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100 years ago in Spokane: Revelation lands fireman with a new identity – and a fortune

 (Nathanael Massey / The Spokesman-Review)
(Nathanael Massey / The Spokesman-Review)

William Rogers, 29, was a Northern Pacific railroad fireman who had been abandoned at a young age and brought up by a Portland woman.

However, after some sleuthing by a Spokane insurance man, Rogers learned he was not William Rogers at all.

He was Clyde Van Wyck of the New York Van Wyck family, and he had just inherited $50,000 – a fortune in 1917.

C.A. Hutchinson, the local insurance agent, said he had met the young man a few years before and was helping him to locate his real parents. Rogers had not seen them since he was a baby.

Hutchinson learned that Rogers’ parents were a Van Wyck couple, and that they had disappeared after they left him in the care of a Portland woman. Hutchinson learned that the boy’s parents were dead. He also learned that his grandmother, Sarah Van Wyck of Poughkeepsie, New York, died 10 years ago and had left a legacy to her heirs.

Yet the only surviving heir was that baby, Clyde Van Wyck, and nobody knew what had become of him. The estate had offered a $200 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of Clyde Van Wyck. Now, Clyde – aka Rogers – was on the way to Poughkeepsie to claim his inheritance. Hutchinson also stood to collect $200.

Clyde, now rich, wanted to keep his job with the Northern Pacific on his return. However, his friends said he had “little education,” and they were urging the young man to quit and enter school.