Monday, June 21, 2010

Amanuensis Monday- First Automobile in Haverhill, Massachusetts

Notice: If you are reading this on, you are reading copyrighted material taken from my blog without my permission.

A White Steam automobile,
photographed at the Heritage Museum, Sandwich, Massachusetts

William Henry Wilkinson, my 2nd cousin 4x removed, born 3 January 1850 in Effingham, New Hampshire and died 12 January 1934 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He was married three times, first on 29 December 1870 to Emma Hayden in Great Falls, New Hampshire, second on 9 September 1888 to Estelle V. Saunders in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and third on 7 March 1922 to Alice F. Tilton in Nashua, New Hampshire. He had three children, Millie, Harry and Edward. William Henry Wilkinson was the son of Rufus Wilkinson and Catherine Bunker.


NEWSPAPER ARTICLE, Haverhill Gazette, dated unknown
William H. Wilkinson Brought Stanley Steamer in 1898

“When and by whom was the first automobile owned in Haverhill? This simple question appeared in the Questions Box editor and requesting the readers to assist him.
Readers responded promptly with clues and tips that led to identifying William Henry Wilkinson, 36 Green Street, a retired machinist, as the first Haverhill owner of an automobile.
He brought the machine, a Stanley Steamer, to this city in the spring of 1898. Mr. Wilkinson, when questioned about the machine, was unable to give the exact date of the purchase. He said that he had saved the bill of sale but could not located it among his old papers when he searched for it after reading the questions in the Questions Box.
Porter C. Croy, 23 Newcomb street, who brought the second automobile to this city, however, confirmed the theory that Mr. Wilkinson was the first owner.
Mr. Wilkinson purchased the machine after he had been to an automobile exhibition in Boston. It was the 10th Stanley steamer to be built. Mr. Wilkinson was employed in the W. W. Spaulding shoe factory at the time and also conducted a machine shop.
Mr. Croy, substantiating the fact that Mr. Wilkinson owned the first automobile in this city, said that Mr. Wilkinson got his car on a Monday and that he got his car on Wednesday. The purchase, said Mr. Croy, were made in the spring of 1898. Mr. Croy also brought a Stanley steamer.”


First car roared through city 100 years ago
By Julianne Bloise
Eagle-Tribune Writer

“HAVERHILL -- Exactly 100 years ago today, two unidentified men from Derry, N.H., whizzed through the city for the first time in a new contraption many had never seen before -- a car.

It traveled down Broadway, through Winter Street, up Main Street and onto Kenoza Avenue, attracting dozens of curious onlookers who ran out into the street after it, said Gregory H. Laing, special collections director at the Haverhill Public Library.

'' . . . And it broke down near Kaulback's Florist on Amesbury Road,'' said Mr. Laing, reading from an 1898 article in The Haverhill Gazette.

Two buckets of water were all that was needed to fix ''the auto,'' as the newspaper called it, and the unidentified Derry men went home. But it was more than one year later before the first Haverhill resident claimed one of the ''autos'' as his own.

''There was always some controversy and confusion over who had the first car,'' said Mr. Laing. ''Because there were two men who bought them at the same time.''

William H. Wilkinson and Porter C. Croy both attended a car show in Boston's Mechanics Hall on Oct. 5, 1899 and each purchased a Stanley Steamer, made in Newton, Mass.

Mr. Wilkinson drove his back to Haverhill that day, taking about two hours to get home. Mr. Croy had his shipped to the city by train, where it arrived two days later, said Mr. Laing.

Mr. Wilkinson made history a second time that day. As he was pulling up to his house at 38 Green St., he crashed into the white fence -- and had to send the car back to Boston for repairs.

''I find it interesting the first car accident in Haverhill was made in the first hour by the first driver of the first-owned car,'' said Mr. Laing.

Stanley Steamers had a wagon-shaped body over four wheels, which people climbed up into. They were two-seaters and did not have tops. Mr. Wilkinson's was the 10th Stanley Steamer to be built, said Mr. Laing.”


Family Tree Information:

Generation 1- Our immigrant ancestor, Thomas Wilkinson (abt 1690 England – bef. 1739) and Elizabeth Caverly (b. abt 1696, Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

Generation 2- James Wilkinson (abt 1730 – abt 1800, Berwick, Maine) and Hannah Mead (1730-1759)

Generation 3- Daniel Wilkinson (1759 – abt 1850) and Hannah Weymouth (abt 1772, South Berwick, Maine – 1845, Effingham, New Hampshire)

Generation 4 – Rufus Wilkinson (abt 1800, South Berwick – 1868) and Catherine Bunker (1806 Durham, New Hampshire – 1874)

Generation 5 – William Henry Wilkinson (1850, Effingham – 1934, Haverhill, Massachusetts)

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Hi, For more information on steam cars check out The Steam Car Club of Great Britain web site at the car in your picture is a White steam car not a Stanley Steamer, regards, Jeff.

  2. Thanks Jeff! We thought we had photographed the Stanley- thanks for the correction!

  3. I love pictures of old cars. Thank you!

  4. Thanks for posting such an interesting article and accompanying info -- Would love to share this with the Haverhill History group on Facebook.

    1. Susan G., I can post it on Facebook but I can't find your group. If you would like to post it, please link back to Nutfield Genealogy. ~ Heather Wilkinson Rojo