I just finished reading this book. Wheels and Deals in the Yadkin Valley, a Chronicle of Transportation in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina, written by our very own Ter, Roger Brown, chronicles the change from horse and buggy to modern automobile in Wilkes County. Although this book only describes the history of the automobile in Wilkes County, the story was repeated across the United States, and indeed the world.
Roger describes the days before the car when local farmers would bring a team and wagon into town to sell their farm products, camping by the river for a few days. Indeed, my bother-in-law, Shelby, who is my age, can remember just such a trip with his father.
The roads in town did not start to get paved until 1915, and some rural roads are not paved to this day. The oldest Ford dealer in North Carolina started business in North Wilkesboro in 1915. They have a 1915 touring car in the showroom to prove it.
Roger describes why the T model was popular with the average person, negotiating the cart paths of the day and fording rivers. He had one example where a larger car, type unknown, was stuck trying to ford a river and how a Ford owner rescued the family, drove around the stuck car, up the river bank, and drove the family home.
Roger goes on to explain how the modern car dealers came into being, who went out of business, who bought who, and why they are located where they are. Any person who grew up in Wilkesboro or North Wilkesboro will be able to find some family history in this book. He names names. I read about my in-laws in his book, the McNeill’s.
Roger explains how cars were modified by the car dealers for use by the bootleggers. Large Cadillac engines were put into other brands of cars using special adapters made by the talented mechanics of the time. The Federal agents would have to use captured cars to chase down other bootleggers as the standard issue cars of the time did not have a chance of keeping up.
The North Carolina Society of Historians awarded Roger the "Willie Parker Peace History Book Award" a couple of months after the book was release in 2005. Roger started working as a mechanic in 1964 and eventually moved on to be and automotive instructor at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro. Roger owns a beautiful 1925 two-door sedan.
The book is available from Parkway Publishers, Inc., http://www.parkwaypublishers.com/history.html. ISBM 1-887905-42-1.
Back in the '60s in southern Illinois I was looking for some farm property to buy. I met a fellow who wanted to sell the old "home place." During our conversation, he told about how his family would load up the wagon and leave early in the morning before daylight to go into town. They'd stay a couple of hours and then start for home before dark. It was a day trip which allowed them about two hours in town to see things, talk to friends and make their purchases.
In the '60s it was about a 20 minute drive to the farm from town!
Thanks for the tip on the book.
Anyone having trouble obtaining a copy, contact me. I have a few copies at the house.