Eyewitness to History: Zane Grey and his works written in Pike County

Eyewitness To History

LACKAWAXEN TOWNSHIP, PIKE COUNTY (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 small cabin in Pike County, where Zane Grey wrote some of his most popular books.

During his life, Grey was a dentist, a deep-sea fisherman, and an 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 Grey sold more books than Mark Twain. In his lifetime he made $37M and he did most of his work in Pike County. But he didn’t start out as a writer,” Miller said.

Helen James Davis knew Zane Grey well, as her father was Grey’s best friend.

“His father was an old backwoods Dentist in Zanesville. So like most fathers, he wants the boy to be a dentist. So Zane Grey worked his way through the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship,” Davis explained.

According to Davis, he played outfield for three years until he graduated with a degree in Dentistry. 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 then is when he became acquainted with the Delaware River. He came out here like the whole world does and he camped along the river, he canoed, and 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 buddy who went west.

“People say the best of his westerns is what was written in Pennsylvania,” Davis laughed. “He wrote thirteen of his westerns in this room. All of his baseball stories were written in this room. His books for boys and some of his fishing stuff was written in this room,” Davis explained.

“Grey 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, a baseball player, a photographer, and a movie director with 102 movies to his credit.”

But Miller says what people remember most about Zane Grey are his books. “Riders of the Purple Sage,” “Wildfire,” and “Nevada,” which were all written in Pennsylvania.

The National Park Service bought Zane Grey’s Lackawaxen home in 1989. The home is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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