“One of the highly successful buggy manufacturing concerns in the region prior to the Civil War.”
City Directories and History: Early 20th century – M.C. Willis, 1958 and 1966 – Lynn H. Smith
Mr. Burrett Truman Wheeler (6/13/1813 – 7/18/1886), born in Conn., was one of York County’s highly respected businessman who dominated the carriage industry for decades. His interest included the Wheeler Buggy Company (Carolina Buggy Co.), but also interest in others including businesses in Rock Hill. In the late 1850’s, Mrs. Ann White from Rock Hill, S.C. purchased a buggy from Wheeler for a fee of $525., a very expensive carriage that she was able to acquire due to having inherited a sum of money from her New York City brother Hiram Hutchison.
In 1850 Mr. Wheeler has created a large industrial complex in York and by 1854 is employing up to thirty-five artisans to build approximately 175 carriages and quality buggies annually. He was also heavily involved in the lumber business and according to the Manufacturing and Industrial Census taker his business had annual sales of over $35,000.
Yorkville Enquirer, Thursday, January 3, 1861
Train Wreck delayed news of Secession
Train wreck delayed the announcement of the adoption of the Ordinance of Secession. The mails came in about dark on Saturday (from Chester, having gone from Columbia to Chester). “The news was received with the wildest enthusiasm by all sexes and conditions; the cannon boomed forth its rolling thunder, while rifles, shot-guns, pistols and crackers, gave evidence that old and young Carolina, were in the ‘exuberant.’” W. A. Latta, Esq. prepared “his large and capacious mansion for illumination. . . .” Most citizens were taken by surprise and had no preparations but “extemporised [sic] the occasion with hearty good will, showing what might have been more general, had time permitted. The premises of several of our townsmen were thrown open, and ample justice done to ‘the generous fluid.’ More, so, perhaps than was consistent with ‘good feeling’ next day. [italics his] Sunday was quiet, as is usual in our town, but Monday brought out the big gun, little guns, and the darkies, the latter institution seeming to enjoy a Carolina Christmas out of the Union as well as in it.” B. T. Wheeler, Esq. had his house “beautifully illuminated with several appropriate transparences[sic]. . . .” Even though he was northern born, Wheeler supports secession.
The beautiful Wheeler house was a massive dwelling with large rooms surrounding a simple decor. The exterior with the large Doric columns, porch balustrade, and large over sized single pane windows were all changes to the architecture of the antebellum home following Mr. Wheeler’s death. In 1888 Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Willis purchased the house and continued operating the Yorkville Buggy Company much as had Wheeler. By the early 20th century the Willis family had helped move the orphanage from Charleston, S.C. to a new home at the Kings Mountain Military Academy.
The Yorkville Enquirer of Jan. 21, 1891 reported – “Stockholders of the Carolina Buggy Co., held the first annual meeting last Thursday. The factory has been in operation for six months and is already turning a profit. They elected board members and officers as follows: M.C. Willis, Pres., J.F. Wallace, VP. – W.B. Moore, Tres., J.P Culp, Sec. – and Board Members C.E. Spencer, T.W. McClain and C.M. Parrot. Mr. T.C. Dunlap is the Bookkeeper. The board voted to increase the capital stock from $50,000. to $100,000. The Company now has 700 vehicles in the process of construction and employees forty-five men.”
Mr. Harry Atzrodt is foreman of the Carolina Paint Shop. He is from Littlestown Penn. The Enquirer of Aug. 12, 1891 reported, that Mr. Atzrodt, foreman of the Paint Shop is one a short visit to his family in Littlestown, Penn.
The Yorkville Enquirer reported on Nov. 11, 1891 – “The Carolina Buggy Co. of Yorkville and the Holler and Anderson Buggy Co., of Rock Hill will both have extensive exhibits of their vehicles at the state fair.”
The Yorkville Enquirer reported on Jan. 18, 1893 – “Stockholders of the Carolina Buggy Company of Yorkville held a meeting last week. The company made a reasonable profit last year. Pres. is M.C. Willis, VP is Joseph F. Wallace, Sec. T. B. McCain, and Treas. W.B. Moore.”
The Rock Hill Herald reported on May 2, 1896 – “The Carolina Buggy Factory in Yorkville has just produced a Shetland pony phaeton ordered by Mr. T. Baxter McClain for his son Raymond. Mr. M. C. Willis showed the Herald representative through his office. Sales have gone up significantly in recent months.”
The RH Herald of April 22, 1899 – “Mr. M.C. Willis has decided to resume the manufacture of buggies. He has given a contract for the erection of a two story factory building on the corner of his lot on South Congress Street in Yorkville. He will also erect a woodworking and blacksmith shop.”
The RH Herald reported on May 3, 1899 – “The machinery for Mr. T.B. McClain’s new cotton mill is being placed in position in the old Carolina Buggy Co building. There will be 2,016 spindles for the manufacturer of hosiery yarn. The mill be probably be in operation within a month or two. The engine that will furnish power for the mill was bought from the old Congaree Mill in Columbia.”
The Rock Hill Herald on May 29, 1899 reported on a major storm – “the frame of the new building being erected by Mr. M.C. Willis for his buggy manufacturing operation was blown down.”
The Herald reported on Sept. 7, 1901 that “Architect, H.F. White has just completed plans for a handsome residence for Mr. M.C. Willis of Yorkville.” (The Willis family lived here at that time but soon thereafter, moved to Rock Hill.)
The Rock Hill Herald reported on Dec. 17, 1902 – “The Wheeler Carriage Factory in Yorkville burned on Dec. 10th. The building was erected by Mr. W.T. Wheeler, a native of Conn., who settled here as a young man. He began building carriages before the Civil War. Every part of the carriage was made locally; the wood locally grown, and the iron, leather, and paint bought from manufacturers. Wheeler carriages gradually gained a fine reputation and the business grew to employee a large number of both black and white workers. Carriage and buggies were sold throughout South and North Carolina. During the War, operations were suspended and others ran the business after the war until about 1875 when Mr. Wheeler, then an old man, took active charge of the business until his death in ca. 1882.”
Also see the Willis Home in Rock Hill after leaving York, S.C.
*** The attached PDF gives extensive information on W.B. Moore, Jr. and his business partnership with Mr. Willis in the Carolina Buggy Manufacturing Company of York, S.C. The Rock Hill Herald reported on May 2, 1889 – “The Sec. of State has issued a commission for the Carolina Buggy Co., of Yorkville, with a capital stock of $50,000., the corporators are: W. C. Willis and Walter B. Moore.”
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