Buggies, horseless carriages, early motor cars

Post 10/2021 Saturday 6 March . . . A visit to LaGrange County, Indiana, brings one face-to-face with a way of life that took form ages ago. The Amish still get around by horse and buggy, bicycle, and on foot, though they also use public transportation or hire drivers with vans or cars. The Amish population in LaGrange and Elkhart counties constitutes the third-largest Amish community in the United States. More than a third of LaGrange county’s 37,000+ population is Amish.

An in-person or online visit to Menno-Hof, the Amish/Mennonite information center in Shipshewana, Indiana, rewards the visitor with a description of the faith and life of Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites, known collectively as Anabaptists. The Anabaptist story begins January 21, 1525 in Zurich, Switzerland. For more information check out https://mennohof.org.

Hop on for a visual tour of LaGrange county

LaGrange County Courthouse in the county seat, the town of LaGrange.
This buggy driver is taking an alley in LaGrange, parallel to the State Highway 9, the main north-south route through town.
Trotting through the only intersection in the hamlet of Emma, heading north towards Westview High School and one of the elementary schools.
The sap is flowing; the temperatures ideal for maple syrup making, sometimes called sugaring-off.
A rare glimpse of a young man leading a work horse.
En route, maybe, to the mill to have a load of corn ground. Clop, clop, clop. The oncoming traffic’s destination is anyone’s guess.
An Amish school, within walking, biking, and horse and buggy driving distance.
Many Amish households have a telephone booth at the end of their lane. That’s to avoid undue distraction. Not a bad idea.
You have to love those horns.
All in a winter day’s work, spreading manure.
Sandhill Cranes on the wing at Oliver Lake.
A few of the deer we saw bounding for the woods.
A father and son are ice-fishing at Pine Knob County Park.
You’ll find a playfulness and a sense of humor among the Amish.

Goshen, county seat for Elkhart county

Horseless carriages

Even a brief online search reveals fascinating details related to the development of steam and gasoline engines, used to power railway locomotives, ships, factories, and, in 1803, the first horseless carriage demonstration in London, England. The inventor was Richard Trevithick, whose story I first came across in County Cornwall, where he harnessed high-pressure steam and constructed the world’s first steam railway locomotive (1803), according to Britannica Online Encyclopedia.

The Britannica article states: “Trevithick spent his youth at Illogan in the tin-mining district of Cornwall and attended the village school. The schoolmaster described him as ‘disobedient, slow and obstinate.’ His father, a mine manager, considered him a loafer, and throughout his career Trevithick remained scarcely literate. Early in life, however, he displayed an extraordinary talent in engineering. Because of his intuitive ability to solve problems that perplexed educated engineers, he obtained his first job as engineer to several Cornish ore mines in 1790 at the age of 19.”

We have a friend in Cornwall, a small engine aficionado collector, Noel B., to thank for introducing us to Trevithick and the annual Trevithick Day Celebration in Camborne, Cornwall.

The Duryea Motor Wagon, Chicopee, Massachusetts, built between 1893 and 1896,was among the first standardized autos in the US and among the first powered by gasoline. Karl Benz had built the first commercially available auto in 1888.

Above, left, the first 1893 Duryea motor vehicle, invented by brothers Charles and Frank Duryea–a gasoline motor attached to a horse-drawn buggy. On the right is Richard Trevithick’s London Steam Carriage of 1803.

Early 20th century vintage automobiles

In 1981, I wrote the following (unpublished) article on Who Can Remember? I came across the content while rummaging through files in the Elkhart Public Library.


A Zenith carburetor promising 30 miles to the gallon? Installed for $9.50? That’s what Auto Specialties Company offered in 1924. The company called itself “Elkhart’s Oldest Electrical Service Station.” It was located at 216-222 Tyler Ave., opposite the New York Central Depot, Phone J-880.

A full page ad of the company appear4ed in teh October 1924 Progress Number of The Elkhart Truth.

The ad begins in large letters, “Who Can Remember,” and continues in smaller point, “When ignition was entirely HOT POINT? MAKE And Break? Magneto? When starting, lighting, generation and ignition were first used?”

The quick answer, “We Can,” and gets clinched with the tag, “As We are Pioneers from the Old School.”

The station offered Ford speedometer, battery, carburetor, and ignition specialties, as well as radio parts and industrial service, such as motor rewinding. It’s the fine print, though, that holds the most astonishing information.

Under the heading, “If You Drive a Car Listed Below We Can Furnish You Genuine Electrical Parts from Stock,” follow cars from every letter of the alphabet except I, Q, U, X, Y, Z. Never mind the parts, here comes the parade of cars, all 125 of them:

The list of cars from my previously unpublished article of 1981, wow, 40 years and a number of personally-owned cars ago.

Here’s the list of the 125 cars: Allen, American, Anderson, Apperson, Auburn, Barley, Bay State, Beggs, Biddle, Birch, Bour Davis, Bradley, Brewster, Buick, Bush, Cadillac, Case, Chalmers, Champion, Chandler, Chevrolet, Cleveland, Climber, Chrysler, Cole, Columbia, Courier, Crawford, Cunningham, Daniels, Davis, Dodge, Dorris, Dort, Driggs, Duesenberg, Dupont, Durant, D.A.C., Earl, Elcar, Elgin, Essex, Fergus Series, Flint, Ford, Fox, Franklin, Gardner, Gray, Hanover, Hanson, Hatfield, Haynes, Holmes, H.C.S., Hudson, Huffman, Hupmobile, Jewett, Jordan, Kelsey, King, Kissel, Kline, Kurtz, Lafayette, Leach, Leon, Lexington, Liberty, Lincoln, Locomobile,, Marmon, Maxwell, McFarlan, Mercer, Metropolitan, Monroe, Moon, Nash, National, Noma, Oakland, Ogren, Oldsmobile, Overland, Packard, Paige, Paterson, Peerless, Pierce Arrow, Pilot, Premier, Premocar, Reo, Roamer, Regal, Revere, Rickenbacker, Rolls Royce, R. & V. Knight, Sayers, Saxon, Seneca, Standard, Stearns Durea, Star, Stephens, Stevens Durea, Studebaker, Stutz, Sun, Templar, Vim, Velie, Washington, Wasp, Westcott, White, Wharton, Wills St. Claire, Willys Knight, Winton.

I end the article with this sentence: “Will the driver of the Winton please give a dazed pedestrian a lift.”

Let kindness flow

Let the milk of human kindness flow above and beyond the signal progress of human inventiveness in every age.


8 thoughts on “Buggies, horseless carriages, early motor cars

  1. This brings back memories of my last visit to Elkhart when you and Marty took me to LaGrange County, and we saw some of these sights, John. What a treat to revisit it in a different season of the year, though I prefer summer!


    1. Yes, Marcia, summer is on the calendar, along with the rush to turn on the AC. Ha, ha. How human we are and how nice.


    1. Thanks, Phyllis. Today you’d hear the sounds of clip, clop, clip, clop to wake you up for school. The county has loads to offer.


  2. I wonder what the Amish would have to say about living in 2021. Would love to hear their opinions about world affairs.


    1. Is it time to plan another visit to Big Valley? Or have a meal in an Amish home in Indiana? That time may be closer than one thinks.


    1. You know a lot about the rural life around Milverton and Millbank, Laurene. As well as driving east and west and north and south around North America and also being at home right where you are. Best!


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