Medford Pioneers: The Van Dykes
Vern VanDyke Recalls When Steelhead Were Area's Great Asset
By EVA HAMILTON
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 VernIt'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 or caulk] shoes $15. Then the flies. Oh, we won't count the flies.," Van Dyke 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," Van Dyke 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, Van Dyke 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," Van Dyke 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," Van Dyke 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 Van Dyke.
With Bill Muller, then employed by William F. Isaacs in The Toggery, and Charley Isaacs, brother of "Toggery Bill," Van Dyke 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 Van Dyke's great-grandfather, Samuel G. Van Dyke, who chose Southern Oregon as [his] homeland and established the name of Van Dyke in this area. From that day to this there has been a Sam Van Dyke in Medford.
Samuel G. Van Dyke, 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 Van Dyke 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 MerchandisingVern's maternal [sic] grandfather Van Dyke 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., Van Dyke 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.
Van Dyke 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 Van Dyke, 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 Van Dyke, chose orchard and farm instead of merchandising in keeping with the preference of his grandfather for whom he was named.
Interested in FishingObviously more interested in fishing than the probing into his family tree, Van Dyke 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 Van Dyke 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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Now, sir! I believe any poor boy can get well off if he's got pretty fair health. Why, there's John VanDyke, pretty well to do, he is, come to this country as poor as any of 'em; and not any more about him than any the rest of us! Well he rustled around, got a few cheap ponies and then went out of the valley, and I didn't hear anything but rumors for several years, when he came down all at once with a pack train and George Ernest as train boss, or teamster! Every pack animal had an 'aparejo' and George told me the outfit was worth $20,000 and John out of debt! 'But, Fred,' says he, 'the d---1 of it will be ever to get the money out of them!' I worked in John's train several trips to Crescent City, and I guess he made money every cargo!
Frederick Barneburg, interviewed in 1895 by Reese P. Kendall, Pacific Trail Camp-Fires, Chicago 1901, pages 412-413
John Van Dyke:--"Received a letter from my brother, Frank, who is a missionary at Singapore, India. He says he gets the Mail regularly, and that it is only about six weeks old when it reaches him. Says he reads every item in its columns--and enjoys its weekly visits. He throws a whole armful of bouquets at yours truly on the ads we are running in the Mail--says they are the best in the paper and cannot fail of producing good results. I can assure him that he's a good guesser. Our store is enjoying a splendid trade--better than ever before--and I attribute a good portion of it to our method of advertising--and of course the medium is a good one. Frank is statistical secretary of the Malay mission. He likes his position and location but it is not improbable that he will be transferred to Manila, the Philippine Islands being included in the mission in which he is working."
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, April 5, 1901, page 7
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
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
DROWNED WHILE FISHING
The Treacherous Waters of Rogue River Claim Another Victim--
Many Citizens Join in the Search for the Body of John G. Van Dyke.
Sunday evening this community was shocked to hear of the drowning of J. G. Van Dyke in Rogue River while fishing.
J. E. Bodge, A. L. Eisenhart, Guy Childers and John Van Dyke had left Medford Sunday morning for a day's fishing on Rogue River. At about 3:30 they had arrived at the Curry riffle. The drowned man had waded down a sandbar (afterward described) to its extreme lower end and had been fishing in the current on the farther side. He had stopped fishing and taken in his line, preparatory to returning the way he had come. Whether he miscalculated his exact position regarding the deep water, or was overbalanced by the current, is not known, but the first thing his horrified companions saw of the accident was when he was struggling in the treacherous current. He wore wading pants--watertight--which filled with water almost immediately, and this coupled with the fact that he was unable to swim brought about his death. He came up twice after the first plunge. The first time he was on the surface nearly a minute, but seemed unable to help himself, and his companions were too far away to render him any assistance. The last time he came barely to the surface and then sank, never to rise again alive.
The accident occurred at what is known as the "Curry riffle" on Geo. Givens' place, about fourteen miles from Medford. At this point the river current is very rapid and deep. At the foot of the riffle is a deep hole. A short distance above is an island near the southern bank. The current of the stream around the island strikes the main current at the head of the hole before mentioned, making a strong undercurrent and eddy. From the point of the island, between the two currents, extends a sandbar upon which the water is quite shallow, but at the lower end it drops off abruptly into at least ten feet of rapid water.
Word was immediately sent to Agate post office and telephoned to Medford. Within half an hour several parties were on the way to the scene with appliances for recovering the body, and by nine o'clock fully sixty people were there.
A seine was procured and three boats, and with grappling hooks and the seine the search was kept up until 2:30, when it was abandoned until daylight came. At about 11 o'clock Mr. Van Dyke's hat was found on the bank some 70 yards below where he was last seen.
At daylight the search was resumed. Soon after daylight his fishing rod was found in about eight feet of water and almost in a direct line with where the hat was found and the place of his disappearance. This encouraged the searchers, but as the hours wore on many of them were convinced that the body had gone on down the river and that the prospects of finding it were very small. Still everybody kept on working.
At about 12 o'clock the workers were electrified by the cry, "We've got him," from a raft on which were Horace Nicholson, James Stewart and Thos. Carney. The excitement was intense for a few seconds and directions were shouted on every hand. The crowd soon quieted down and watched with intense interest the movements of the rescuers. Slowly the body was raised toward the surface. Stewart and Carney were lying face downward on the raft, reaching into the water to grasp the body as soon as it came close enough. Suddenly a thrill of disappointment ran through the throng waiting on the shore. Nicholson staggered slightly and pulled the hook from the water--empty. His hold had slipped. In the meantime, coming to the spot down the river as fast as oars and current would send it, was the only boat left on the scene. Manned by Guy and Gene Childers and C. O. Ramsey, it commenced circling back and forth over the spot where it was thought the body was. For fifteen long minutes the watchers waited. Then again came the words, "I've found him," from Ramsey. This time there was dead silence. As before the body was raised slowly and carefully. The Childers boys leaned over the side of the boat, careening it so that it almost dipped water. One reached down; Barney dropped his pole and plunged his arms into the water; Gene Childers grasped the oars and began to propel the boat toward the shore--and the long search was ended.
The remains were immediately placed in a hack and brought to Medford. They were first taken to the undertaking rooms of the Medford Furniture Co., and afterward to the residence on North C Street, from whence the funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon. Rev. W. F. Shields conducted the services at the residence, and the ceremony at the grave was under the direction of Talisman Lodge, K. of P.
John Gilmore Van Dyke was the son of Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Van Dyke and a native-born citizen of Oregon. All of his life has been passed in the Rogue River Valley, and there was no one in the community who had more friends than John Van Dyke among those who knew him from boyhood.
No one but themselves know the awful sense of loss and the depth of sorrow which his young wife, his aged parents and his brothers and sisters must suffer in this tragic end to a promising and useful young life, but his friends can realize something of it from their own feelings.
In a business, social and fraternal way, the editor of this paper and the dead man have been the warmest of friends, and our heartfelt sympathy is extended to his bereft family.
The funeral was one of the most largely attended that ever occurred in Medford. After short services at the residence by Rev. Shields, the procession was formed. First came the high school band, playing a funeral march, then the Uniform Rank, K. of P., followed by members of Talisman Lodge, K. of P., then the hearse, by the side of which marched an escort from the Uniform Rank, followed by relatives and friends in carriages. When the head of the procession was crossing the bridge, the last carriage was just leaving the residence on North C Street. There were over eighty teams in the procession. Every business house and workshop in the city was closed during the funeral.
Medford Mail, July 3, 1903, 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
Samuel Van Dyke Came West in 1849; Settled at PhoenixSamuel Van Dyke came west in 1849. In 1852, he came to Oregon and took a donation claim of 320 acres as his wife did later, making them 640 in all. Their home was located where the Orchard Park Farms now is, the little house just north of the barn being their first home.
They had one son and a daughter. In 1880 Sam died in an accident while going to Ashland; when near the Hot Springs, his horses became frightened and backed up, causing three tugs to come loose, and as the horses lunged forward they dragged him out of the rig he was driving and killed him.
Van Dyke always acted as marshal of all the parades in Jacksonville and Ashland, wearing a marshal's sash, which will be on display at the Old Stage House during the centennial observance.
The son, John G. Van Dyke, came west with his parents when he was 16 years old in 1852. Later he enlisted and served a year in the Civil War before he married Sarah Stewart in Pennsylvania. They were parents of nine children, the oldest being William S., whose wife still resides in Ashland. Sam, the father of Vern Van Dyke and Florence Fish; Frank, the father of Frank J. Van Dyke. Of the children, Ed Van Dyke is the only one now living. He resides in Portland.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 20, 1954, page C4
Mrs. Catherine VanDyke, Area Pioneer, Dies
Mrs. Catherine VanDyke, 96, widow of the late Samuel Gilmore VanDyke, and daughter of Southern Oregon pioneers Mrs. and Mrs. Claus Kleinhammer, died in a local hospital Wednesday.
Mrs. VanDyke was born at Sterlingville, Ore., July 14, 1867, and was educated in the Sterlingville and Jacksonville schools. At the age of 16 she went to the Willamette Valley to live with her grandparents and attended Santiam Academy.
She was married Oct. 14, 1888, to Samuel Gilmore VanDyke in the Phoenix Presbyterian Church. Mr. VanDyke preceded her in death in 1914.
Planted OrchardThe couple had lived for many years south of Medford, where Mr. VanDyke planted one of the Rogue River Valley's early orchards. Later they moved to the Phoenix-Hillcrest Road section, where they also owned and operated orchards.
Mrs. VanDyke was a lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church.
After the death of her husband she resided in Los Angeles for 35 years.
Surviving are two brothers, A. S. Kleinhammer, Santa Rosa, Calif., and W. R. Kleinhammer, El Cerrito, Calif.; two sisters, Mrs. F. L. Hammer, Modesto, Calif., and Mrs. W. A. Hannon, San Francisco; one son, Vern VanDyke, Medford; three daughters, Mrs. F. A. Kazmier, Los Angeles; Carol VanDyke, San Francisco, and Mrs. R. S. Fish, Medford; and three grandchildren.
Services FridayFuneral services will be held at 3:30 p.m. Friday in the Perl Funeral Home with the Rev. George R. V. Bolster, rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, officiating. Private committal services will be in the IOOF Cemetery.
The body will lie in state at Perl Funeral Home from 4 o'clock this afternoon until 9 o'clock this evening.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 16, 1964, page 7
Van Dyke Retires from Bench
But He'll Continue Law Practice, Heavy Civic Schedule
By MARK HOWARD
Mail Tribune Staff Writer
Medford lawyer Frank Van Dyke retired after 27 years as a U.S. magistrate in a brief ceremony in U.S. District Court Tuesday. But at 73, Van Dyke plans to keep his private law practice going.
"With today's advances in medicine, I can live to be 100. So I have about 30 more years of work to look forward to," Van Dyke says.
U.S. District Court judges James Burns and Jim Redden opened a federal court session in Medford Tuesday with a tribute to Van Dyke's service to the federal justice system--service that began when Van Dyke was appointed U.S. commissioner for Crater Lake National Park in 1954 and continued with his appointment to the U.S. magistrate post in 1971.
Van Dyke, whose grandfather was an Oregon pioneer and who has lived in the Rogue Valley since 1910, listened intently and at times chuckled as a parade of his longtime friends and associates took the podium to comment on his years of service to the courts and to the community.
His community service alone could easily amount to a full-time job.
In addition to his law practice and the part-time U.S. magistrate position, Van Dyke now is on the boards of directors of the Salvation Army, the Medford YMCA and Providence Hospital.
His past affiliations include presidency of the Medford Rotary Club, chairmanship of the Ashland School Board and the state Board of Higher Education, and membership on the state Board of Education and the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education.
In 1974 Richard Nixon appointed Van Dyke chairman of the National Advisory Board on Extension and Continuing Education.
In his law practice Van Dyke at one time served as Ashland city attorney and judge pro tem in Multnomah, Lane, Josephine and Jackson counties.
"I have had a rich and wonderful experience in serving my community," Van Dyke says.
From his vantage point as a magistrate for 27 years, Van Dyke has seen many changes in the federal judiciary.
"Federal law has improved tremendously" during those years, he says. An increase in pre-trial procedures such as preliminary hearings has greatly improved the clarity of issues in federal cases, he says. "And even though these procedures are more costly, justice has been served by them."
Van Dyke appreciated the expanded responsibilities given to part-time jurists in the federal system.
When he was first appointed U.S. commissioner for Crater Lake National Park, most of the cases he dealt with had to do with game violations and other park-related cases, he says.
Then, in 1971, commissioners became U.S. magistrates and were given more authority and broadened powers, including authority over arraignments for federal crimes and issuance of search warrants. Magistrates began presiding over preliminary hearings on cases brought by the FBI.
Van Dyke says he did not become a full-time magistrate because he did not want to become a full-time government employee. "I also had my law practice in Medford," he says.
On his retirement from the federal bench, Van Dyke says, the Department of Justice was gracious to him.
"They could have fired me five years ago," he says, noting that that was when he reached mandatory retirement age of 68.
"I guess someone forgot," Van Dyke says.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 24, 1981, page 3
Last revised March 17, 2019