Witness to History: Zane Gray
TOWNSHIP OF LACKAWAXEN, COUNTY OF PIKE (WBRE / WYOU) – Some say he perfected his masterpieces while living right here in our region. In this week’s Eyewitness To History, Eyewitness News and takes everyone to a little cabin in Pike County, where Zane Gray wrote some of his most popular books.
During his lifetime, Gray was a dentist, deep-sea fisherman, and author. For a time he was also a neighbor along the banks of the Delaware River in Pike County.
Former reporter Sue Miller / WDAU-TV has the story from 1981.
“Zane Gray has sold more books than Mark Twain. During his lifetime he made $ 37 million and most of his work was done in Pike County. But he didn’t start out as a writer, ”Miller said.
Helen James Davis knew Zane Gray well, as her father was Grey’s best friend.
“Her father was an elderly dentist from the backcountry in Zanesville. So like most fathers, he wants the boy to be a dentist. So Zane Gray walked through the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship, ”Davis explained.
According to Davis, he played on the field for three years until he graduated with a dental degree. He then set up his own practice at 100 West 74 Street in New York City, where he practiced for eight years and hated every minute of it.
“But that’s when he got to know the Delaware River. He came here like the whole world and he camped along the river, he canoeed and he fished, ”said Davis.
Helen James Davis is the daughter of Alvan James who was Zane Grey’s best friend. She likes to tell the story of her father’s boyfriend who went west.
“People say the best of his westerns is what was written in Pennsylvania,” Davis said with a laugh. “He wrote thirteen of his westerns in this play. All of his baseball stories have been written in this play. His boys’ books and some of his fishing stuff were written in this play, ”Davis explained.
“Gray was also a sportsman. He was the first man to catch a fish on a rod and reel that weighed over a thousand pounds, ”Miller said. “He was an artist, baseball player, photographer and director with 102 films to his name.”
But Miller says what people remember the most about Zane Gray are his books. “Riders of the Purple Sage”, “Wildfire” and “Nevada”, all of which were written in Pennsylvania.
The National Park Service purchased the Lackawaxen House from Zane Gray in 1989. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.