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Home Made Automobile Built Nearly 30-Years Ago (1928)
Designed & home-made by Henry Williamson.

1928: Article. (Contributed by Alan Flood - Dec., 2006)

The Bay City Sunday Times - May 27, 1928.

30-Year-Old Car, Built In Bay City, Still Functions.

Here stands Bay City's oldest automobile. The passengers and spectators include John Glockaine, Anton Zucker, Arthur Jordan and Frank Gust.

Look closely, and you will see that this isnít a buggy without it shafts. Itís an automobile born and bred in Bay City. The precise date of its creation is obscure,but reports have it that a man named Williamson made this motor car in his local machine shop 30 years ago.

It appears that this man was Henry Williamson, manager of Joseph Williamsonís machine shop at 116-118 North Water street. Perhaps he constructed this horse-less wagon to test his skill in his craft. The thing from top to bottom is his own design. Even now, the automobile stands as it was then, except that a Ford carburetor has been installed.

Most of the engineering is confined to the motor. It is peculiarly unique, but it goes. In the picture of the rig, you will see a sort of hood at the front end; under this the motor rests. Only a little tinkering was required to start the engine, and then some tuning was done by mechanics at the Home Garage, 1206 Columbus avenue.

There are no stream lines to the body, and Fisher didnít build it. Williamson did all that in his machine shop. Much like a buggy, it diverges from the general run only enough to meet the necessity of installing working parts. The wheels are leathered tires, strips being nailed into the wood.

Connecting the motor driveshaft and the back wheels is a chain working on sprokets, obviating the present day transmissions and rear axles.

The brakes work on the shaft which carries the drive chain. The device is a band of leather, much like a pulley, which tightens on the drive shaft as one steps on the pedal.

To start the motor, a person turns on the motor oiling system. Several thin lines of copper run to critical spots in the motor, carrying oil force into them by gravity to the thirsty spots. There is an ignition switch on the dashboard. Taking a small crank, the motorist steps to the side of the motor car, back of the rear wheels, and fits it on, gives a few turns, and the engine roars.

The gear shift at the side of the automobile can be seen in the picture. There are two speeds ahead and one reverse. The clutch is of special design.

For many years the car ran the streets, it is said, but for the past 18 years it has been stored in a barn at Eleventh and Jefferson streets. Two young men, Arthur Jordan, 218 North Sherman street and Thomas Callahan, 213 North Madison avenue, obtained the car several weeks ago, but were unable to put it into operation. The Home Garage lent a hand, and has negotiated to buy the relic.

Excerpt from biography of William Williamson. (Added Apr., 2009)

The History of Saginaw and Bay counties, Michigan, 1892

Page 949.

William Williamson is the seventh in order of birth of eight children, all of who are living. One brother, Henry, is a machinist at Bay City. When the subject of our sketch was about seven years of age he went to make his home with an older sister, Mrs. Philo Chrystler, and in 1859 when eleven years old he came to Saginaw with the family, but remained with them only two years, and at thirteen years of age bgan to be self-supporting. His first work was in the Glasby stave mill, which was locate where Lee's planing mill now stands. The following winter he cut cord-wood at fifty cents per cord, paying $2.50 per week for his board and cutting six chord of wood in the same time. He later secured a position as fireman of a tug ont the river.

In the blacksmith shop of his brother Henry our subject in his fifteenth year began to learn the trade, and worked for this brother six and a half years. The value of his labors steadily advanced until he was enabled to lay enough by to make a payment on the business. His labor was at first heaving blacksmithing for mills and the salt works and ship work. He employed two or three men. The purchase was made in July, 1870, and two years later he built his present two-story brick shop. In 1875 he added steam power for heavy-work, and some four years later put in an outfit of machinist tools. about 1881 he erected his present one-story building for a blacksmith shop, at the same time adding an adjoining wagon shop. He built a storehouse upon his place which is 30x75 feet in dimensions.

Addition notes:

  • 1886 Polk Directory, Bay City:
    Joseph Williams, blacksmith business, located at 116 N. Water steet. The business is listed under Blacksmiths and Furniture Mfrs. & Dealers.
    Directory listing of workers associated with this business were:
    • Darlington, Charles: resides at 312th St.
    • Williamson, Albert F. (machinist): boards N.E. cor. 11th & Jeffereson.
    • Williamson, Henry (manager): resides 503 11th st.
    • Williamson, Jospehine (blacksmith): Resides N.E. cor. 11th & Jefferson.
Subject Notes
None a this time.
People Referenced
Callahan, Thomas
Darlington, Charles
Glockaine, John
Gust, Frank
Jordan, Arthur
Williamson, Abert F.
Williamson, Henry
Williamson, Josephine
Zucker, Anton
Subjects Referenced
Bay City, MI
Ford carburetor
Glasby stave mill
Lee plaining mill
Machine shop
Motor oiling system
Saginaw, MI
Williamson blacksmith shop
Related References
None at this time.
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.