My granddad was born back before the turn of the century and courted my grandmother in a horse and buggy, then owned one of the first automobiles in his neighborhood.

He would have probably just as soon stayed with the horse and buggy, but when he proposed to my grandmother, a car was one of her stipulations before she would agree to be his bride. Another hot request that was high on her wish list was a honeymoon.

Well, he apparently agreed, because they were married in a Christian ceremony in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve 1917, then immediately departed in their brand-new automobile for their honeymoon.

My granddad said they decided to drive south as far as they could go that day and then get a hotel room. A good day’s drive was only about as far south as Harrisonville. After breakfast in the hotel dinning room the next morning, they headed back to the farm in Eastern Jackson County for the evening chores, and that was their honeymoon.

My granddad was not the first Tin Lizzie owner in Jackson County by a long shot; they had been around for quite sometime before he started courting my grandmother in a horse and buggy. They had been on the streets of Kansas City for several years before one was owned by anyone in Eastern Jackson County. Probably the first automobile that tooled around on the muddy roads of Independence was a homemade one, built by a mechanical genius named Elwood Haynes. Elwood built a single-cylinder engine experimental car in 1894, and a couple of years later he formed a company to build cars with the Epperson Brothers, the Haynes-Epperson Company.

A man named A.E. Elliott got lucky in 1908 when he won one of those first Haynes Epperson with a four-dollar raffle ticket in Kansas City. The “putt-mobile” he won was a later model than that original one and it had a whopping “two-cylinder” engine. It sounded like someone shooting off a double barrel shotgun every morning when he started out from his home at 622 S. Crysler. He created more excitement in town than a good house fire when he drove up Lexington Avenue, around the Square to his lumber yard in that first block east of the courthouse.

Another raffle winner the following year in 1909 was young George Bryant Jr., the son of Professor George S. Bryant, principal of Independence High School from 1901 to 1915. Needless to say, Junior had a blast with his four-dollar raffle ticket. He won a No. 10 Buick and was suddenly the most popular cat in town.

The first commercial vehicle in Eastern Jackson County was a one-cylinder Cadillac bus owned by Clayton Montgomery, running between Blue Springs and Independence carrying passengers on the 12-mile trip down the old Blue Springs Road, which took about forty minutes.

By the time I came along, my granddad drove a green 1949 Chevy pickup. I can remember as a young lad, riding out to the farm with him – seven miles – it was a major trip for him, but it had no heater and no radio. My granddad was a whistler though, and he would whistle all the way home at about 25 miles an hour – tops.

I remember one Saturday afternoon when I had just barely turned 15. My granddad said “Teddy, you’re about 16, now aren’t you?”

“Well, I will be next year.”

“Oh, Lordy my son – your mother will have you all buried by then. I think I need to teach you how to drive.”

So, we spent the rest of that afternoon teaching me how to drive out in the alfalfa field.

Reference: “Jackson County Pioneers,” by Pearl Wilcox.

Reach Ted W. Stillwell at or 816-896-3592.