Minister Came in an Automobile

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, August 12, 1914:  Our new preacher was down here this morning to make a business call. He came in this automobile.

My heart slumped down to my very feet this morning or so it felt when I learned that Ruthie had received a letter from the ticket agent stating that the excursion to Niagara Fall next Monday was not going. Any way our crowd decided that we would go, and so I began to get relieved.

Source: Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine (February 1, 1912)
Source: Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (February 1, 1912)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Wow, I’m surprised that the minister has a car. This is the first time in the diary that an automobile has been mentioned within the context of day-to-day activities–though obviously automobiles were still rare enough to be worthy of mentioning .

Previously cars were always viewed as a novelty. For example, on May 30, 1912 Grandma wrote:

Memorial Day: Carrie and I went up to McEwensville this morning. This afternoon we went over to Watsontown accompanied by another girl friend. We had the pleasure of getting an automobile ride. It was the first time I was ever in one and consequently never had experienced a ride.

Excursion Trains

Grandma, her sister Ruth, and several others were planning to visit Niagara Falls. In the early 20th century, there were special excursion trains that took people directly to tourist spots. Apparently too few people booked the Niagara Falls trip, so the excursion train was canceled. It sounds as if they were now planning to just take regularly scheduled trains to Niagara Falls.

36 thoughts on “Minister Came in an Automobile

  1. I’m glad Grandma will (hopefully) still get to go on her trip. We visited Niagara Falls several years ago: so glad we did!
    Isn’t it hard to imagine folks just getting accustomed to cars??

  2. I can’t imagine the preacher having a car back then. That’s something.

    I’m glad the trip is still on. I hope it goes well and they have a wonderful time.

    1. I’m also amazed that the minister had a car. I always think of the Model T as the first car that was designed for sale to the “average person.” According to Wikipedia, the Model T was produced from October 1, 1908, to May 27, 1927–so maybe cars were becoming fairly common in rural Pennsylvania by 1914.

  3. It’s difficult to imagine a world where riding in a car was a novelty. There was a battle near here when the British attacked Stonington Village on August 9, 1814, as part of the War of 1812. This past weekend there was a bicentennial parade marking the event. The grand marshal was a 106 year-old woman who had been to the centennial parade when she was 6 years old! She said the parade then was mostly horses and buggies, but this parade had a lot of antique cars.

    1. Wow, it’s amazing to think that there are still a few people who can remember when cars were a rarity. It really gives a different perspective of time.I tend to think of a hundred years as a long time–but when thinking about this woman, I realize that in some ways it really wasn’t that long ago.

  4. I love every bit of this — the pastor arriving in an automobile! Certainly breaks the stereotype of the poverty stricken man of the cloth. And I love that they decided to go anyway. Grandma’s life is getting exciting. And, as I’ve said before, I think of what an honor it is for her that so many of us are sharing her life — thanks to you.

    1. I would love to know the story behind the minister’s car. Thank you for the kind note. I have a lot of fun pulling everything together for each post, and it’s wonderful to know that you enjoy it.

  5. Before she passed on I recall asking my mother if she remembered when her hardscrabble farming family got their first car. I don’t recall what prompted me to ask that day, but we were riding in my car and I think I had taken her to a doctor’s appointment. Anyway, her face lit up with a memoir I had never heard before. Yes indeed, she said. Her father took it out in a field and he and my uncle delightedly took turns learning to drive it, running in circles. It was obviously a milestone in their lives.

  6. It does seem rather surprising that the preacher would have a car. He must have had a prosperous congregation. I look forward to hearing about their trip. I would love to visit there myself!

    1. It also seems really surprising to me that he had a car. Based on prior diary entries, I don’t really have the sense that the congregation was very prosperous.

  7. My own paternal grandparents got married at 5AM so they could get to Pittsburgh in time to catch the train to Niagara Falls. That would have been around 1908 or so. Love this entry Grandma! Can’t wait to hear about your train ride.

    1. What a fun story! I knew that Niagara Falls was a common honeymoon destination in the 1940s and 50s, but it sounds like it was a honeymoon spot way before that.

  8. It sounds much like our bus trips today…we had an event where the tour was cancelled so we drove to our destination anyway like Helena and Ruth….I can’t wait to hear how she liked it. Sure hope she writes a bit about it. Do you have any her photos from the trip?

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