RAYMOND — The Northwest Carriage Museum in Raymond has announced the arrival of a 1892 Mitchell Farm Wagon. The Mitchell is in original condition, including paint, pin striping and seller logo. The museum is the third owner of this historic vehicle, receiving it from a family who had for sixty-one years and bought it from the original farmer who used it near Castle Rock. The restoration of this incredible piece of history was completed by museum Curator, Jerry Bowman. Mary Cooley, associate director at the museum, interviewed Bowman.
Can you tell us the history of the Mitchell Wagon?
The Mitchell Wagon Co. was based in Racine, Wisconsin and got its start around 1834. They built a variety of farm, freight, stage and spring wagons along with buggies, hitch wagons and delivery wagons. Officially, the company incorporated in 1855 and in 1864, owner Henry Mitchell joined forces with son-in–law William Lewis to from the Mitchell Lewis Wagon Co. Over the years, Mitchell/Lewis was very successful and in 1903 the company started making very elegant automobiles. By 1911, Mitchell/Lewis was Racine’s largest employer and was sold to the John Deere Co. who produced their wagons for several more decades.
How did you acquire the wagon?
Last year, our museum hosted a large Franklin Car Club group who was having their annual meeting in Long Beach. We had a great tour with over 100 people, one of which lived in Port Angeles and had the wagon. Several weeks after the tour, he contacted us to see if we had an interest. The wagon had been in his family for sixty-one years and they purchased it from the original owner who bought it in 1892 in Portland, Oregon.
What did you do to restore the wagon?
The wagon was in good shape considering its age and usage. After a good cleaning, all the metal was buffed using a wire wheel, the wood was gone over with a very fine steel wool and toothbrush using a turpentine solution. We were very careful to not harm the original paint which had oxidized over the years. The sideboards, because of the oxidation, were a turquoise color, after restoration, they are now a dark green with pin striping and the original seller logo coming through. The running gear and wheels were white. Using the same process, they are now orange with blue pins tipping. After the striping process, the entire wagon was carefully painted with a linseed oil and turpentine solution. This process is how we restore the original colors.
Did you need to rebuild some parts?
There was damage to the toe board and rear tailgate. These pieces were replaced and two new original box rods had to be found in Texas. We also did some repair to the brake, had to re-bend some metal and reconnect the beam to the hanger brackets.
Why does the original seller name say Mitchell, Lewis and Staver?
Henry Mitchell’s son, William got the west coast itch and opened an office in Portland, Oregon in the mid 1850’s. He sold Mitchell Lewis wagons which were shipped from Racine. In 1879, George Staver started the Staver Walker Co. in Portland and sold wagons, carriages and farm implements. In 1891, after the death of Willis Walker, Staver/ Walker merged with Mitchell/Lewis and became Mitchell,Lewis and Staver. In 1929, Mitchell, Lewis and Staver merged with several other companies and primarily focused on farm and irrigation equipment. That company still exists today.
Any other information you’d like to share?
During the restoration process, we found stenciled writing on the running gear which said Jacobson and Sandy Bend. In doing research with the family we got the wagon from, we found that Jacobson was the family name of the original farmer who bought the wagon in 1892 and Sandy Bend is an area about three mile from Castle Rock where both farms were located. Amazing history!
Is the museum still looking for more vehicles?
Actually, because of our reputation around the country, these vehicles find us now. I get numerous calls every month from all over the county regarding restoration and historical information. We are able to refer people to various contacts for parts, wheelwrights, etc. Many of these calls turn into donations for the museum. Our museum opened in 2002 with 21 vehicles. With the Mitchell wagon now on display, we currently have 51 vehicles in the museum. 52 and 53 are currently in my shop. Our museum is recognized as one of the finest collections in the country and people visit from all over the world. We have become one of the largest destination points for travelers to the Pacific Northwest. We are so proud to be keeping history alive and helping the local economy at the same time.
The Northwest Carriage Museum is open daily year around from 10am to 4pm. Group tours have become a specialty. The museum was recently featured on Travel Channel’s “Mysteries at the Museum”. Contact www.nwcarriagemuseum.org or call 360-942-4150.