- Associated Press - Sunday, January 31, 2016

BEND, Ore. (AP) - Engine repairs are under way on what is believed to be Bend’s first car, in anticipation of bringing the early automobile out for the public to enjoy during Deschutes County’s centennial year.

The Holsman “motor buggy” arrived in Bend in 1907 and was shipped from Chicago by train to The Dalles.

The black vehicle was displayed at the former Deschutes Pioneer Museum on NW Greenwood Avenue after being donated by a local family in 1971. It has also been featured in exhibits at the Des Chutes Historical Museum in the former Reid School building.

The Deschutes County Historical Society board of directors decided last year to get the Holsman running again for events later this year celebrating the county centennial. The county was created on Dec. 13, 1916.

The first event will be June 4 at a Bend Elks game. The historical society also plans to bring it to car shows, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show and the Deschutes County Fair.

“It’s going on its own little tour,” said Kelly Cannon-Miller, executive director of the historical society. “We want to make sure we make it around the county.”

Few original Holsman automobiles remain today. The Holsman Automobile Company was based in Chicago and went out of business after less than a decade of production.

H.C. Ellis, the manager of the local telephone company that bought the Holsman, went to The Dalles to pick up the car. It took more than 24 hours to reach Bend, which included a five-hour break overnight to sleep, according to historical accounts.

Wade Bryant, an old car lover and owner of Wade Bryant’s Auto Repair & Service Center in Bend, is donating his time to restore the Holsman at his shop.

“I really enjoy it,” he said. “It’s an honor to be able to work on it. It’s a great piece of Bend history.”

Bryant said he believes the vehicle is about 90 percent original. The car’s engine hasn’t run for decades. Bryant has been working to bring it back to full power. The wood wheels will be sent to a South Dakota shop for a tuneup on the spokes. The only components that are not original are the hard rubber tires.

“It’s pretty well-preserved,” Bryant said. “Hopefully we can get it running.”

Bryant also worked to restore the Bend Fire Department’s original 1918 American LaFrance fire engine in 2013.

The Holsman’s two-cylinder engine and two-speed transmission could have gotten up to about 15 mph in its day, Bryant said. It can also go in reverse. The headlights are detachable and run on kerosene oil with a wick that had to be lit.

The design of the early car nearly resembles a horse-drawn carriage or buggy without the horse.

“When this would have come to town, it would have been the talk of the town,” Bryant said.

Bryant said the two-passenger Holsman was popular in rural areas. It was known as a “high wheeler,” able to withstand bumpy roads. On the trip from The Dalles, however, the leather fenders were ripped off on a rugged canyon trail.

Bryant has his own collection of old cars and grew up working on them. His grandfather worked at a Ford garage in John Day. Bryant, who is now 54, also remembers seeing the Holsman on display at the pioneer museum when he was 12.

The telephone company used the Holsman as a service vehicle. The ownership was transferred to E.A. Smith, an employee, in 1910 to settle a wage discrepancy. The car became a local attraction over the years and was brought to Central Oregon events by the Smith family. They eventually donated the car to the Deschutes County Pioneer Association. The association’s museum was combined with the historical society’s Des Chutes Historical Museum in 1980 because the county wanted to use the pioneer museum building as a law library. The Holsman has since been with the historical museum.

“It’s such a great artifact,” Cannon-Miller said. “It’s really fun to have this (centennial) event to share it more broadly.”

Cannon-Miller said the Holsman is one of the most appealing pieces of local history when the museum puts it on display.


Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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