handle factory for the
Baldwin Tool Works of Parkersburg, West
Virginia. During this restructuring the top
floor was removed. Jack Lennon was in charge.
But ere long all the available ash timber
hereabout was used and the handle factory
machinery was moved away. For a time Lennon
continued , making golf clubs, but the supply of
hickory, too, was limited and the business was
Again the building was
refashioned and it became the site of Kenton
Priser's Chrysler Products Agency. By 1976 Pudge
Egolf was making a replica of the original
DeWitt auto buggy there. Then after extensive
renovating, the building became the home of
Kirti Shah's Custom Magnetics, Inc.
OF THE NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL
VOLUME III, NUMBER 2
MANCHESTER’S AUTOMOBILE FACTORY
from various articles from
Manchester Journal in 1908 & 1909
Perhaps North Manchester
never did pose a serious threat for Detroit, but
it did have an early automobile factory.
In 1909 a new factory here began
manufacture of the DeWitt auto buggies, named
for the owner and operator of the Factory.
The year before, committees
of local leaders were hard at work in a campaign
to raise the money to attract the factory.
At length on July 5, 1908, the North
Manchester Industrial Association signed a
contract with V. L. DeWitt.
It provided that the Association would
turn over to Mr. DeWitt what was then known as
the Eagle lot, lying west of the Big Four
tracks, south of Main Street.
In addition to this land, valued at $600,
the Association would pay him $1,500.
Mr. DeWitt would erect a building of
brick or cement blocks, not less than 35 feet by
125 feet, and two stories high.
Mr. DeWitt had been driving
an auto buggy, of the style he proposed to
manufacture, about the streets of North
It must have been manufactured by the W.
H. Kiblinger Company at Auburn.
About this time the Auburn firm signed a
contract with representatives of some business
firms to supply them with almost a million
dollars worth of auto buggies.
A million dollars was a lot of money in
At the time of the North
Manchester agreement the site for the new
factory was occupied by Fred Horne’s machine
His lease expired at this time, and the
Association agreed to move his shop to another
lot, which he might select.
He selected a spot on the north side of
Main Street east of Metzger’s Blacksmith Shop,
and by the end of the month work began on the
new DeWitt factory.
The factory was built of
cement blocks held together with white mortar,
which the North Manchester Journal said
made a pretty appearance.
Every ten feet there were pilasters and,
between each of these, large windows to provide
ample light inside.
Instead of the roof sloping to the edge,
it was in the then popular style of sloping to
the center of the building, making a gutter in
the middle of the roof.
A large engine room and blacksmith shop,
one story high, was added to the back of the
The Journal reported
that there was generally more excitement
elsewhere about North Manchester’s landing of
the factory than at home.
For it was known that it had connections
with the Auburn factory, which was having more
work than it could handle.
The first automobile was
completed in early April.
It was red.
The top, storm front, and upholstering
all harmonized nicely with the color.
The Journal declared that it was
“easily the prettiest of the buggy machines ever
Perhaps the most attractive part was that
it was all made in North Manchester.
Within less than a month
from the production of the first machine there
was a strike in the factory.
Irvin Kessler, a young man in the factory
who tested the machines, had run one to
Huntington in fifty minutes, which Mr. DeWitt
had told him not to do, and had burned out the
new bearings; and the machine had to be rebuilt.
Later Mr. DeWitt told Kessler to wire two
more machines and he himself would test them.
Instead the young man wired one and took
it out to test it himself.
So Mr. DeWitt fired him.
About a dozen of the machinists,
reportedly without checking details, walked out,
and the next day they left town.
But within a month of less time a full
force of men was again at work, and automobiles
were being turned out at the rate of four a
week, and sold as fast as they were made—most of
them elsewhere than North Manchester.
About this time—in May
1909—the automobile owners of North Manchester
met at the Olinger & Warvel garage and organized
a club “for the mutual pleasure and protection
of the members.”
Apparently there was a good bit of
tension between those who owned autos and those
who did not, especially some of the farmers.
The club had the dual purposes of
insisting that its members be respectful of the
rights of others on the roads but also of
educating non-owners to be respectful of the
rights of auto owners.
Auto owners in the North
Manchester vicinity included V. L. DeWitt, Dr.
D. Ginther, George Burdge, Dr. G. L. Shoemaker,
John Isenbarger, Olinger & Warvel, A. G.
Lautzenhiser, Fletcher Kroft, Dr. W. H. Shaffer,
J. B. Peabody, Allen Heck, A. E. Naber, Harmon
Naber, Jacob Wolfe, Dr. L. H. Tennant, Thomas
Berry, Dr. Z. M. Beaman, Ed Rittenhouse, Dr. J.
L. Warvel, Tom Pinney, Aaron Ulrey, Logan Ulrey,
John Snyder, Melvin Haines, Dr. F. S. Kitson, H.
Kinsey, Oliver Fox, and Jordan Rhodes.
The Journal carried
a large ad reading:
BUGGY FOR ALL SEASONS
The Dewitt Motor Buggy will
come nearer giving you service every day in the
year than any other motor vehicle on the market.
Its engines are air-cooled—no water to
freeze and burst engine jackets.
The wheels are high and strong, traveling
easily over rough roads.
Large cushion tires are used that are
The finish in every respect is the best
Upholstering and trimming is equal to
that used in cars costing three or four thousand
Nothing but the best material is used in
the construction of these machines, and the
company stands back of its every machine and
You are invited to go to
the factory and see how they are made.
You will be given every attention and
There is nothing cheap
about the car but the price.
If you can use one, now is the time to
The DeWitt car is a winter machine as
well as a summer one.
It is the machine for the man who wants
Let us show you why.
Factory Near Big Four
Only a few vehicles were
constructed before a fire wrecked the building
and the business was closed out.
The second story was removed and the
Baldwin Handle Factory and a sawmill occupied
Further remodeling made it the site of
Kenton Priser’s Chrysler Products Agency.
By 1976 Russell Egolf was making a
replica of the original DeWitt auto buggy there.
Extensively renovated, the building is
now the home of Kirti Shah’s Custom Magnetics,