One of the reasons I like old cars in general, and Ford's in particular, is the relationship with history. We have the opportunity to "touch" history in a way few others do.
It seems surprising, but some of the first Ford owners were veterans and survivors of the War Between the States. This is one of them. The Ford information is limited, but the Civil War background remarkable. John Neller's Minnesota Regiment saw action first in the Indian conflicts, then in Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. One tenth of the Regiment perished at Andersonville:
Not only do these vehicles offer a historic "connection", driving them can often lead to people
coming out of the woodwork who can relate some great history of their own.
I like all sorts of old stuff. If it's 1860-1960 Americana, I am into it. In one such pursuit, I dig
old privies for bottles, looking especially for locally marked pieces or stuff with a local connection.
A few years back, I stumbled onto this place:
Stopping at nearby farms, I was able to determine who owned the property and get permission
to dig. But in the process, learned that the house was abandoned right after WW2 when the original
owner finally died. And while the house once had phone service, it was never wired for electricity.
Lighting was achieved with an acetylene system. But the fun connection to this discussion, was
that the fellow never did own a car, and kept to his horse and buggy to the end. He proudly told
everyone he could that he had voted for Lincoln.
Thanks Rob for MN history.My Grandmothers Grandfather fought in the Civil war and one of his Brothers was captured and escaped.Col Colvil Famous leader Of 1 st MN whom made a gallant charge @ Gettysburg is buried in Cannon Falls MN just 12 miles from my home.
"Mr. Neller says he has been walking around for the past three years and he is getting tired of it."
This about says it all doesn't it?
I once read that those born before 1875 as a rule were not interested in driving. Those born after were the ones that were. This is probably true. Discussion?
There was a 17 touring on ebay a few years back with copies of the original title and a photo of the first owner who was said to be a civil war vet. Made a greater incentive to buy, but I did not.
The Civil War was 50 years behind them in 1915. If your average soldier of that conflict
was 20 at the time, they were at least 70 years old by the time Henry really got to pumping
out his T's.
How many people take up a wholly new and different transportation technology after the
age of 70, even today ? Also, one cannot underrate how large of a jump it was from horses
and our own two feet to a personal mechanical device. It was the first time ever for humans
to do so. Not like some minor adjustment in travel tech it might seem from our modern
I have said many times that the "greatest single generational leap, both technologically and sociologically, was the approximately 30 years from the mid 1890s to the mid 1920s. NO OTHER hundred years in all of human history saw such a drastic change in how the majority of human beings lived their lives (and the things they knew about)."
Yes, the information, electronics and control systems developments of the past 90 years is tremendous. But try backpacking in a true wilderness for a month and then tell me how all that compares to modern city life in 1927.
Lots more great stuff Rob! That has been one of the things I have said about model Ts for a long time. They, better than almost anything else, help connect their caretakers to their own history in ways that helps them to understand their own place in the universe.
My own connection with the (so-called) Civil War was that my great great grandfather was one of the survivors of the riverboat Sultana explosion at the end of that war. He had been captured, and spent a year in the Cahaba POW camp and was being returned home on the Sultana when it blew up.
I often think about him, his life, and the choices he made. And the fact that he lived long enough to see the automobile come about.
Thank you Rob, and Burger, and all.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
On my father's side, everyone was still Canadian at the time of the Civil War and for another 40 years afterward, but my great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather on my mother's side (father and son) joined the Confederate Army in Arkansas. My great-grandfather was captured by Union forces at a battle in (I believe) Tennessee and was taken north as a prisoner. At some point, he was given a choice between remaining a prisoner or joining the Union Navy at the Great Lakes Naval Station. He opted for the Navy, so he actually ended up serving on both sides.
My great grand dad and his two brothers enlisted in New York state. He broke a leg during a charge and was mustered out. His two brothers were captured and spent several months in Andersonville. One brother was so hungry when he was released he overate, ruptured his stomach and died. My GGD moved to Michigan I am thinking to buy some land with his pension. I have his cane he got when he attended the civil war vets reunion in Washington, DC..
The Deweys were mostly involved in providing machining services to the armies (revolutionary and civil), gunsmiths, etc. although from what I can gather my 8 greats back grandfather Joshia Dewey fought with Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys. Still have to double-check that info.
Wayne, the Sultana disaster is legendary amongst riverboaters. Unfortunately in 2008 Sen James Oberstar used the disaster as a reason to deny the exemption bill to allow the Delta Queen steamboat to operate from ever reaching the floor for a vote. This despite the fact that the Delta Queen has completely different boilers and safer technology; in other words apples & oranges. That disaster was caused by over-firing the boilers with the safety valves tied down, and having two times the normal passenger load on board. Your Grandfather was one of the lucky ones; his stories, if he told them would have been fascinating.
My Grandmother was born in 1890, I was always amazed that she had gone from horse & buggy to men in space, and could accept it all.
That was called being a "galvanized Yankee" by the Southerners. From the window in Iowa where I am typing this, I can almost (well, not really) see the Confederate cemetery just across the Mississippi River in the Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, which opened "for business" in December, 1863. Towards the end of the war, prisoners were offered a similar choice as you mentioned: remain a prisoner or swear allegiance to the Union and be sent west to fight Indians. From what I have read, there were numerous takers, but they had be segregated from the hard-core Confederate prisoners, who kept trying to talk them out of their decision. There is a wonderful (?) Confederate cemetery there with close to 2,000 graves of southern boys, who never made it home again. Little Confederate flags used to be put on their graves on Memorial Day when I was growing up. 'Dunno if they still do it. Our next-door neighbor is invited every year to attend the Memorial Day ceremonies at the cemetery because he has a relative from the State of Mississippi buried there.
I know this off Model T subject matter, but I often think about what the veterans of that war must have thought going into the 20th Century with its cars (model T's), airplanes, motion pictures, radio, telephones, and so forth, so far removed from what they had known during the Civil War, only one or two generations removed. What a lightning pace of advancement American history enjoyed during the years between 1890 and 1910! It boggles the mind how those grizzled old Civil War veterans had to adapt to those "new-fangled" contraptions. We in modern times have only known refinements of these inventions. They had to accept and learn to live with those inventions as they were introduced into their lives! WOW!!!
Wayne, you are absolutely right. I've said the same thing many-a-time about how absolutely amazingly exciting the level of progress in those 30 years was. It had to be mind boggling.
And Rob, that was some pretty cool stuff too.
Burger, too bad that somehow that neat old house couldn't be preserved as a museum to Americana history. Won't be long and it'll be a pile of dust, or ashes as some punk will torch it for the thrill.
I spend a lot of time lamenting how America collectively trashes it's history. That
property is SO cool, .... yet what America wants today is cul-de-sacs and gated
communities, not some rustic place that is a 15 minute drive from town. How
inconvenient is THAT ???
I am the guy that continuously looks at old maps, scours Google Earth, always
searching for the old road or homestead/ranch to explore. I am terminally fascinated
with that late 19th, early 20th century world of social mores, technology, and the
every day way of life the rapidly rising American "commoner" lived.
Driving a TT is like a golden key to finding others who share this interest and want
to share their own great stories. When I pull into some farm yard and ask a few questions,
the response is nothing like what I would get if I showed up in my modern iron.
Great comments and stories guys. There is something about stitching history together that has always appealed to me. While life in the teens, twenties (choose the decade) is interesting in itself, when one considers the overlap of generations, it brings the patchwork of history alive. In other words, not only are our cars products of a certain year and the events of that period, some of the people who owned, drove and cherished them had experiences as far back as the Civil War.
Burger, great place, it's a shame it's probably seen it's best days.
Warren, one exception I would make about cars being predominately owned by those born after 1875. My prime example is Henry Ford (or put in names like Olds, Haynes, Leland, etc.). Henry Ford was born in 1863. I think due to the expense of very early cars (1910 and earlier), most cars were owned by wealthy men who were probably middle aged or older. Just my take. However, I agree, when the automobile reaches the masses, in the late teens and twenties, I suspect your right.
Thanks for the comments and pics,
Burger, you and I area lot alike! Thanks for that cool gas station pic too! It's got my wife's maiden name on it! Have to use that for my wallpaper pic.
While it may be true that many or most people born before 1870 didn't drive cars, I can think of two exceptions other than Henry Ford. Ford's pal Edison, of course, and Wyatt Earp, who also drove a Model T. Annie Oakley died from injuries inflicted by a car wreck, but I don't know if she drove.
Sometimes I point out to people the brevity of US history by telling them I have known somebody who lived when there were still people born before there was a United States of America. Grandma was born in 1873. Were there any 100-year-old Americans then? Sure. And of course they were born before 1776.
My dad was born before the Wright brothers' first flight, and remembered his little town's first car and saw the first plane to fly there. I'm still kicking myself over all the things I should have asked him.
Rob you are probably right , My great uncle and aunt were married in 1912 . We have great picture of them posing in there new Sears buckboard after the wedding . Uncle John born in 1890 road with me in most of the parades here for years in many different Model t 's through the years . Our last parade together was in my TT truck that was in 1990 . I tear up as I remember the good times we had in those old Model T's . I have a picture of us in a T in one of the parades I would post if I new how . Perry
If you email the pic I'll post it.
rob4holly at sign hotmail.com
There is even the occasional odd case such as Huguette Clark, who died in 2011, and her father was born in 1839. She was 18 at the time he died, so she had the chance to know him. There are still a few individuals out there that have a direct link reaching far back into the past.
We were never sure what year my great grandmother was born. But it was early to mid 1870s. I was about 20 when she died at almost 100. She did ride in, but never drove a car. She hitched up wagons and buggies and drove horses until WWII when my great grandfather passed away and she moved into town for the remainder of her life and no longer needed the horses.
She was about six when her mother died, and she ran the house the rest of her life. First, she did all the housekeeping and cooking for her father and older brothers while they worked the ranch. She married when she was young and had a family of her own, two boys, two girls, including my father's mother. She raised them all, and helped run the cattle ranch in North-eastern Nevada. Early in the depression years, my father's mother became ill, and was unable to continue caring for him. So she also cared for, fed, and raised my father. This powerful woman, who had barely ever attended school herself, also put him through college.
It always amazed me, the world she saw.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
That's a mission-oriented woman who knew what needed to be done. Oo-rah !
I've told this story before, but it never gets old ...
Mr. Moore lived up the road, where we moved in 1969. I was 8. He had a great
grandson roughly the age of my brother and I, so we had access to the old man and
I got to know him a little deeper than I might have otherwise. Born in 1883, he lived
to see 105 in good health.
He told the story of seeing his first automobile in 1905. Born in 1883, he would have
been well into adulthood. It was at night, and he described this loud, chugging thing
with lights on it coming down a country road his way. He said it scared him to the point
every hair on his body stood on end. He retreated off the road into a meadow and
watched this thing pass, he has no idea what it was.
Later, when in town, he told the story and was informed by someone there that it was
so-and-so and their "automobile".
Just as an anecdotal side bit, John Moore spent his life as a logger and spar topper,
working his way into the steam railroad end and retiring out as an engineer at age 70.
Another case of I wish I had him here now (with my own presence of mind) to ask a
thousand questions !
In spite of the unspeakable carnage of the Civil War, there were still instances of official chivalry. I had a great-grandfather on the union side. When the war broke out, he had been courting a woman in the south. He was given a pass to go through the lines and bring her back north to be married. He swore on his honor to reveal nothing of northern strengths or intentions, and the rebs swore they wouldn't ask. Imagine this happening with the third reich, or ISIS.
Mary Litogot Ford Mother of Henry Ford had three brothers Saffarius , Barney and John . When the draft came in the Civil War brother John served in place of Andrew Threadgould for the sum of $1000.00 . These kind of contracts were common .John was in Company K of the Twenty Fourth Michigan infantry . On Dec 12th he was killed at the first battle of Fredericksburg Va. Barney fought all through the war and came home safe. At home Saffarius wife left hem and marred Andrew Threadgould . Perry
From Perry reference a post earlier.
"Uncle Houston ,aunt Sadie,granddad Andis back row,uncle John sitting in chair in front of log cabin around 1900 "
Thanks Rob for posting the pictures . I worked for the City Of Burnet for 32 years and uncle John was stell cutting grass for the city at 99 .
I've read in several sources that Henry Ford believed in reincarnation, but I've only seen one source for his belief that he himself was the reincarnation of a civil war soldier killed in the battle of Gettysburg, only weeks before he was born; "A Distant Thunder, Michigan in the Civil War" by Richard Bak.
Attn: Rob Heyen
I looked up the 1909 Minnesota registration for John L. Neller of Austin (1909 was the first year of state issued Minnesota license plates).
It lists a Ford Model N runabout, serial #5685, Minnesota plate #4344.
The news article didn't specify the model (so I didn't in the thread). It does say Mr. Neller bought a "Ford runabout.......which won the endurance record at Detroit."
This is clearly referring to the June 1907 24 hour record set by a Model K. However, two Model R also participated, and finished in good time, so I wasn't sure of the model.
Thank you for finding the registration and clearing up the model this Civil War veteran owned (unless h owns both an N and K, which I highly doubt). More pieces of the puzzle fall in place.....
"He took a fancy to the Ford runabout at the state fair which won the endurance record at Detroit. So he bought a machine and came down from the cities in it on Saturday."
My father and I have found only nine Model K Fords registered in Minnesota in 1909. None of those registrations include Mr. Neller. (I emailed a list of those registrations to you a while back.)
Do we know that the 9 K registered are the only K that may have been in Minnesota? If so, we still don't know how many may have been owned/operated in 1906, 07 or 08. I believe we have found other Model K owned by Minnesotan's not included in the group you sent.
Finally, this thread did not reference Model K, because I didn't know for sure (although the article suggested it was the same Ford model that won the Detroit contest). What I did believe, and now know, was that this Civil War veteran did indeed own a Ford runabout.
Now that we have an engine number, a quick review of Trent Boggess' early Ford database reveals this Model N went to Northwestern Auto of Minneapolis, 7/12/1907:
A quick example. I looked for about ten minutes, and found a Model K not on the registration list you so kindly sent. A Mr. Williams is reported having his six cylinder Ford repaired in Duluth. Obviously there are many things we don't know about Mr. Williams and this Model K (although I bet I will find some information). I suspect registration records, as with many archives from the turn of the last century, are incomplete, missing,mand in some cases, simply incorrect. I do however, suspect there was indeed a Model K owned by Mr. Williams in a garage in Duluth in July, 1909, even though his name is not included among the nine Model K owners as of 1909.
Make that ten Model K.....
(Message edited by Rob on February 24, 2016)
He could have lived next door in Superior, Wisconsin.
When we search the Minnesota registration ledgers, we go line by line. We do not have the luxury of doing digital searches. It is possible that we may have missed some registrations. I would say the ledgers in and of themselves are very complete.
Mr. Williams could have been from Superior. At that time, there was an aerial tram which was the predecessor to the lift bridge. The tram was large enough that automobiles were actually carried over the channel between Duluth, MN and Superior, WI.
It is also possible that Mr. Williams was D.A. Willard of Duluth who owned a Model K touring serial #563. He was a prominent resident (I believe he was involved in the grain trade) and was the treasurer of the Duluth Automobile Club in 1907. When researching published printed sources, such as newspapers and directories, I have seen typos perhaps caused by the typesetter trying to decipher handwriting.
In any event, if there are some Minnesota Model K owners in Minnesota that we missed, if we have their names we can look the owner up in the alphabetical listing in the ledger which gives the plate number, and then look up the plate in the full listing which will list the automobile.
My dad researching a registration ledger during one of our many misadventures in Minnesota automotive history
I appreciate you and your dad's efforts. Hand searching is a lenghty, yet rewarding process and we all benefit from the time and work you both have contributed.
Unfortunately, many trails I follow turn into dead ends. However, often, a little more information turns up from some unexpected source and the trail continues.
Thank you again for both your time and effort tracking down early MN automobile owners.
Another quick note. Two of the Duluth K owners who appear on the registration list you sent:
It's not often one is able to corroborate two car records with one news article, but that appears to be the case here. Although the registration list last name is spelled a little different, I would guess "C. A. Mollenhauer" is the same owner listed on the registration list you sent, listed as "R. A. Mollenhammer."
This article brings up the next issue, were both Model K having the transmissions replaced with selective gear tranny's because the 2 speed was the K weak spot? Or, does this speak well of the Model K that it is being upgraded and maintained in mid-1909.
Is the glass half full, or half empty?
Mollenhauer is probably the correct spelling. We are at the mercy of the handwriting of the clerks who recorded the registrations in the ledgers so sometimes we decipher it incorrectly when we are taking notes.
The reason for the selective transmission may be due to the terrain of Duluth which is sometimes referred to the San Francisco of the North or Midwest. Lots of hill climbing which can make operating an early automobile a real challenge. Maybe Roy Baldwin wanted an intermediate gear between low and high or perhaps an extra low, low gear.
Also, I need to correct my earlier post. The aerial tram and lift bridge merely connects to the Park Point neighborhood of Duluth, not Superior, WI.