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Transportation in Canton – Then and Now

Transportation before the Europeans came to America was confined to waterways and Indian trails.  As the Canton area had no navigable waterways, the one method left was Indian trails.  Even though the Canton area is situated with mountains and valleys all around, the streams were not navigable.  The Towanda Creek and the Lycoming Creek have their headwaters at Grover, and as a result are too small for even small boats or canoes.  Because there were no permanent settlements in the area, the number of trails were few.  With the coming of the white man to the area after the Revolutionary War, the biggest problem facing the early settlers was how to get here.  The following account from, “The Life of Ezra Spalding,” as written by his son in law, S. D. Kendall, tells about the difficulties of getting from Sheshequin to Canton in 1796.

“During the month of February 1796, he moved his family to his new home in Canton.  In moving from Sheshequin they loaded their goods on an ox sled, and Col. John Spalding brought the family with horses and sleigh.  They crossed the river at or near Esquire Kinney’s, on ice over the old Sheshequin.  There they left the river and worked their way up the mountain and came down by way of Towanda, over a poor road, following the Indian trail and marked trees, there being no road, only such as they could pick out through the trees.  The woods being open at times, they got along very well without cutting many logs.  They made the trip in about four days from the time they started until they arrived at their new home, then a howling wilderness.”

There were no improvement in travel conditions from 1796 to 1802 as the description of the trip Noah Wilson had from Vermont to Alba, as related by Charles E. Bullock.

“The experience of Noah Wilson, the first settler of the northern portion of Canton Township, and his son Irad, whom many will remember as Col. Wilson, is typical of the many settlers here.  Noah Wilson came to the place now bearing the name of Alba in May 1802.  He built a cabin and made a clearing by burning over a windfall at the base of Armenia mountain, which mountain he named.  He raised about forty bushels of good corn, which he stored in a crib for use when his family should come.  In the fall of 1802, after harvesting his corn and drying what pumpkins he needed, he returned to Vermont for his family, with whom on the 5th of May, he began his pilgrimage again for the west.  His family consisted of his wife, three sons and three daughters, and with them and his goods loaded on two wagons, the same being drawn by five horses.  When Troy was reached a number of settlers there accompanied Mr. Wilson to Alba and with their axes cut and cleared a road for the wagons to pass.  Late in the afternoon of May 29th, 24 days after leaving Vermont, the cabin of Mr. Wilson was reached and occupied by a portion of the family.  Colonel Wilson, then a boy of five years sleeping under the wagon while his sister slept in it, and the accompanying men slept by a log fire they kindled.  The next day was spent in making a better and more comfortable house, which was completed the same day, the roof of bark being put on.”

While these accounts tell of the first settlers to come to the Canton area, there were other expeditions to travel through Canton, but these were only going through the area, not going to it.  In 1737 Conrad Weiser and a man named Stofel, came up Lycoming creek over an Indian trail from the west branch to the north branch of the Susquehanna on a trail to Sugar Creek.  Again in 1743, he made a journey with John Bartram, an English botanist, to the headwaters of Towanda creek.  In 1778, colonel Thomas Hartley, with a force of 200 men set out from Muncy to quell the Indians in the area.  They had a skirmish with some Indians at Cedar Ledge as the monument placed there by the D.A.R. attests.  After this military action, Hartley and his men went on to Athens and returned down the Susquehanna to Wyoming and Fort Augusta.  These two earlier expeditions through the area were made by men travelling on foot and carrying no goods other than the supplies they needed for their own survival.  Hence they could follow the existing Indian trails and did not have to cut roads for wagons.

By 1805 a wagon road had been constructed from Williamsport to Canton, the state assisting in it construction, and later it was completed to Troy and then to Elmira.  What kind of a road it was can only be imagined, but it probably was little more than a clearing in the woods when first built.

A street plan for Canton was laid out in 1856 and was followed quite closely.  A street was planned through the Main street cemetery that was never opened.  There were few buildings east of Minnequa Avenue except for a few on Main Street.  Center street extended only to Center street hill, and the only road leading to Minnequa Springs was from the Troy road.  This road still exists and starts near the Leahy farm.  There was a stage operating to Towanda and another to Morris to the west.  With transportation being as poor as it was, the citizens of the area were able to appreciate the benefits to be derived when the Williamsport and Elmira railroad was built in 1854.  This meant no more dust and mud to contend with and a more reliable method of traveling north or south, and in shipping their products out and bringing in needed supplies.

With a railroad running north and south and giving a reliable way in and out of Canton, the roads in the Borough and outlying areas were still dirt roads, muddy when it rained and dusty when it didn’t.  As long as horses and oxen were the only source of power for wagons and buggies, the condition of the roads were not too important, but with the coming of the automobile, all this changed.  Automobiles in their first few years were confined to their garages unless the roads were passable.  Even during the 1920’s with the model T ford and other cars of that time, it was nearly impossible to travel over roads in poor weather.  Ruts, holes and stones took a might toll on tires of that day, and people traveling any distance were advised to carry more than one spare tire.  Nobody will ever know how many cars had to be pulled out of the mud by a team of horses.  The horse was still king when it rained too much.

During the 1930’s the state of Pennsylvania instituted a plan to get the farmers out of the mud.  In conjunction with the New Deal programs of president Roosevelt, ways of providing employment during the depression were coordinated with ways to help the farmer get his products to market.  Rural electrification and better roads were part of this program.  Because there was an abundance of stone fences no longer needed by farmers, these were dismantled and broken into small pieces to make a roadbed for tar and chips which were added later.  With a proper crown on the road, water could be drained into ditches and the problem of mud and dust was solved.

Today there are very few dirt roads left around Canton.  The many hours of labor the farmers spent in removing rocks from their field and building stone fences on their property, was used to provide them with better roads, so their efforts were not in vain.

The streets in Canton were all dirt at one time.  The streets that were a part of the state or federal highway system fared better than those belonging to the borough, thus, Troy, Main Lycoming and Sullivan streets received a concrete or macadam treatment before the others.  Before the borough streets had a hard topping of tar and chips, automobiles created a dust problem, especially by young speeders showing how fast their cars would go.  Some people would sprinkle water in front of their homes, but this only kept the dust in check for a short time.

Sometime in the late 1929 or early 30’s C. B. Williams, a local power in the borough, and the owner of a gravel pit, convinced the town fathers to cover the streets with a layer of gravel.  Even though this might have been a display of politics, it put the streets in much better condition and served as a good base for the tar and chips when they were added later.

The problems of travel that existed in the 19th century have gradually been improved to the point where travel today is not hampered by poor road conditions, but rather by poor driving habits of many drivers.

--Roger M. Keagle

The Williamsport and Elmira Railroad

The Williamsport and Elmira Railroad was built to connect the canals of New York with those of Pennsylvania.  By building a railroad between Williamsport, Pa. and Elmira, NY, it was thought that commerce between the two areas would be greatly increased.  The Erie Canal had been built, and a feeder canal had been completed to Elmira.  By late 1830 the canal along the Susquehanna had been completed as far north as Muncy, Pa., and with expectations it would be extended to Williamsport, there was a desire to connect the two canal systems with a railroad.

The first meeting to plan the railroad was held in Williamsport in 1831, and approval for the railroad was given in 1832 by both the Pennsylvania and the New York State legislatures.  Because of difficulties in securing enough funding for the project, construction did not start until 1837, and the railroad was only planned as far as Ralston.  There were coal mines and a charcoal iron furnace to serve, and the railroad was completed to Ralson in 1839.

This railroad did not have steel rails, but had ties laid on the ground with oak track and strap iron screwed to it.  Needless to say, this caused problems from the beginning.  About 1845 the track had gotten to be in such bad condition that the heavy steam engines had to be replaced with horses.  The financial condition of the railroad got so bad that in 1849 the Williamsport and Elmira Railroad had the dubious distinction of being the first railroad in Pennsylvania ordered sold by the legislature.  The road was sold at auction and the new owners ran a daily horse drawn car from Ralston to Williamsport and back.  The trip took three hours to Williamsport and four hours on the return trip.

The original goal of the railroad could not be achieved until the line was completed to Elmira, so efforts were made to raise money from Elmira financiers.  With the success of this drive, bids were opened in 1853 and the line was completed in 1854, giving Canton rail service for the first time.

Business was good with the completion of the new line, and the owners decided to purchase more engines and equipment.  This, with the cost of extending the line to Elmira brought their indebtedness to a high level, and with the panic of 1857 a smaller amount of revenue came to the railroad.  In 1860 the railroad was foreclosed and the new owners named it the Elmira and Williamsport Railroad.  In 1863 the Northern Central Railroad leased the Elmira and Williamsport Railroad and operated it until the Pennsylvania Railroad took it over.

Williamsport and Elmira Railroad:  A History 1831-1863
Thomas Taber III May 1986

Snowplows on the Northern Central Railroad – February 10, 1893
The Right Photo Shows the Canton Station
The Pennsylvania Railroad, a Pictorial History
Edwin P. Alexander, Bonanza Books 1947

Page 19,
Northern Central Railway

One of the country’s first railroads was the Baltimore & Susquehanna Railroad, chartered February 13, 1828.  The cornerstone was laid August 8, 1829, and work was begun in the fall of 1830.  Seven miles were finished by July 1831.  Cars were drawn by horses until August 7, 1832, when the “Herald,” a Stephenson locomotive, made its first trip.  The line was completed to York in 1838.  In the early 1850’s the Northern Central Railway was incorporated, taking over the Baltimore and Susquehanna, the York and Maryland line, the York and Cumberland, and the Susquehanna Railroad.  In 1858 the line to Sunbury, 138 miles, was completed and a connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad at Marysville.  The company was in poor financial shape and the Baltimore & Ohio acquired a majority of the stock, but by 1861 its holdings were put on the market and the Pennsylvania purchased over 43,000 shares, which, together with others acquired in London, gave it a majority ownership.  In 1866 the roads operated by Northern Central included its own line, 138 miles, the Wrightville, York and Gettysburg, (York to Wrightsville), 13 miles, the Shamokin Valley and Pottsville, (Sunbury to Mt. Carmel), 28 miles, the Elmira & Williamsport, (Williamsport to Elmira), 78 miles, the Chemung Railroad (Elmira to Watkins), 22 miles and the Jefferson & Candandaigua (Watkins to Candandaigua), 47 miles – a total of 326 miles.  About 1911 the Pennsylvania took over and the Northern Central ceased to exist.

The Pennsylvania Railroad was the primary means of travel during the first half of the 20th century for travelers going north or south, but after World War II its passenger service declined with the improvement in highways and automobiles.  Freight service continued to be heavy, primarily moving coal from the mining region to Sodus Bay, New York, where it was loaded onto freighters.  There are still people living in Canton who can remember the long coal trains being hauled up the grade from Leolyn to Alba with a large steam engine in front and two pushers in the rear, belching great quantities of black smoke as they went through the town.  These memories bring nostalgic tears to the eyes on any train lover, but only tears of joy for those housewives who lived close enough to the tracks to have to spend their time cleaning and sweeping up the cinders the trains left in their wake.

The Pennsylvania Railroad Company

Notice is hereby given that train 595, leaving Elmira, New York, daily, at 5:24 A.M., eastern standard time, arriving in Canandaigua, New York, at 7:50 A.M., eastern standard time; train 596, leaving Canandaigua, daily except Sunday, at 8:55 P.M., eastern standard time, arriving at Elmira, New York, at 10:55 P.M., eastern standard time, and train 598, Sunday only, leaving Canandaigua, at 9:10 P.M., eastern standard time, arriving at Elmira at 11:08 P.M., eastern standard time, will be discontinued 12:00 noon, September 25, 1955.

C. D. Merrill, Superintendent

Eath Knell – This was the notice posted late last summer along the Pennsylvania between Williamsport and Canandaigua to announce the railroad’s plan to remove the last of the passenger trains.  The notices were put up to conform with the law.  Having notified the public, the railroad applied for permission to abandon the trains to the New York State Public Service Commission and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.  Delays postponed the abandonment of the runs in New York State until Jan. 3.

From the Williamsport Grit, July 8, 1956

After carrying passengers between Elmira and Williamsport for more than a century, the old Northern Central Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad ends this service with the final run to Williamsport Sunday morning.

The last round trip was made Saturday morning, with 45 passengers filling the coach-baggage car to capacity, making the biggest passenger-list Conductor E. D. Horton had handled on the run for many years.

For some children in the group, this was their first and last train ride over these tracks.

Headed by Roy Stuckless, Troy, and Dean Morse, Canton, 27 persons from the former and 18 from the latter town made the trip as far as Roaring Branch.  Some had early breakfast at Wheel Inn and returned by bus.  Twelve from Canton were met by cars and left immediately.

Resembled Excursion

Scheduled to leave Troy at 1:08 and Canton at 1:30 a.m., the trip had all the earmarks of an old fashioned excursion, except the smell of the train smoke was missing from the diesel engine.

The day coach was old and the track rough, but Engineman J. H. Andrus did his best to make the jaunt pleasant and memorable.

The Pennsylvania Railroad continued its freight service until the flood of 1972 washed out many of its bridges and some of its track.  The declining use of the road made it financially impossible to repair the damage, so even this service was discontinued.

The following article tells of the final end to the rail service in the area when the passenger station was torn down.

Century Old Depot Thing of the Past

Many a senior citizen here experienced the pangs of nostalgia as the old Pennsylvania Railroad passenger station was being demolished.

Ernest Flad of Trout Run, started demolition operations and, by late afternoon, only the skeleton remained by nightfall, the entire building had been razed.  Mr. Flad plans to use the salvaged lumber to repair his home.

Since the first wood-burning locomotive pulled the first passenger train over the old Northern Central Railroad in August 1854, Canton has boasted a railroad station.  Although there has been no passenger services since July 7, 1956, faint hope was held that as long as the station remained, service might sometime be resumed.

Making that last historic trip on the final passenger run to Roaring Branch were 27 persons from Troy and 18 from Canton.  For most of the children on that early morning journey, it was their first and last such venture.

For 100 years, old timers recall, the most exciting travel experiences started and ended at this depot.

Eight passenger trains a day took care of travelers between Elmira N.Y. and Williamsport, until the Tin Lizzie made it possible for almost every family to own a car.

As the number of cars increased, rail patrons decreased.  One train after another was withdrawn until, like the Ten Little Indians, “at last there were none.”
More photos in the scanned pages of Roger's book

Elmira – Troy – Canton – Auto-Bus Line

Harold Wells, Prop. Started running a parlor coach on July 25, 1928.  There were two round trips week days and one round trip Sunday.  The bus left Elmira at 7:00 A.M. and arrived in Canton at 8:25 A.M. leaving Canton at 8:30 A.M.  It arrived back in Elmira at 10:00 A.M.  For the afternoon run, it left Elmira at 3:00 P.M. arriving in Canton at 4:25 P.M., then left Canton at 4:30 P.M. and arrived in Elmira at 6:00 P.M.

Remembrances of Early Automobiles
H. Leroy Jarrett

The following story was written for the Canton Historical Society Newsletter I May of 1989, and was reprinted in the endless Mountains Weekend News in 1994.

Recently while walking through a parking lot I noticed a new Fort LTD Crown Victoria; in fact, so new that the paper describing and listing the car’s equipment etc. was still on the window.  Being curious, and perhaps a little nosy, I stopped to read the list of equipment.  Automatic and overdrive transmission, heater and air conditioning (which cost more than the new Model T did I the early 1900’s), dual windshield wipers, door locks, tilting steering gear, fuel injection, and the list goes on.  The total price is close to $20,000.  I keep thinking about this automobile and comparing it with the cars of the early 1900’s.  Most of the gadgets listed were never thought of back then.

I will never forget my first ride in an automobile.  I was a kid of about eight or nine, which was in 1911 or 1912.  We lived in Bath, New York at that time.  Another boy and I were walking along a country road on a nice Sunday afternoon.  We heard the sound of an auto approaching and we got off the road and stood there watching the car.  We probably had a wistful look on our faces because the car stopped and the driver, a man we knew, asked if we wanted a ride.  It didn’t take any coaxing; we crawled in, in a hurry.  I don’t know what kind of a car it was except it had two seats and no doors.  We bragged to everyone who would listen that we had a ride in an automobile.  How many of you can remember your first car ride?

There were few cars in Bath at this time and I often heard the older folks talking; it would go something like this:  “I heard that so and so got one of those automobiles.”  Someone else would comment, “Yes, I heard of it, and they mortgaged their house to pay for it.”  I got the idea that one of those things cost a fortune and we would never own one.  The father of an older boy that I played with bought a Model T Ford, with red dash and gas oil lights.  They said it cost $500.  His father taught him to drive and we though that was really something.  Occasionally we got a ride in that car.

In 1914 we moved to Canton, Pennsylvania.  The car I remember there was McFadden’s Packard Twin Six.  Frank Slade was the driver.  He brought the McFadden children to school.  They also had a Ford with a body similar to a taxi-cab that they used when the weather was bad.  This was the first enclosed car that I had ever seen.  With a few exceptions all of the cars those days were open touring cars.  I cannot possibly list all of the cars in the Canton area at that time.  Mr. Bird, on Brann street, had a Brush car.  That’s the only one I ever saw until many years later at the Gettysburg Battlefield; a couple were driving a Brush roadster.  They were bedecked in costumes befitting the era – linen dusters, gloves, etc.  They gave me a picture postcard of the car but it was lost in the flood while we lived in Jersey Shore, Pa.

The Ford garage was on Sullivan St. in the former Dunbar Wagon Shop.  They sold countless Model T cars in the area.  The Model T was the poor man’s car, selling for five or six hundred dollars.  It was just a plain car, no frills.  The early cars had gas lights, a red wooden dash board, and brass radiator.  Heaters, windshield wipers, turn signals, and gadgets we take for granted now were not as yet invented.  The early models had 30 x 3 tires on the front and 30 x 3 and a half tires on the rear.  Clincher tires, that meant when you had a flat tire you had to jack up the car, remove the tire (which was no easy task), patch the inner tube and wrestle the tire back on, and pump it back up with a little hand pump.  By that time you were really disgusted and ready to go home.  With a new car you got a jack and pump, tire iron, combination spark plug and cylinder head wrench, a pair of pliers that also served as a screwdriver and screw jack.  Each year changes and improvements were made.  Electric starters came along.  Later enclosed cars, sedans and coupes made their appearances.  The Model T was introduced in 1908 and discontinued in 1927.  About 15 million Model Ts had been built.

In the early days Henry Ford built many types of cars.  He was especially interested in racing cars.  His cars won many races and established many records.  The famous Barney Oldfield was one of the drivers of Ford racers.

After the discontinuance of the Model T, the Ford Company built many different cars.  One was the Edsel, named after his son.  This car was not popular and was discontinued after a few years.  There is a saying attributed to Henry ford: “You can have any color you want as long as it is black.”

There were other cars in and around Canton.  A popular car was the Chevrolet, one of the first cars to use overhead valves.  John Innes sold Maxwell and Chalmers.  The Maxwell Chalmers company was the forerunner of the present Chrysler Corporation.  Galen Williams and Bob Brann sold Dodge and Studebaker cars.  Levi Root had the Wyllis Knight-Overland Agency.  He sold many Overlands, but the Wyllis Knight was not too popular.  This car used the sleeve valve type of engine, advertised as the quietest engine built.  I think Leon Stone sold the Hudson car; it was famous for its “Super Six” model.  Mr. Sid Williams had a beautiful seven passenger Hudson.  Many of these early cars were seven passenger touring cars, and roadsters were popular too.  All cars came equipped with side curtains.  When you got caught in the rain you got soaked putting up your side curtains.

Chuck Lewis’ father had a four cylinder Cadillac.  Leon Swayze had a later model V8 Cadillac.  Lee Greenleaf had an Oldsmobile Roadster, one of the first 8 cylinder cars in town.  John Innes had a Franklin, the only air-cooled car in town.  I may be mistaken, but I believe the Franklin used a wooden frame to cut down the weight.  Ed Innes had a seven passenger Studebaker; he used to haul the kids baseball team to Troy or wherever they were playing.  Harry Hendlemen also had a Studebaker, but he never drove it.  Carlisle Tillotson and “Did” Cease usually drove it for him.  “Did” worked in the Hendlemen store.  There were many other car owners, but I would like to talk about an unusual car, the Metz friction drive.  This car had no gear box, it was driven with two friction plates.  When you engage the clutch these two plates came together.  When you wanted to increase your speed you moved a lever that caused more friction and the car went faster.  It was chain driven.  A fellow named Charley Johnson, who worked at Gleckner’s Collar Factory, had this car.  He lived at Cedar Ledge.  My father put in a potato patch in Charley’s garden, and it was my job on Saturdays to work the patch.  I rode my bicycle to get to Cedar Ledge.  One day at dinner time, Charley suggested I drive the car home for lunch.  I was thrilled at the idea.  Charley cautioned me not to go very fast, as the brakes were not much good and the front axle was bent, and it was hard to steer.  He explained how to start the car and stop it.  I took off at the time and was so excited I could hardly eat my dinner.  After dinner I started out hoping everyone in town would see me.  I got to Lycoming Street hill; someone had told me you always pushed the clutch in when going down a hill, so I did.  The car took off, I had no brakes and couldn’t steer it.  I went in a ditch and up over the sidewalk and ended in someone’s garden.  Some men came and pushed me back on the street.  My pride was severely hurt.  I made the rest of the way to Charley’s but you can bet I went as slowly as I possibly could.

My brother in law in Elmira, NY bought a car named “Little;” it was aptly named, for it was little or no good.  It had four cylinders but we seldom could get it to run on more than two.  I thought it was the only car the company ever built as I never saw another or heard of one until recently I saw one in a museum at Silver Springs, Fla.  Incidentally, if you ever get to Silver Springs be sure to visit the museum; it is one of the best of its kind.

Tires were always a big factor in motoring.  The tire I remember mostly were Fisk.  The tread on this tire consisted of small suction cups.  The Goodyear tire tread was small upraised diamonds.  The Firestone tread was raised letter “non skid.”  These early tires were fabric and you were lucky to get 1,000 miles on one, and they were the clincher type.  Later came cord tires and demountable rims; you could carry a spare tire with these rims.  Low pressure tires, called “balloon tires” came out in the early 1920’s; they greatly improved a car’s riding.

About 1918 I bought a little Saxon roadster.  It had no lights and no top.  It had a little four cylinder engine.  The ignition system was powered by four dry cell batteries.  It ran well, but the 28-3 tires were always going flat.  I don’t remember who I bought it from or sold it to.  Several years later Emmet Wilcox had a model Saxon and it was a nice little car.

The grocery stores used horse-drawn delivery wagons until about 1918 or 1919 when they converted to autos.  Mitchell’s store had a Maxwell truck.  Lynn Thomas and Tripp Bros. had Model T Fords.  Ross Market had an Overland.  A fellow named Henry Breese had a little store on Troy St., next to Mike Brann.  He used an old two cylinder Cadillac that you cranked on the right side instead of the front.  Jack Roenitz, the plumber, had a little two cylinder Maxwell.  He built a box back of the seat to carry his tools.  That could have been the first truck in Canton.  The Keagles later had an Reo Speed Wagon.  John Brann’s meat market had a model T with a large compartment built on the chassis.  It was a regular mobile meat market.  They sold meat out of this truck to the rural folks.  They went as far as West Franklin, and in the other direction to Roaring Branch stopping at each house and ringing a bell.

The unsung heroes of the early 1900’s were the doctors.  Dr. Dann drove an Overland, Dr. Davison had a Buick and Dr. Parsons a Model T.  You could see them coming in from their calls on cold, wet days – mud splattered, side curtains flapping and broken tire chains slapping the fenders.  Tire chains were a necessity on those muddy and snowy roads.

Most auto owners would jack up their cars in November, drain the cooling system, and if they had a battery, take it out and put it in the cellar.  As the first warm days of spring arrived, they would get their pride and joy ready to go.  At that time, the only hard-surfaced road was from Cedar Ledge to the Pratt School road o the east of town.  On Sundays, there would be a parade on this stretch of road.  When the concrete road was built between Canton and Troy, and soon after, the road to Leroy was finished, it was a big shot in the arm for auto dealers.

In the early days, only the more expensive cars had speedometers, and they seldom worked.  The anti-freeze as we now know it had not been invented, and frozen radiators were common.  Most people carried a blanket to cover the radiators when they stopped, and at night, the cooling system was drained.  People began to use alcohol in the radiator.  That was alright, but if the engine got too hot, the alcohol boiled or evaporated. This resulted in frozen radiators.  It was mostly guesswork as to how much alcohol to put in.

The early cars had no heaters, and that created another problem for winter driving.  It was several years before windshield wipers or defrosters were introduced, and when they were, they were hand operated.  Directional signals and backup lights were unheard of.  The only directional signal was when you stuck out your arm and tried to signal the car in back of your intentions.  The early cars had no storage battery, and ignition was furnished by a magneto.  (It was a long time before tape players were invented, and placed in cars.)

The Buick Company was one of the first to introduce four-wheel brakes.  These brakes were very difficult to adjust; you could not get all four wheels to operate the same.  The brake bands were outside the brake drums, and mud and water got in, which resulted in poor or no braking.  You could install a foot throttle for your Model T.  A heater was also available.  A metal cover would be installed over the exhaust manifold, then you cut a hole in the floorboard and put a metal sleeve through the hole.  The hot exhaust did a pretty good job of heating the car.  If you didn’t install it just right, it might set the floorboards on fire.

Another accessory became available – the Klaxon horn.  Loud enough to scare the driver of the car ahead of you, and it caused horses to run away.  Other accessories came on the market for those early cars that were forerunners of the equipment that is now standard on present cars.

This story would not be complete if I did not tell about some of the tricks that boys used to play on auto drivers.  Names are omitted for obvious reasons.  The boys would get an old tire, tie a rope on it, lay it on the road, and then hide.  A favorite place for this stunt was Crockett Lodge.  It afforded a good place for the boys to hide in back of the wall.  A motorist would go by seeing the tire, would stop to go back to pick it up, and as he reached the tire, the boys would give him a loud “ha-ha.”  This stunt worked for several nights, until it was pulled on a fellow who turned around and came back, stopped his car on the tire, got out and cut the rope, taking the tire with him.  Another popular stunt was pulled on Main Street.  A motorist would pull up and go into a store, the boys would remove the jack from the front seat, and jack up one rear wheel.  The driver would get in and start the engine, but his car wouldn’t go; the rear wheel would spin.  After several tries, he would get out and walk around the car.  When he saw the jack, the boys would give him a good laugh.  Of course, the boys would make sure that Charley Watts, the Chief of Police, was not around when they pulled the trick.

Author:  Leroy Jarrett
Born July 9, 1903
Written:  May 1989

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 12 MAY 2008
By Joyce M. Tice
Email: Joyce M. Tice

The History Center on Main Street, 83 N. Main Street, Mansfield PA 16933