Their story is our story.
Early St. Charles doctors had pioneer spirit
They may not have been first, but James W. Thom and John C. Vandevert were pioneer physicians who hold places in the history of Central Oregon medicine in many ways as significant as that of Dr. Urling Coe.
But for his timing, Dr. James W. Thom may have claimed Dr. Urling Coe’s place in Bend’s medical history. And though Vandevert didn’t come to Bend as a doctor until 10 years after Coe, he ended up practicing medicine there for five decades, including at St. Charles.
Thom rode into Bend in January 1905 just 18 days after Coe. Bend was not big enough for two physicians at the time. Coe had the only available office space in town. So Thom headed to Silver Lake, 70 miles southeast of Bend. Residents offered him a $1,000 bonus if he would stay a year. Conditions were much as Coe found them around Bend.
“I always carried chloroform in the buggy along with the other complete medical, surgical and obstetrical equipment that went everywhere with me … I never knew what to expect,” Thom recalled in a 1953 interview.
Thom returned to Bend in 1924 and opened an office above Cashman’s Store, according to a 1965 history of Central Oregon medicine by Dr. J.C. Rademacher. Thom practiced in Bend until 1962.
Joh Clinton “Clint” Vandevert’s ties to Central Oregon go back to 1851. His grandmother, Grace Clark Vandevert, then 19, recuperated at the future site of Bend from injuries suffered when Indians attacked her wagon train.
Her son, William, homesteaded south of Sunriver. J.C. Vandevert left the ranch as a young man and graduated from the University of Oregon in 1914. In 1915, he returned to the ranch expecting to stay briefly.
“His desire at that time was to go to San Francisco and become a doctor on a cruise ship … But he came home to the ranch,” said Joyce Vandevert, a daughter-in-law. “All the neighbors throughout the country and even here in Bend discovered he was home and they came to the ranch to get medical care. And he became so involved here in Bend that he never got his wish to go to San Francisco.”
Instead, Vandevert started his own 16-room hospital in 1919 in downtown Bend. Later he closed his hospital and began practicing at St. Charles Hospital.
Vandevert continued caring for Central Oregon residents until 1967. He died a year after retiring.