The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Growing Up On Tuggles Creek - The Horseless Carriage

By YKW © 1983

Issue: December, 1983

My father was a rural mail carrier, and usually came home late and tired from his dreary 27 miles of delivering mail on horse back or in a buggy. On this one particular afternoon, however, he came riding in at full gallop shouting at the whole family to come out and see the first “automobile” which of course we most eagerly did.

Down the meadow and right into the front yard came the man-made miracle, chugging loudly. It proved to be nothing more than a “carry-all” (which out west was known as a buckboard) with a spring seat up front and powered by a one cylinder gasoline engine which, I assume was something like the inboard engines used by fishermen. It was started by a “stick” in front of the spring seat. It had the original metal tires and wooden wheels and I suppose the rear wheels were driven by a chain from the gasoline motor, mounted on the bed of the carry-all. It may of had some sort of gear shifting device, I can’t remember but the brakes, I believe, were lever controlled wooden “brake shoes” common to all vehicles of that day.

The whole contraption was the work of the Cruise brothers, who lived a few miles from Stuart. It seems they were experimenting with it with the idea of getting a contract to carry the mail from Stuart to Meadows of Dan.

I think this must have been about 1910. I was much too young to remember all the details. I would like to claim this as the first horseless carriage but I’m sure that Henry Ford and many others had much more advanced automobiles by that date. However, it was original with the Cruise brothers, who deserve full credit for their invention. It must not have proven very practical, for the purpose designed because I don’t remember its being used very long.

Anyway, the Cruise brothers spent the night with us and next morning had a terrible time getting the thing started. But at last they succeeded and chugged away; leaving us with the distinction we had at least seen the fore runner of the great automobile age.