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Roger Keagle's Complied History of Canton, Bradford County PA
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Blacksmiths and Automobile Dealers

During the early history of Canton, some of the most important members of the community were blacksmiths.  Horses were the prime energy source for transportation and for wok on the farm, thus, the blacksmith was necessary to keep the horses properly shod.  In addition to shoeing horses, he was needed to make and repair the many tools and implements needed for the farm and others in the community.  A competent blacksmith could make almost any needed item from metal.  Fireplace tools and andirons, loggers chains or chains for the farm, repairing wagon wheel rims or making ornamental items for the home, all these things and more kept the blacksmith at his anvil.  During the early part of the 19th century factory-made goods were not very common and it wasn't until the middle and latter part of the century that they became readily available, so it was up to the blacksmith to supply these items for the people.

Even though he might spend less time making necessary items after the Industrial Revolution came to America, he was kept busy shoeing an increasing number of horses.  The horse shoeing business remained brisk until the farm tractor and the automobile reduced the number of horses being used to almost nothing.  This was the death knell for the blacksmith.

During the early part of the 20th century, Canton still had several blacksmiths.  Milt Close, Olen Smith and Gus Day all had shops on Sullivan street and practiced their trade until the farm tractor and the automobile forced them out of business.

In the first two or three decades the blacksmith and the automobile dealer coexisted, but with the improvement in roads and in the automobile itself, the automobile and the improved farm tractor easily won out.  The horse became a relic of the past.

The first automobile dealerships were a far cry from the huge display lots of today, and while there were many different makes of automobiles being made, they all came more or less as standard models.  The large number of options available on today's cars were missing on the early ones.

The Bradford County Garage on Sullivan street was one of the first to sell autos in Canton.  In 1920 they advertised Studebaker, Nash, Mitchell, Dodge and Chevrolet cars for sale, while the Canton Auto Sales advertised Fords.  By 1925 the VanDyne Motor Company was selling Fords in Canton, while Root and Newell advertised the Overland Six, and the Bradford County Garage, Chrysler and Maxwell.

During the 1920's and 1930's Leon Stone operated a garage in a barn behind Root and Newell's store, selling Hudson and Essex cars.  He later moved his business to a building on Troy street.  Tom Brann operated garage on the corner of Sullivan and Lycoming streets selling Studebaker and Erskine cars.  George Crain opened a Dodge and Plymouth dealership on lower Sullivan street.  Olen Smith and Walter Reynolds sold Chevrolet cars for a few years before the Krise Motor Company took over.

Photo Caption - page 213p:
August "Gus" Day's Blacksmith Shop, Canton, Pa. 1941

Gus Day is at the anvil working on Albert Clark's team.  August Lake is at the right rear and John Walchesk is at the left front of the picture.

World War II changed the automobile business as it did many others, and as family cars were not manufactured during these years because the automobile companies were making military vehicles instead, many established car dealers were forced out of business.

Following the war and the resumption of the manufacture of the family car, only Ford cars sold by the Hallett Motor Company and General Motors cars sold by the Krise Garage were able to compete, and these two later succumbed to the pressures on modern methods of car dealership.

The following accounts on the next pages regarding these two dealers were published in the Canton Independent-Sentinel's Anniversary Edition in 1950.

--Roger M. Keagle

Photo Caption - page 214p:
The building where Milt Close had his blacksmith shop.

C. Robert Krise in Business 40 Years
Starts as Coal Dealer at Present Location

C. Robert Krise, owner of the Krise Motor Co., began business at his present location in 1910 as a coal dealer purchasing the coal sheds and a small wooden office building from the Richard O'Donell estate.

In 1913 he added a draying business and was using four teams instead of his original two.  About two years later Mr. Krise purchased the draying business of T. D. Hurley which brought wit it the job of carrying mail to and from the station and post office and running a transfer horse drawn bus from the Packard Hotel to the P. R. R. station.

Also at this time he hauled pulp wood from Armenia Mountain to the railroad siding for Caprio and Grieco of Lock Haven.  Now Mr. Krise was using 10 teams to take care of his business.  In 1924 he bought his first truck, a Chevrolet one-ton, which he used to deliver coal.  This same year Mr. Krise began his career as an automobile dealer when he became Buick sub-dealer with Carpenter and Pierce of Troy.

In 1926 Ottis Williams built for Mr. Krise the present showroom and two gasoline pumps were installed with three steel tanks, the largest of which will hold 20,000 gallons of gasoline.  With the erection of this building Mr. Krise became an authorized Chevrolet dealer but also continued as Buick sub-dealer.  The service work on cars was done by John H. Keltz in the old Crawford garage back of the First National Bank.  About this time Mr. Krise sold his draying business to Mert Jenkins, a former driver, but kept the coal business until 1934 when he sold it to S. H. Jewell.

In 1931 A. H. Bunn became associated with Mr. Krise as a salesman and continued in that position until World War II when he became Parts Manager which position he retains today.  A repair shop built by F. P. Case and Sons was added to the original showroom in 1934 and the previous year Mr. Krise became an authorized Oldsmobile as well as Chevrolet dealer giving up the Buick sub-dealership.

In connection with his car sales Mr. Krise began to sometimes take cattle and horses in exchange and eventually purchased a farm about a mile from town where he kept the stock.  Then he began to bring in horses from the west and for a time had quite a flourishing horse business.  In March 1947 the coal sheds, wooden office and storage building and repair shop were completely destroyed by fire and the showroom was badly damaged.  The shop was rebuilt at once and the showroom renovated by S. E. Williams.  At the same time a paint shop was built on the lower part of the lot.  The next year the Canton Wood Products Co. added to the repair shop a building for washing and greasing cars.

Hallett Motor Co. Formed in 1926
Model T Forerunner of Modern Ford V8

All who have followed the development of the automobile industry for the last quarter of a century have witnessed the period of its greatest development and expansion.

To those of us who have been in the business for that period, the growing pains have seemed at times to have overshadowed all else.  Wars and depressions, good years and bad have affected all businesses, but none so acutely as the job of selling cars.  A grim witness to this fact is the length of the business life of the automobile dealer - the average has been about three years.  For those who have survived a much longer time, it has been perhaps more due to good luck than good management - more still may be to just plain hard work and long hours.

You present Ford dealer began business in August 1926, under the trade name of Hallett Motor Company.  It was the last years of Model T.  It was the beginning of a period devoted to change, a change from just transportation to transportation with luxury.

Even then the Model T was no long a shiny black buggy with flopping fenders and little else.  Wind shields, top and even electric starters were standard equipment.  Of course, you paid extra for bumpers, spare tires and many other items, but you did have a choice of colors, and sedans were made with hard tops.  But luxury was not a word used by your dealer unless you were being sold such non-essential items as shock absorbers, oil gauges, lap robes and water pumps.

However, as the desire for change grew stronger, the Model T offered a wonderful opportunity for the accessory enthusiast.  You could load it down with a multitude of "extras" and it would still carry the whole family and the extras too.  And if the extras didn't work it made no difference; Model T would still "putt-putt" to town and right back again.

Learning to drive was still the experience of a lifetime.  Even the transmission had automatic features.  It was a very good driver who never backed out through the side of the barn instead of out the door he intended.

Still by the standards of the day, Model T was most dependable.  If it did not run you simply filed the points, dried out the coil box, twisted the carburetor, spun the crank and away she went - with you in it, unless you had forgotten to pull the emergency brake.

It was a great car, but times were changing.  People demanded three speed transmission, high tension ignition, more power, higher speed, and more pleasing body styles.

Model A was the answer.  It had the durability of Model T and the features of a modern car.  Demand exceeded supply for several years and then came the depression.

The next few years were tough.  The Ford V8 was brought out after much delay.  Today, with most manufacturers bringing out V8 motors, it is difficult to look back and account for the distrust and suspicion with which the V8 was viewed by many people, but of course, not all by all.  The reliability of Ford products had won many friends and to these, millions of V8's were sold during the decade that followed.

The post-war picture has been bright.  Changes in management of the Ford Motor Co., resulting in new car designs and features, now proven y millions of new as well as old Ford owners, have brought relative demand to an all time high.

A modern building, new service equipment, better trained mechanics, unexcelled parts service, and better all-over management resulting from twenty-five years experience, has earned your local Ford dealership the coveted FMFS award.

Much of the road has been rough from the days of the Model T. Ford and Ford dealers see much better going ahead with a car that is unexcelled and service that can't be beat.

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 28 AUG 2008
By Joyce M. Tice
Email: Joyce M. Tice

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