THE DEWITT CENTENNIAL
Eberly, North Manchester Historical Society
Would you believe that
North Manchester was once a great hub of automobile dealerships in
At one time or another, the automobile buyer
could purchase a Buick, Chevrolet, Crosley, Desoto,
Dodge, Essex, Ford, Frazer, GMC truck, Hudson, International truck,
Kaiser, Lincoln, Nash, Oakland, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Studebaker, Terraplane, or Willys, all here in
If you were willing to go as far away as
Wabash, you might pick up a Cadillac, Cole, Jackson, American,
Overland, or Hupmobile.
And this list does not include the
Unlike all the other brands of cars, the
DeWitt was actually made in North Manchester.
Yes, once we had an automobile factory in
our little town.
The car was named after the CEO of the
corporation, Virgil DeWitt.
Citizens worked very hard to get this
factory to come to North Manchester.
In July, 1908, the North Manchester
Industrial Association signed a contract with Mr. DeWitt giving him
a plot of land just west of the Big Four RR tracks, south of Main
Street, and $1,500 to build his factory.
Actual production was started that
The first automobile was completed in the
first week of April, 1909.
It was red.
The local newspaper said, “The machine is
easily the prettiest of the buggy machines ever seen hereabouts and
…it is a beauty.”
A work force of twenty men could produce
about four autos a week.
The most noticeable thing about the car
was its big wheels.
Actually, the body was much like a buggy but
with a motor, fenders, solid rubber tires, a pair of oil burning
lamps, and a brass horn.
The company advertised the car as the “Motor
The car is described as a runabout, with
one seat (two passengers).
The motor was mounted in the rear and
propelled the vehicle by chains connected to the rear wheels. The
price was $592.50.
The company also made a few vehicles with a
small truck bed extending behind the seat (an early pickup truck).
In May, 1909, the workers staged a
sympathy strike to protest the dismissal of one of the employees for
By June, a new work force was in place.
On May 5, 1910, a fire that started in
the second story of the DeWitt factory completely gutted the
Because the big wheel buggy cars were losing
popularity, this factory was never rebuilt.
In 1973, Russell Egolf of our town became
interested in the DeWitt automobile and its history.
Egolf produced a modern replica of the
DeWitt, with everything as close to the original as possible.
It was a feature attraction in the 1973
“Pudge” gave the vehicle to the North
Manchester Historical Society, where it is now on display at the
Center for History museum.
In 1981, Egolf and Steve Farringer formed or
recreated a new DeWitt Motor Car Company, which made high-quality
reproductions of the DeWitt for sale.
They made both the two seater (two
passengers) runabout and the two seater light truck.
They also made a four passenger touring car.
At least a dozen were produced, which are
now scattered around the world.
Several models were also made with electric
In 1909, just a century ago, North
Manchester became an automobile manufacturing town.
Not all cars were made in Detroit, or
When you say DeWitt, think of North
The two-passenger DeWitt Runabout
The DeWitt Automobile Building
801 W. Main St. (901 W. Main St. was an old address)
Articles of Incorporation of the DeWitt Motor Vehicle Company,
To read more articles on the DeWitt, select BUSINESSES in the top
menu. You can then choose DeWitt options.