One of the most colorful and well-educated men of early Central Oregon was Van Gesner. He was born in Salem, Oregon in July 1852. He grew up in Salem and attended schools there. He attended Willamette University for one year, then went to Philadelphia to attend Jefferson Medical College. He graduated with a medical degree in 1883. That same year, he set up a medical practice in Prineville. He had a very active medical practice but found it to be very stressful and it affected his health. Dr. Gesner married Annie Fields, a native of Brownsville, Oregon in 1886. They had two children. He moved to southern California for health reasons but soon found he had to abandon his medical practice to preserve his health.
He returned to Central Oregon in 1891 and began purchasing sheep. He eventually partnered with local sheepman and early U.S. Congressman J.N. Williamson, and they had extensive land and sheep operations in Crook County. They were among the most prominent and well-respected stockmen in Central Oregon.