Waukesha Motor Company in Flint Michigan?      (added September 2011)

I ran across an interesting article in the February 1938 issue of the County Heritage, a monthly supplement to the Waukesha Freeman. According to the article, the Waukesha Motor Company almost ended up in Flint Michigan.


The article is the recollections of William P. Dunlap a Waukesha native who was born in the city in 1865 and was a druggist for many years before moving to Los Angeles, California in 1915 where he became the night manager of a hotel.


In 1938, Dunlap was back in the city visiting his sister and when he stopped at the Freeman for a courtesy call they asked him to tell them about the old days in the city. Dunlap's father was Dr. Robert Dunlap who owned the quaint house with the white picket fence around it on the corner of Main and Barstow Streets. The site later became a filling station and now Avalon Manor occupies the site.


Among William Dunlap's many recollections, he remembers an early 1909 chance conversation he had Samper Perkins, then the president of the Waukesha Motor Company. Perkins casually mentioned that the new motor company was going to leave Waukesha to go to Flint Michigan where they would be able to get the capital to finance the company and in fact he was to meet with a delegation from Flint at 12:30 the following day! Upon hearing this, Dunlap, a member of the merchants and manufacturing organization, knew something had to be done to keep the promising motor company from leaving the city. He asked Perkins if he would be willing to meet with the organization the following morning at 11:00 to see what they could do. Perkins was proud and independent and didn't want to beg from people he has known all his life, but agreed to meeting anyway.


That night Dunlap got on the phone and called members of the merchant's organization and they agreed to meet at Wilbur Lumber Company's office and from there proceed to the Waukesha Motor Company offices on nearby North Street. Among those who attended the meeting were, Conrad Haertle, spokesman; Matt Synder, Mayor; along with, George H. Wilbur, H. M. Youmans, A. J. Frame, W. P. Sawyer, William Sleep, E. R. Estberg, R. P. Breeze, John Gredler, Fred Abel, D. K. Zimmennan, Henry Blair, G. W. Tassell and Dunlap himself. Haertle asked Perkins what the company needed to stay in Waukesha. Perkins said the company needed 9 acres of land, 5 saw tooth buildings 150 feet in length and money so they could capitalize for $150,000. The group decided that they could come up with the money and would guarantee the other things specified. When the committee from Flint arrived at 12:30, Perkins told them that they were a half-hour late and the company had just decided to stay in Waukesha and that the deal was off. Perkins offered to pay their travel expenses and take them out to lunch. The Flint committee refused the offer for travel expenses, explaining that their association of commerce sent them, but they graciously accepted the offer for lunch.


Soon the Julius Reese property was purchased on St. Paul Ave. In late 1909, the Waukesha Motor Company moved from it cramped plant in the old woolen mill store and warehouse building on North Street to its new plant on Factory Street, off of St. Paul Ave., down along the Milwaukee Road and Chicago & Northwestern RR tracks.


Had Waukesha Motor Company moved to Flint, Michigan it most likely would have been eventually gobbled up by the automotive industry and would be long gone. Instead, a chance conversation in a drug store led to what is now the Waukesha Engine Division, a company with an impressive record in the internal combustion engine industry.



Oct 2002

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