Souvenirs of Yesteryear: Low-Down Wagon Works

“You low-down, dirty, shiftless skunk” is a hostile accusation I remember from old movies and comic books. So upon first hearing of the Low-Down Wagon, I thought it was a derogatory description. Not so. Several Earlville residents gave me the real lowdown.

The Low-Down Wagon has its floor down low, close to the ground, between the wheels. Regular wagons have their floors at the level of the axles or higher. Drivers of regular wagons have to climb up to get aboard and step, or leap, down to get off, no big deal for ordinary usage. However, for door-to-door delivery, such as for a milkman, this could be a strenuous, and even forbidding, way to earn a living. The knees would be the first to go.

Earlville native, John Reese Parsons (1856-1950) invented the Low-Down Wagon and patented it in 1887. In 1889, Edson (Edison?) Woodworth and DeForest A. Wilcox fabricated the first commercial Low-Down Wagon. Wilcox was the owner of the grist and saw mill built by William Felt in 1839. He partnered with Parsons and in 1891 began selling wagons.

The Parsons Low-Down Wagon Works was sold to J.D. Mires in 1907. In 1908 a steam driven dynamo was installed to produce electricity for the village. In 1932 part of the building caught fire. The Wagon Works went out of business shortly before World War II, according to Roy Gallinger in his 1965 book, “Oxcarts Along The Chenango”, page 154. In the mid 1950s, the building and grounds were used by Howard Close as a Massey-Harris tractor dealership. In 1957-58 John Ritter turned it into a dance hall and skating rink.

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