In the summer of 1885, eleven-year-old Bert Hoover boarded a Union Pacific train alone and headed west to Oregon. Sewn into his clothes were two dimes and he carried a hamper of food packed by his Aunt Hannah. Waiting for him at the other end of the continent was his Uncle John Minthorn, a doctor and school superintendent who was a severe man on the surface, but kindly underneath.
Hoover's six years in Oregon taught him self-reliance. "My boyhood ambition was to be able to earn my own living, without the help of anybody, anywhere." As an office boy in his uncle's Oregon Land Company, Bert mastered bookkeeping and typing while attending business school in the evening. A local schoolteacher, Miss Jane Gray, opened the boy’s eyes to the novels of Charles Dickens and Sir Walter Scott. A lifelong favorite was David Copperfield, the story of another orphan cast into the world to live by his wits.