Growing up in North Carolina, living with my nuclear family, I was separated by a thousand miles from the Grands, the uncles and cousins. It was hard to find out the real history of my ancestors. The one I remember that seemed to spark the most interest was my great grandfather Charles Crawford. They told me that he helped design the Stutz Bearcat. It seemed to be the pinnacle of his career. But I found out that he did much more than that.
After finding a few vintage auto parts here and there at yard sales, I discovered there was quite a bit of demand for them on ebay. After going to several car part auctions, I started to discover what sells and what does not. Doing this research and going through my hauls, I learned about what part fits what car, and what that car looked like, and so forth. This research led me to look into what my great grandfather had done in his day. I was able to get some information from my uncle Chuck what I had not heard before. Under my own further research I had found a number of patents under his name and some of the companies that he worked for.
He was a chief engineer for a company that made car parts like carburetors and so forth. He then worked for Cole Automobiles. Now it was Cadillac that built the first V8 engine. But it was him and Northway motors (A division of General Motors at the time), that helped design and build the second. After that, all of Cole’s motors were V8s. If you wanted the fanciest vehicle you could find in the teens, you either got a Cadillac, or a Cole. Later he worked for Stutz. Stutz had already built the Bearcat before he joined with them. But he brought the V8 to Stutz and then started building Super Bearcats. GM came knocking on his door after Stutz and he ran the Opal Factory in Germany for 5 years. Sadly, he passed away in 1935 after a battle with Pneumonia.
In the year 2014, I believe that his spirit came to me to give me a “Hello” to tell me more about himself.
A high priced auto auction was being held in South Carolina, and I thought it would be a worthwhile road trip to get out there and see if I can get some deals. The auction started going and I found myself surrounded by a bunch of auto professionals and collectors. It was going to be difficult to get any good deals.
One of the lots that came up was several file cabinet drawers full of Antique Automobile and Horseless Carriage Gazette magazines. They were from the 1950s to the 1990s. No one seemed interested. I won it all for $5. I figured I could sell those for $1 or 2 a piece. Nobody seemed to want to bother with them.
So, I took them home and found out that most of them were in very good condition and I was putting them in individual bags and a board behind them (like they do with comic books). I ran across one that was dated 1964. I found this one in particular, had sticky pages. So, I sat in front of the TV peeling the pages apart one by one almost through the entire magazine. The back section had personal ads in it and I came across a very peculiar one at random.
The 1964 ad said -Looking to buy a 1914 Cole – Charles Crawford Ellsworth – and it gave an address. I thought that was interesting – my great grandfather’s name was Charles Crawford – I wonder who this guy is. Hey – waiting a minute, isn’t my uncle Chuck’s last name Ellsworth? Must be, since that was my mother’s maiden name. Was this an ad that my uncle placed 50 years ago? Why was he looking for a 1914 Cole?
So, I got the number for my uncle Chuck and called him up. And I asked him if the ad was his. After a few minutes of recollection, he said it must have been his ad. He had been searching for a 1914 Cole. He asked me if I wanted to know why, and I said I did.
He told me that in 1913, there was a convoy of vehicles by a number of Indiana automakers that made a journey from Indianapolis to San Francisco. Great Grandfather took that journey in a brand new 1914 Cole. He ran a few days behind the main pack, but arrived only a few hours after the main pack got to San Francisco. There is actually a book on this journey that I found on Amazon. The journey was to encourage the building of paved roads. At that time, there were paved roads in the cities, but mostly dirt roads between the cities.
When he got there, he took the car apart to show how little damage had been done to the car after going on such a journey. He then put the car back together and then drove up to Canada, then drove through Canada and back down to Indiana. The trip was about 5000 miles.
Chuck told me that he actually did find someone who had a 1914 Cole. But when it was delivered to him, it was a pile of parts, and he did not have the skills to put it together. So he ended up selling it.