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Cornelius Wilcox's Buggy Works, 36 Harrison Street, Sunbury
Carriages, Tractors, Food
Cornelius Wilcox (1844-1911), son of Crandall and Mary Wilcox, manufactured buggies and wagons at 36 Harrison Street in the large frame building pictured above. Little is found in the history books about him but apparently his business was prosperous. He had a brother, James C., and a sister, Nannie, who stayed in Sunbury, a sister, Sarah C. Jacoby, who moved to Columbus. Cornelius married Margaret McAllister (1834-1923), daughter of Abdiel and Lucinda Tate McAllister, and had a son, McAllister Wilcox who lived in Columbus at the time of his father's death. The Wilcox home was on the northeast corner of Harrison and Columbus Streets
Next to Wilcox's business was a smaller stone building from which Edward A. Haller (1853-1931), carriage painter and trimmer, ran his business.
By 1903 Wilcox was in poor health and sold his business to The Williams Contractors Supply Company and moved to Columbus. I am not sure whether they manufactured the equipment or just sold it.
Meanwhile, John Williamson (1867-1940) and his sons, Vere (1889-1979) and Merle (1893-1967), purchased the implement and auto business on the east side of the square at 30 South Vernon Street from Jim Pace. They sold McCormick-Deering and International Harvester Tractors and farm equipment as well as Hudson, Essex, Studebaker and Chevrolet cars. While John sold automobiles, he never drove a car. The South Vernon Street business became known as V & M Williamson - Chevrolet Sales and Service.
The community was a prosperous farming community and merchants stayed open to accommodate the farmers. Williamson's businesses were open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. but on Saturday nights they stayed open till 11 or midnight if traffic warranted it. Chairs gathered around a wood burning stove in the showroom were seats for discussion (often heated) of politics, weather, economy, farm crops and even village gossip. By the late 1920's more people were interested in cars and the building was too crowded for both businesses.
In 1930 John Williamson moved the implement business to the large frame building at 36 Harrison Street. John's son, Carroll (1886-1973), joined in the implement business. In 1942, Chevrolet production was discontinued so Oliver Tractors, implements and Sherwin Williams paints were added to supplement the used car business on Vernon Street. The Harrison Street showroom was closed.
After the war, in 1946, Chevrolets were again manufactured and the showroom became the main item of business. Introductions of the new cars became a big deal. Absolutely no one but the dealer saw the new cars before the assigned date. The event became a big social event for lookers and buyers. I missed the showing but bought a 1961 Corvair from them as my first major purchase after college graduation.
While working with farm equipment, Carroll had an accident which resulted in the loss of his left leg above the knee. This ended his career with the implement business and he became Sunbury Postmaster in 1956 until his retirement.
Behind the building was the service garage. Terrific mechanics such as Larue Stith, Emmett Feasel, Lee Howard, Dave and "Shorty" Rosecrans were the first employees. Avery Belsford, Amos Manley, Harry Smith, Harry Gallegly, Ralph Metzger, Kenneth Link, Harry Haycook, John Meeker, Justin Lane, John Lane, Ed Lake and Milo Owens all worked there at some time. The Morris family was always there. Albert "Shorty" Morris began working for Williamsons in 1932 when Larue and Lee left to form their own business. When he moved to Columbus in the 1940's, his son Kenneth still worked in the shop until it closed. Kenneth's son, Bill, began working part time while in school then full time after graduation in 1958. He was still there when the plant closed. "Three generations - all excellent workers and dedicated employees," commented Frances Ruthig.
Luella Boston, Leta Curtis, Elizabeth Fuller, and Nancy Beacom Stockwell were the efficient bookkeepers through the years.
When General Motors began buying up small Chevrolet dealerships, Merle and Vere decided it was time to close. They sold the last cars in 1964. At that time they held the honor of the longest years of service among Chevrolet dealers in Ohio.
So what became of the buildings?. In 1946 Sunbury Locker opened in the frame building and in 1948 Townley-Main, Inc. (Mayor Cecil Townley and George Main) opened a self serve food market to compliment their lockers. Later an addition was added to house Townley-Main IGA. The stone building was the slaughter house for the locker and was removed during the IGA expansion. After Marshton Townley moved the Townley IGA to the Big Walnut Plaza, Big Walnut Automotive, Inc. moved into the store. Today it is being remodeled.
Since the Williamsons, 30 East Vernon Street has been owned the longest by Dr. Brian Dittenber, dentist. Scott Fodor's Fine Finishing and Sign Shop are in the former service garage behind Vernon Street.
Thanks to Francis Ruthig's article in Chapters in Community History for the Williamson history, the booklet, Picturesque Sunbury, and The Sunbury News for Wilcox information.
|Wilcox Buggy Works around 1900||Williams Machine||Threshing Machines in front of Williamson Showroom|
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