ed Steele the aviator remained at Los Angeles to complete his lessons. The aeroplane will be tried out several times before the Fourth of July, and on that day will be used at North Bend for aiding the program.--Marshfield Record.
Jacksonville Post,
May 24, 1913, page 3

Aviator Steele To Take Up Passengers from Marshfield Tomorrow Morning
in Gorst & King Hydroplane.
    Aviator Steele with the Gorst & King aeroplane will give a number of exhibition flights with passengers of Marshfield. A number of Marshfield people have already arranged for flights, but a number of others can be carried through the forenoon. The flights will begin at the Market Street dock at 8 o'clock and will continue for several hours.
    They charge from $10 to $25 for taking up passengers, the rates varying according to the heights and distance and being about $1 per mile. Those who do not wish to go high can be accommodated by flights of from 10 to 25 feet above the water.
    Capt. Edgar Simpson of North Bend has had the highest flight of any passenger taken up yet with the possible exception of Mrs. Paul Schillerstrom of North Bend. Last Tuesday he was taken up to a height of about 2000 feet.
    Among the Marshfield men taken up this week were Claude Tucker, Harry McKeown, George Ferry, Will Goodrum and Jerry Kinney. Andrew McClelland of Pueblo, Colo., who was visiting his sister, Mrs. Alice Doll, here until Tuesday, was taken up and was elated. Mr. McClelland has traveled around the world and has ridden in almost every kind of a device on both land and sea, but he said the hydroplane beats them all.
The Coos Bay Times, July 26, 1913, page 6

August 12, 1913 Coos Bay Times
August 12, 1913 Coos Bay Times

    V. C. Gorst, well known in this city, broke his wrist Friday while cranking an auto at Marshfield.

"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, November 25, 1913, page 2

V. C. Gorst's Machine of Land and Water Comes for Visit of Marshfield.
    Needing only wings to bring her into competition with the animals of the land and water and the birds of the heavens, V. C. Gorst's amphibian came to [pay] Marshfield a visit this morning.
    At an early hour old Sol poked his head above the eastern horizon, and down near the new Southern Pacific bridge he saw the machine scooting up and down the water as if taking a morning bath, but principally scheduled so the picture man could record a glimpse of the strange animal that travels better than 65 miles an hour on land and 15 on the water.
    Even as Neptune, at times, arises from the depths, so the machine tired of the water and whizzed its way onto the land and came buzzing all the way to Marshfield. People left the stores, autos stopped and horses shied to the curbing to let the strange monster pass.
    High above the wheels and framework the aeroplane is mounted, while in the rear the big wheel fans the machine along on its course, leaving a suction behind that draws up a cloud of dust and sends it eddying.
    After scooting about the streets the machine headed again for its haunts in North Bend, and quiet was resumed once more.

The Coos Bay Times, February 10, 1915, page 3

Neither Fish nor Fowl, Names it Amphibian.
    The Marshfield Record gives the following details of the invention recently perfected by V. C. Gorst, a former resident of this city.
    "V. C. Gorst's invention, which he terms an amphibian, is likely to solve a transportation problem that many minds had puzzled over since Coos Bay was settled. The machine is a combination invented by Mr. Gorst and is a peculiar-looking affair. It is built on the frame of a Hupmobile, and the motive power is one of the 80-horsepower aeroplane engines taken from an old aeroplane." The engine is mounted about six or seven feet high, back of the automobile, and the power is generated in the aeroplane propeller, which revolves at a tremendous speed. There are no chain drives, and the machine is sent forward at a terrific speed by the propeller.
    "Mr. Gorst has made two trips from North Bend, going into the water, speeding to Jarvis Landing, thence across the sandspit to the seawall and up the coast to the Umpqua River. There are pontoons on each side of the craft to support the machine while in the water. The trip from Ten Mile Creek to Jarvis Landing, a distance of ten miles, was made in 11 minutes on one of the return trips.
    "There was a big crowd at North Bend to see the initial introduction of the amphibian this week, and although Mr. Gorst went through to Jarvis Landing over the water at a 15-mile rate, he is not satisfied and desires to get more speed for water out of the machine, and will therefore experiment some on improvements.

Jacksonville Post, February 13, 1915, page 1

    Mr. Crommie has discontinued his scheduled trips to Medford on account of the city ordinance requiring autos operating on a regular schedule to pay a license tax. He will operate the auto for hire, however, making trips in different directions at such times as his patrons desire.

"Local News," Jacksonville Post, October 23, 1915, page 3

    Mr. and Mrs. V. C. Gorst and family of Vallejo, Calif. stopped overnight Friday at the Thompson house while en route home from Marshfield. They left for home this morning accompanied by Miss Flora Thompson, who will spend her vacation in California.
"Local News," Jacksonville Post, September 30, 1916, page 3

Vern C. Gorst circa 1925, San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive
Vern C. Gorst circa 1925

    Five contracts were awarded by the post office today for operating air mail lines to act as feeders for the government-operated transcontinental system. The bid of Vern C. Gorst to operate the Seattle to Los Angeles line is still under consideration.
"Contracts Are Awarded for 5 Air Mail Lines," Freeport [Illinois] Journal-Standard, October 7, 1925, page 2
March 28, 1926 Medford Mail Tribune
March 28, 1926 Medford Mail Tribune

Air Mail Plane Visits Medford
    One of the big new monoplanes to be used by the Pacific Air Transport Co., in carrying the mail from Seattle to Los Angeles, landed at Medford recently en route north, blazing the way for the new service to start about May 1st. The plane also landed here Monday on the return trip to San Francisco.
    On the trip north the plane covered the distance from San Francisco to Seattle in 7 hours and 3 minutes, or 23 minutes faster than any other plane has covered the distance, which is about 950 miles by highway.
    The visitors were pleased with the local field and the prospects for the success of the service.
    The plane is of the monoplane type, weighing 1300 pounds. It has a model J4B motor of 1800 revolutions per minute rating and 200 horsepower.
    Mr. Gorst is well known in Medford and has a number of friends who were glad to see his company land the contract.
    Medford is proud of the fact that it will be an important station on this air mail line and is the only landing station in Oregon. Portland is served from the Vancouver, Wash. landing field.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 28, 1926, page B4

    A letter from the Pacific Transport Company assured the Chamber that one of the air mail planes will be called "Medford," carrying the name of this city up and down the entire coast.
"Electric Sign To Be Erected Over Highway," Jackson County News, June 4, 1926, page 1

Vern Gorst, September 15, 1926 Medford Mail Tribune
September 15, 1926 Medford Mail Tribune

First Planes Arrive This Morning from North and South--
Heavy Incoming and Outgoing Consignment--Portland Mayor Sends Greetings.
    VANCOUVER, Wash., Sept. 15.--(AP)--(Special to Mail Tribune.) Arrived Pearson Field 11:45 a.m. Ship left for Seattle 12:12 p.m. Fine trip but bad weather.
Vernon Bookwalter, Pilot.           
    With businesslike precision the feature, devoid of any particular ceremony, the Pacific Air Mail Transport line commenced operation through Medford this morning. The planes, north- and southbound, arrived and left on schedule with one exception: The plane "Portland," southbound, was 26 minutes late. The air mail from Medford, with motor escort, arrived at the field without ostentation shortly after eight o'clock. It was made up of 10,040 letters, which took post office employees until 1 a.m. today to count and cancel.
    The first plane arrived at 8:38 from Portland, with Vernon Bookwalter piloting. Two minutes later the ship from San Francisco arrived with Art Starbuck as pilot, and shortly after its arrival, Pat Patterson departed with 12 mail pouches from Portland, Seattle and Medford and way points for San Francisco. At 9:20, Bookwalter left on the return trip to Pearson Field, airport for Portland, with ten pouches, two of which were from this city and the remainder from southern points. Four pouches were included from here in the 12 that went south with Patterson.
    This morning's mail brought to the local post office 4000 letters, 2409 from the south and the remainder from the north. A small portion of this mass will only be delivered here, the others going to cities and towns throughout the state and northern California and a large share to eastern stamp collectors.
    Medford's air mail cargo weighed 155¾ pounds, 40 pounds more than Portland's shipment of 115 pounds. The southbound shipment with its four pouches weighed 108 pounds and four ounces and was made up of 7530 letters, while the two northbound pouches weighed 46½ and included 2510 letters.
First Letter Delivered
    A special delivery letter of greeting and congratulation from Mayor George Baker of Portland was received by Mayor O. O. Alenderfer at the air landing field in less than 11 minutes after the first plane landed. The letter, along with the rest of the mail addressed through the local post office, was taken by special cars and motorcycle delivery to the post office building by Postmaster William Warner for registration and then rushed back to the landing field for formal delivery to Mayor Alenderfer, which was made while a moving picture machine and cameras clicked and hundreds of people watched. The greeting was presented by the postmaster to the mayor, who opened it there.
    The letter written by Mayor Baker follows:
My dear Mayor:
    Permit me to extend to you and to the people of Medford the sincere greetings of the city of Portland by way of the first mail delivery over the new air mail route between Portland, Seattle, Medford, San Francisco and Los Angeles and other coast cities.
    It is with a great deal of satisfaction that we note step by step the process of bringing the cities of the Pacific coast closer and closer together. We hope this will bring about a closer social and business relationship and that it will add impetus to the spirit of general coast development which is now taking the place of sectional development.
    We appreciate the opportunity of now having Medford several hours closer to Portland by mail and trust that modern improvements will continue to shorten the distance in the future.
    With the very best wishes of the city of Portland for the continued success of yourself and the city of Medford, I am
    With Sergeant O. Nichols leading the motorcycle air mail delivery machine, in which Postmaster Warner and Ernest L. Scott were rushing the special delivery letter to the city, the trip was made in two and one-half minutes. Delay was experienced on the return when a brake pin became loosened in Scott's machine, causing it to be without any means of slowing down. When a sharp turn was reached at the end of Oakdale Avenue out "Lover's Lane" to the fairgrounds, the route used, he was unable to make the turn and was forced to go straight ahead onto rough ground at a high speed, barely avoiding an accident.
    The trouble was repaired with a nail, and the remainder of the journey to the grounds was made without incident.
    Verne C. Gorst, president of the company, was unable to be present or accompany the northbound ship from San Francisco, where he has been for a short time past. A wire was received this morning by chief mechanic W. E. Rosenbaum of the local airport from Mr. Gorst for Seely Hall, a director of the company and in charge of the port.
    It read as follows: Plane left on time. Too much load for me to come. Awfully sorry.
    The airship, christened "Portland," and in charge of Vern Bookwalter, is considered to be the speediest of the company's fleet. It is capable of making 140 miles per hour and approximately 110 on cruising speed. It is of the biplane type and recently made a transcontinental trip from Los Angeles to New York in 27 hours flying time, with Bookwalter piloting. The round trip to New York by air line was slightly over 2500 miles. The plane, which left for San Francisco with Patterson in charge, is christened "Medford" and is capable of 130 miles maximum speed. It is made by the Ryan company of San Diego, manufacturers of the majority of the company's planes, all of which with the exception of one are monoplanes. It weighs 1800 pounds and is capable of carrying a load of 600 pounds in addition to the pilot.
    The arriving flyers this morning reported adverse weather conditions. Bookwalter of Portland found of the entire stretch from Portland, until he reached the Rogue River Valley and Medford, overhung with threatening rain clouds. He left Pearson Field, Vancouver, Wash., 5:52 this morning and arrived here 2:46 hours later, 20 minutes under schedule time. Starbuck, in the plane from San Francisco, arrived 3:05 hours after he had left the Golden Gate city at 5:35 this morning. He also reported fog and bad weather the entire way until he reached country adjacent to Mt. Shasta in northern California. There he encountered sunshine for a short time, but ran into fog again until he reached the valley.
    The entire system thus far has worked so perfectly that the entire organization of pilots, officers and all connected with the air transport company are highly optimistic over the line's success. The thousand or more spectators of the landings and takeoffs of the planes this morning were deeply impressed with the success thus far encountered and since have been congratulating each other.
    Post office officials this forenoon expressed appreciation to traffic officers who were instrumental in the quick delivery of the first air mail letter to be delivered in Medford, and also to Roy Hill, auto dealer, who donated a car used in transferring mail from the post office to the landing field. While crowds were waiting for the planes to arrive at the air field, music was furnished by a calliope from the carnival appearing on the fairgrounds.
    No letter was missed for first flight delivery, according to post office officials, who state all mail was gathered from street boxes at 6:30 this morning and was accepted for the flight until 7:45 at the post office. Hundreds of the letters were sent expressly for stamp collecting purposes, and already stamps used on this flight are said to have value from a collector's viewpoint.
    The time consumed between the field and fairgrounds in the transfer of the mail was 11 minutes. E. L. Scott and Postmaster Warner making  the trip. The Hill Motor Co. assisted in hauling the mail, which was too large for the mail truck.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 15, 1926, page 1
September 15, 1926 Medford Mail Tribune
September 15, 1926 Medford Mail Tribune

Air Mail Contractor
    President of the Pacific Air Transport, formerly lived in Medford and operated the first stage line between Medford and Jacksonville in 1910. Previous to starting the stage line he operated a mine in the Opp mining district above Jacksonville.
    In 1912 he moved to Marshfield, and in connection with a Mr. King started a stage line from that city to North Bend.
    When the first air mail service was started by the government, Mr. Gorst became deeply interested, and when the government decided to let contracts for air mail he immediately organized a company, went after the contract for the Seattle to Los Angeles route and succeeded. This is the longest air mail line in the United States, over 1000 miles long. The route from Medford to Portland is about 220 miles, and from Medford to San Francisco about 350 miles, the longest hop of the entire route.
    The flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles and Portland to Seattle will be at night, requiring high-powered electric-lighted ways. These are the only privately owned lighted air mail routes in the United States.
    The ships used are Ryan M-1 monoplanes of the latest type, equipped with Wright Whirlwind motors--the last word in air motors. There are nine stops on the route.
    The many friends of Mr. Gorst in Medford and southern Oregon congratulate him on his wonderful success in organizing the company and putting over the work of supplying this route with the latest equipment, and wish him success.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 15, 1926, page B1

Pacific Air Transport Airplane, 1926
A Pacific Air Transport airplane, 1926.

    Wednesday, a speed never before attained in mail service on the coast became established, to continue until man's ingenuity discovers methods of even greater efficiency.
    History in transportation has also been made by Vern Gorst, contractor who operates the air mail line. He came to Jacksonville from Bremerton, Wash. in 1910, and operated a mine. Visualizing a stage line, he went to Portland, bought a 1911 Cadillac and started the first stage line in Oregon.
Owns Many Lines
    In the fall of 1911 he formed the partnership of Gorst & King, left Medford and started a line between the towns of Marshfield and North Bend. They are now the owners of many of the leading lines on the coast, and contractor of the longest air mail line in the world.
"Mail Plane Is Herald of New Travel Epoch," Jackson County News, September 17, 1926, page 1

    GUSTINE, Merced Co., Calif., April 6--Buried deep in a swamp, a veritable sea of mud, the coast mail plane of the Pacific Transport Company, missing since Sunday, was found three miles east of this town this afternoon. Beneath the burned wreckage of the craft were the bodies of Edward A. Neher, pilot of the plane, and Albert Schaller, office manager of the San Francisco office of the company.
    The bodies are said to have been discovered by chance, workmen in the vicinity stumbling across the wreckage of the plane. Authorities today abandoned the belief that the plane had fallen into the waters of San Francisco Bay and took up a search to the south and north of the bay region.
Find Bodies
    Word that the plane had been found sent those searching in the immediate vicinity to the scene of the accident, where the bodies were found.
    Merced County authorities took charge of the bodies pending the holding of an inquest today or tomorrow. It is believed that Neher was forced down with no stable land in which to make a landing. The plane is believed to have hit the mud and turned over, burying the bodies beneath and from which position they had not the slightest chance of extricating themselves if still alive.
    The shift in the scene of the hunt followed positive information that Neher, lost in a fog, had circled over Crissy Field and, unable to locate the landing field, had become lost.
Too Far South
    Vern Gorst, president of the Pacific Transport Company, stated this morning that he believed that the plane had flown too far to the southward and had met with mishap. Gorst's belief turned out to be actual fact.
    Planes were dispatched early this morning to the south of the Peninsula, where they combed the territory with the result that they located the plane wreckage. Virtually every foot of ground from Turlock, where the plane was last definitely sighted, to San Francisco was searched.
    No arrangements as to bringing the bodies to San Francisco had been made late this afternoon, authorities awaiting the findings at the inquest to be held.
Woodland [California] Daily Democrat, April 6, 1927, page 1

Pacific Air Transport

Fatal Air Mail Crash Laid to Pilot Error
In Figuring Altitude in Storm
Bodies of Two Killed at Gustine Brought to Homes in S.F.
Probe Reveals 'Ship' Traveling 88 Miles Hour When Wrecked
    Air mail officials today began the grim task of officially investigating the fatal crash of a northbound plane Sunday morning near Gustine, in which Eddie Neher, pilot, and Alfred Schaller, a passenger, lost their lives.
    After a three-day search by air and lane posses of northern California, the wrecked plane, with the bodies of its two passengers, was found yesterday by a range rider. The plane was overturned in a swamp slough three miles east of Gustine, at a point passed several times by searching plane during the three-day hunt. The badly mangled bodies of the two men were pinned under the wreckage.
    Commercial fliers and air mail men who visited the scene yesterday gave the cause of the crash as an error in judgment of altitude by Neher. He was 12 miles off the regular air mail course, in an attempt, it is believed, to fight his way through a driving rain and a strong wind.
    The theory that Neher was trying to make a forced landing at the time of the crash was discarded by air men as soon as the wreckage was viewed. Instruments showed that he was traveling at a speed of 88 miles an hour, which is regular cruising speed. Also, it was pointed out, his landing flares were unused. These would have been used in any attempt to land in the dark.
    It is the theory of Grover Tyler, superintendent of the Pacific Air Transport Company, operators of the plane, that the lighting system on Neher's plane failed, and in the darkness he was unable to see his altimeter and flew lower than he thought. In an attempt to get a reading by the use of a flashlight, air men believe, Neher lost control of the plane. In an attempt to right the plane, it is believed it dipped too near the ground, catching the left wing in a mud bank and causing the crash. Marks through the marshes indicated that the plane traveled 250 feet before striking the water hole and overturning. Bits of the plane were scattered over a radius of 75 feet by the force of the impact.
    Tyler was among the first to reach the scene of the tragedy. With the first report that the missing plane had been found, he flew from San Francisco and took charge of the investigation, aiding Deputy Coroner F. D. Medlin of Los Banos.
    The bodies of the two men were taken from the wreckage to Los Banos morgue. A brief inquest, presided over by Justice of the Peace D. E. Hales of Gustine, found that the men met "accidental death in an airplane accident."
    Both men died instantly, according to Medlin, Schaller with a basal fracture of the skull and Neher with a crushed chest.
    Today they are being brought to San Francisco, where each man is being mourned by a widow and children. Neher was the father of two girls, one four years of age and the other an infant. Schaller had one daughter 4 years old.
    The widows, Mrs. Martha Schaller, 1629 Waller Street, and Mrs. Edward Neher, 1499 Union Street, prostrated with grief, planned funeral services for tomorrow.
    It is planned to hold joint services, with burial afterward of Schaller in San Francisco and Neher in Pomona, his birthplace.
    In a statement, Vern Gorst, president of the Pacific Air Transport Company, which carries the San Francisco-Los Angeles air mail under contract, attributed the accident to the weather.
    "This is something we can't help," he said. "From all accounts now available, this must be attributed to the weather, but we will, of course, conduct an investigation. We shall spare no expense in the inquiry, for we may learn something which will save other lives in the future.
    "In the meantime, the mail must go on. One accident, or many, cannot stop progress."
    Lou Foote, Jerry Fordyce and Clem Hustock, all of Turlock and all close personal friends of Neher, aided in the investigation at the scene of the wreck yesterday. They are all aviators, and they agreed with Tyler that the crash resulted from an error in judgment, and not while Neher was attempting a forced landing.
    Eleven sacks of mail being carried by Neher were recovered by Tyler, who brought them to San Francisco in his plane last night. Seven of the sacks were sent north to Oregon and Washington this morning, four days late. The plane was wrecked beyond repair and will be burned, but the motor was removed and will be salvaged.
Oakland Tribune, April 7, 1927, page 1

Here's Range Rider's Story of Wreck Find
    GUSTINE, April 7.--Raymond L. Watkins, an employee on the Miller and Lux ranch near here, who found the wrecked airmail plane in a swamp, today told how he happened to make the gruesome discovery.
    "When I started out fence riding Wednesday after doing my bit of chores around the ranch, I didn't expect to find anything more than a few loose strands in the wire fence and maybe a stray cow or two in the marsh," Watkins said.
    "I didn't finish the ride. Don't know when I will. This kind of thing takes hold of a fellow, sort of. Bozo, my dog, was splashing ahead of my horse when he stopped in his tracks. I looked up and saw--the wreck.
    "Hadn't been reading the papers much lately and didn't know about the lost plane. I thought at first it was a wrecked automobile, but when I rode closer I saw the machine, all busted into little pieces, and off to one side, the body of a man.
    "It held me, that sight. They said later it was Schaller, the manager of the flying company. I didn't know. Didn't see the face. The right arm was stretched out, palm up, fingers sort of half closed; a little bit of mud in the palm.
    "I stood and looked. The morning wind blowed up little ripples in the water, and it flowed through the fingers. I don't know how long I stood there.
    "When I come to, I jumped on my horse and rode to Gustine for the judge. I must have rode fast. The horse was sweating. I didn't feel exactly good myself."
Oakland Tribune, April 7, 1927, page 2

    FRESNO, Cal., Aug. 6.--(AP)--An air mail plane of the Pacific Air Transport, piloted by John Gughelmetti, made a forced landing near Madera Thursday afternoon when en route from San Francisco to Fresno, according to word here. The landing gear was slightly damaged. Gughelmetti and his passenger, reported to have been the 15-year-old son of Vern Gorst, president of the transport company, were uninjured. A clogged gasoline line was given as the cause of the forced landing.
Oakland Tribune, August 6, 1927, page 13
Pacific Air Transport plane, 1928
Pacific Air Transport plane, 1928

Alaska Aircraft Arrives Seattle
    SEATTLE, June 4.--The Gorst airplane Alaska arrived here from Cordova via Ketchikan. The passengers included Harry Seidenverg of Anchorage, who is hurrying to the bedside of his sick daughter in Portland, Charles  M. Daniels of New York and Mrs. C. M. Taylor of Ketchikan, a sister of Vern Gorst.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, June 5, 1929, page 1

    Up at Seattle recently Vern C. Gorst, pioneer in the Oregon and Pacific Coast flying transportation area, took a flying examination, as a result of which he has been granted a Department of Commerce transport license. At the same time his son Wilbur, 21, won his private pilot's papers. Now Mr. Gorst's daughter, Myrtis, has also become imbued with the flying urge and has begun taking flying instruction from him, with a view to obtaining official license wings like her father and brother.
    Medford and Jackson County take an unusual interest in Mr. Gorst, as years ago he operated a taxi service between Medford and Jacksonville. He began flying long ago, first obtaining his private pilot's and limited commercial flying licenses, and he was the original founder of the Pacific Air Transport company which later was acquired by the Boeing system.
    Although he makes his home at Portland, Mr. Gorst operates the Gorst Air Transport Company between Bremerton and Seattle, and he is a director of the Air Ferries, Ltd., operating between San Francisco and other bay cities.
Medford Mail Tribune, December 7, 1930, page 3

    Wedding bells sounded, and Seely Hall sold the Jenny to pursue various activities until 1925, when he became interested in Vern C. Gorst's plan to start a Pacific Coast airmail line. Selling stock and helping to lay out the route, he became associated with this project.
United Air Lines News, quoted in the Medford Mail Tribune, January 25, 1934, page 2

Airmail Flight Observance Set
    Forty years ago tomorrow the first direct commercial airline service landed in Medford. Ceremonies recognizing that flight, which put Medford on the air map of the world, will be held at the Medford-Jackson County Airport at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
    Three of the men who put the U.S. mail bags from the Medford Post Office on that initial flight will participate in the observance, D. L. Ferguson, airport manager, announced today.
    They are former postmaster William Warner; Seely Hall, retired United Air Lines executive, who was then with Pacific Air Transport, United's predecessor; and William (Bill) Rosenbaum Sr., who serviced the planes.
    The service, pioneered by Pacific Air Transport, linked Medford with six other cities on the Pacific coast from Seattle to Los Angeles.
    The historic flight was flown by former pilot Vern Bookwalter in an open-cockpit, single-engined 90-mile-an-hour Ryan plane. A large crowd of local citizens gathered at the old fairgrounds for dedication ceremonies. The pouch containing the first airmail from Medford weighed 155¾ pounds.
    The public is invited to the ceremonies to be held tomorrow, Ferguson reported.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 14, 1966, page 1

Last revised November 28, 2014