One evening in the autumn of 1837, a carriage propelled by an unseen power, with two gentlemen seated therein, passed rapidly through the streets of this village. The movements of this strange looking vehicle seemed to be perfectly under the control of it occupants. It would go up and down hill with apparent ease, and occupied much less space when turning around to go the opposite direction than a common carriage drawn by a horse. These gentlemen surprised hotel keepers of the day by stopping before their doors in a carriage which needed no attention of the hostler. But they soon saw that this novel contrivance was a steam carriage adapted for use on common roads, and what was still more wonderful, it was made in this village by that able and noted, though unpretending mechanician, Mr. John Gore, who had, in his quiet way, for years been contributing his share to build up the fortunes and fame of Brattleboro. He had for some years been engaged in the manufacture of stationary steam-engines and boilers, which were mostly sent abroad, and he had also made engines and boilers for some of the later steamboats used in freighting on Connecticut river. If there had been no probability of railroads to this place he would, I am informed, have made a steamboat on an improved plan, better adapted to the peculiar difficulties of navigation on Connecticut river than any heretofore constructed.
After a few trial trips and excursions with this steam-carriage, he met with a serious objection to this mode of travelling. He was liable to action for damages likely to occur from frightened horses, who almost universally showed their disapprobation of this innovation. To make this method practical in the community horses must be dispensed with entirely. Like all progressive men of the past, Mr. G. found the world too far behind him for his aspirations, therefore he philosophically yielded to circumstances he could not control, by shutting down the damper and extinguishing the fire for the last time. He is now building mowing-machines, so improved by him we learn they are superior to any in the market for land of uneven surface.
Vermont Phoenix, June 1, 1866.
Henry Burnham, from his "Reminiscences" series.
This entire passage was reprinted in the Vermont Phoenix for January 8, 1869.
---Speaking of velocipedes reminds us of the steam carriage made some thirty years ago by John Gore, the well known machinist of this village, concerning which the following description has been given:
[Here follows the account given by Henry Burnham in the Vermont Phoenix for June 1, 1866]
Although, for the reason above given, Mr. Gore's steam carriage proved impracticable for use on common roads, considered as a product of mechanical ingenuity it was a gratifying success. It was capable of overcoming a grade of one foot in four, and consequently the steepest hills offered no great impediment, except that occasioned by the water-bars, or "thank-'e-marms" so provokingly frequent in many places. On a good level road it could easily attain a speed of fifteen miles an hour. An excursion was once made to Bernardston, Mass., a distance of about fourteen miles, which, we believe, was the longest trip it ever made. The machine was about the size of a one-horse carriage, and weighed, when fully equipped for travel, some 1700 pounds. We are informed by the venerable inventor that it was in 1835 that the carriage was built, and that it remained in existence until 1847, when it was finally destroyed---an act which, he assures us, he has ever since regretted. During its memorable existence this prophetic forerunner of the iron horse is believed to have occasioned more wonderment to the astonished travellers, more sport for the inventor and his friends, and more runaway horses, than any flying machine ever devised by Yankee school-boy.
Vermont Phoenix, January 8, 1869.
Brattleboro's Automobile, Built Way Back in 1838,
Represented in the Newport Parade.
A Providence, R.I., friend sends the Reformer a copy of a newspaper of that city which tells an interesting story of the famous Brattleboro automobile of 1838, as follows:
"Those who were observing noticed in the Toledo car which H. H. Rice drove in the parade of Saturday a man well beyond the years of middle life, and who took a great deal of interest in all that was going on around him. This elderly gentleman was James L. Amsden, probably the first man in this country to ride in an automobile. As far back as 1838 Mr. Amsden rode in a steam carriage built by John Gore of Brattleboro, Vt. This carriage was built on the simple plan that is used now by many makers, and it was driven by power furnished by two vertical boilers of the cylinder type, and the power was transferred to the wheels by a sprocket and chain. According to Mr. Amsden, the wheels were made very much like those on modern automobiles, only they were much larger. The rear wheels were about five feet in diameter and the machine was capable of making 15 miles an hour over the Vermont roads. Mr. Amsden, who was born in 1829, enjoyed a ride in this premature production of Yankee ingenuity when Mr. Gore was using it, and he states that there were a number of difficulties in the way of running it. Tubular boilers had not been invented at that time, and the cylinder boilers which Mr. Gore had to use were not powerful enough. Moreover, the steam was generated by burning wood under the boilers, and at intervals, which came altogether too frequently, it was necessary to get more wood. Coal had not come into use then, and such a thing as a gas engine had not been thought of. Mr. Amsden's appearance in the parade Saturday was an evidence of the interest that he still maintains in the sport with which he became acquainted so long ago."
Brattleboro Reformer, July 10, 1903.
James L. Amsden was born in Brattleboro on July 14, 1829, the eighth child from Lewis W. Amsden and Sophia Dix Wellington. He resided primarily in Massachusetts.
It was a practical steam vehicle which in most respects resembled a single-horse wagon, yet it had a good boiler and a two-cylinder engine, with cylinders approximately three inches in diameter. This boiler was made of U-shaped tubes one and one-half inches in diameter and so placed that the lower ends of these tubes served as a grate, while the flame followed them toward the top. "Thus does Vermont establish its right to priority in the field of automobile pioneering, between the Atlantic and the Pacific."
It was built at a cost of about $600 and was in existence nearly ten years. Its speed on an ordinary carriage road was a dozen or more miles an hour. So many horses were frightened that, during the latter part of its career, the selectmen forbade its appearance on the public highway unless a boy ran ahead blowing a horn.
Anonymous and unattributed.
John Gore of Brattleboro was the inventor of a steam wagon or carriage, which he constructed and operated about the country. It was driven by an engine of several horsepower and was an object of especial interest. It was seen during a period of several years, running about the country, but finally was dismantled and put to other uses, the engine being employed for a long time by Jonas Cutler in operating his bakery.
Brattleboro Reformer, March 24, 1893.
John Gore of Brattleboro, who invented the shear-cut mowing machine, which at first promised to revolutionize machinery of its class, was also the inventor of a steam wagon or carriage which was run about the country for several years. After it was dismantled Jonas Cutler used the engine to run his bakery for several years.
Vermont Phoenix, March 24, 1893.
These two newspaper reporters are paraphrasing a passage from Ex-Governor Levi Knight Fuller's paper entitled "Vermont in a Century of Invention", read before the Professional Club at the Brooks House on Monday, March 20, 1893.
A Horseless Carriage Operated Here in 1837
John Gore The Manufacturer
Made Last Trip from Bernardston to This Town and
Ran the Machine Over the Bank Where
It Rested Until Seen by Junk Dealer.
Brattleboro bears the distinction of being the pioneer place where automobiles were built and exploited. Over 70 years ago there lived in this village a machinist and inventor by the name of John Gore who built an automobile in 1837. It was not of the upholstered type of the high-speed touring car that rushes about town these days, yet in those days it was a wonder as a record-breaker for speed, and those who saw Mr. Gore tearing along the road to West Brattleboro were inclined to seek the high spots and let him have more than the proverbial half that is supposed to belong to the driver of a vehicle on the highway. The machine was a success inasmuch as it took the hills easily, scared horses, and ran away with pretty much the same reckless abandon that the modern motor car does.
The last trip the machine made was from Bernardston, Mass., to Brattleboro. Just what happened to the mechanism, history does not record, but the car went over into a ditch a mile or two outside of this village and the inventor and builder climbed out of the wreckage and remarked that the debris might remain there. It did for many years until the eagle eye of a junk collector discovered it.
Whether it was a one or a six-cylinder machine is not known. The carriage was an ordinary wagon or buggy such as was used in those days and the motive power was a miniature engine connected with the wheels. It made as much noise as a threshing machine or reaper. While our forefathers were not inclined to put up the bar against progression they decided that John Gore's whizz wagon was a menace to the life, limb and welfare of the public and accordingly the "useless and dangerous machine" was prohibited the use of the highways.
Just where the machine was built is not known. Mr. Gore occupied a shop upon what is now the unoccupied site of the old Valley mill on Bridge street. He was also at one time located in a shop where Fenton's blacksmith shop stands on Canal street, and for 13 years was engaged in the manufacture of various kinds of machinery. Mr. Gore won more fame as a builder of boilers and engines than he did as an inventor of a motor car. He invented and built a large number of boilers and engines for Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, which were installed in steamships owned by the latter. Some of Mr. Gore's boilers were also used in the steamers that plied on the Connecticut river. Like many an inventive genius he found that his path toward the top of the ladder of fame was not strewn with roses. He invented a mowing machine which was a success and it looked to Mr. Gore that fortune had really knocked in earnest at his door, but some unscrupulous person or persons discovered the strong points of his invention and beat him out in the manufacture and sale of the machine.
The machine is claimed to have embodied the valuable features of the old Hinsdale mowing machine.
Mr. Gore was a man of great physical strength, tall and raw-boned. He was the original exponent of the square deal in Brattleboro and the old time raconteurs tell how he was always on hand to take the part of the under dog whenever any of his neighbors were at odds with one another. A story is told of how Mr. Gore assisted the constable to quell a disturbance out on the Guilford road one evening. After drinking up the man's supply of cider the visitors threw their host out of his domicile and were holding possession of the place when Mr. Gore and the constable arrived. They were invited to consider themselves under arrest and to return to Brattleboro with the minion of the law. Refusing to accept the hospitality of the constable it became necessary to employ strong arm methods and Mr. Gore, it is said, gathered in the crowd of three or four and threw them into the wagon much after the manner that he was wont to employ in loading a wagon with wood.
While Mr. Gore received a fair remuneration for his invention he did not possess the elements of a business man and though he received prices for his machinery that were considered high in those days he failed to amass money and died a poor man, in fact a very poor man. Burnham's History of Brattleboro refers very briefly to the inventor as having been engaged in the manufacture of stationary engines and boilers in Brattleboro from 1832 to 1845, and that he constructed a steam carriage in 1837. No mention is made of his ancestry or whether he was a native of Brattleboro. However, the survivors of the old guard in town are of the belief that Mr. Gore was a native of Brattleboro, or if not that he was born in this county. He was married and had a daughter, Franc, who married C. G. Whitney of New Haven, Conn., a veteran commercial traveler well-known locally.
Brattleboro Reformer, July 16, 1909.
---John Gore, who died on Monday last, at the age of 76, was a well-educated and intelligent mechanic and inventor, having gained considerable celebrity in his day as the inventor of one of the first mowing machines used in this part of the country. In his old age Mr. Gore has been greatly interested in bee culture, in which he possessed great skill. For several years he has lived alone in one of Mr. James Reed's tenements on Green street, taking his meals at the American House. It is said that he left no property.
Vermont Record And Farmer, March 18, 1880.
John Gore was born in Halifax, Vermont on December 21, 1803. His father was the Deacon Ezekiel Gore and his mother was Miriam Straight. John Gore married Dolly Chase, the daughter of Elisha Chase and Lucinda Grow of Guilford, Vermont. Dolly Chase's paternal uncle was Capt. Paul Chase, Jr., the proprietor of Chase's Stage House on Main Street. John and Dolly's children were Frances F. Gore, William, and Sarah.
---Mr. John Gore, a man but little known to most of the younger people of the town, but familiar to men in middle life as a mechanic and inventor of rare genius, died in this village on Monday at the age of 75. Mr. Gore came to Brattleboro in early life, and for several years was in business here as a steam boiler maker. Following this, under the patronage of Chester W. Chapin, he engaged in a similar business in Springfield, Mass., building, we believe, both engines and boilers for steamboats on the line then plying between Springfield and Hartford. He also, under Mr. Chapin's patronage, went to Newbern, N. C., where he built machinery for boats in which Mr. Chapin was interested. At a period later than this Mr. Gore was again in business in this town. In 1856 and 1857, partly for the relief of a lung difficulty, he went to Fredonia, N. Y., where he assisted in the development of one or more patents. In the course of his life Mr. Gore made several important mechanical inventions, some of which were of great practical value. Foremost among them was the invention of the adjustable mowing machine box, an appliance which lies at the foundation of the successful manufacture and operation of mowing machines, but for which he never received any adequate pecuniary return. In his general knowledge of mechanics and of subjects connected therewith, Mr. Gore was surpassed by few men in the country. He was an accomplished mathematician and had a very considerable knowledge of astronomy.---Mr. Gore was born in Halifax. Many of our older residents recall, with lively interest, the fact of his construction of a steam road wagon, about the year 1835, which was the local wonder of the day.
Vermont Phoenix, March 19, 1880.
John Gore built eight steam engines in the 1830's that were used in western Massachusetts. One for a foundry, another for a gun factory; a carriage factory and a beet sugar house; a paper mill, a steam mill, and two engines for Samuel Whitmarsh the silk manufactor---a high-pressure five horsepower engine and a one horsepower engine.
Around 1835 John Gore sold an old boiler to Dr. John Wilson for lifting logs by chains out of the Connecticut River, and up the bank to his saw mill on the old Vernon road. Dr. Wilson built an early plank road for the town of Brattleboro in 1837.
---Messrs. Gore and Whitney, of this place, are manufacturing and offering for sale "Gore's Bay State Mower"---a machine said to be fully as good and efficient as any of its class. Testimonials from such men as Ex-Governor Holbrook and Richards Bradley, of this place, H. E. Stoughton, of Bellows Falls, Hugh H. Henry and W. W. Boynton, of Chester, are appended to Messrs. Gore and Whitney's circulars and afford substantial evidence of the worth of their machines. Mr. H. Atherton, of Brattleboro, is agent for the State.
Vermont Farmer, June 29, 1867.
The removing of the stones for the purpose named has served to drive the snakes from their old place of abode to other localities, and they have been found near "Mine mountain," in the rear of Wantasiquet, and elsewhere. Mr Thomas tells of an occasion when himself and the late Uncle John Gore were bee-hunting near the "mines," when they suddenly came upon three sizeable serpents in the breaks. "Uncle John," being rather poor sighted, nearly stepped on them, but they were finally dispatched and 9 ounces of oil obtained, for which they received $1 an ounce, it being used for croup, rheumatism and other ailments.
Brattleboro Reformer, August 24, 1883.
The narrator in this extract is Andrew D. Thomas.
---A swarm of wild bees hived by John Gore on the 5th of September last, yielded sixty pounds of honey of extra quality on the 27th of July last. Mr. Gore is evidently an adept in the mysteries of bee culture, and has the confidence of the insects.
Vermont Phoenix, August 19, 1870.