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Buggy Heaven

First Shot Carriage – Buggy Heaven

Gonzales Inquirer February 6, 2001

By CHARLES WOOD Staff


When you open a time capsule, you expect to be amazed and delighted by glimpses of a forgotten time. Usually time capsules contain small objects. Hugh Shelton of Gonzales recently opened a “time capsule” of immense historical importance – 17 horse drawn vehicles, several of which still bear their manufacturer’s tags – Studebaker, Banner, Hercules.

The wagons were located in sheds on a piece of property in the hill country which has been condemned to make way for a new highway. The woman who owns the property wants to remain anonymous for now, said Shelton, but she is determined to save the relics that her father spent much of his life collecting. “I’ve never run across anything like this. It’s the find of a lifetime,” said Shelton. “These are all original. Nobody has done anything to them. They still have the original upholstery.

Some of it is a bit tattered, but it’s amazing shape for being 100 years old.” Most of the vehicles date to around 1900. It was the rocky soil of the hill country that helped preserve the vehicles so well. “The roofs of the buildings were good and didn’t leak, and the rock protected the wheels from rot. I guess somebody was looking out for ‘em. When the trees grew up around the sheds, no one could open the doors and steal the vehicles.

Shelton doesn’t intend to rebuild or restore the vehicles, aside from replacing rubber tread on some of the wheels. If possible, he and the owner want to keep the vehicles together, along with the 13 vehicles Shelton has restored. But they are going to need help finding and maintaining a building for the collection.

 
 
 
Continued

Right now, we have ‘em stored, but we’re going to have to move the ones in the pecan warehouse before the end of the summer. Our hope is to keep ‘em together, but we need help. I can’t store and maintain 30 vehicles. “If someone would donate a good secure building and pay rent and utilities, we would probably start getting donations to keep it up. We’ve got a real opportunity to so something important and we don’t have a lot of time to make decisions.” The road crews were scheduled to begin construction on the hill country property on Feb. 6, but the deadline has been extended by two weeks.


This is important,” he added. “I don’t think you can go anywhere in Texas and find 30 horse drawn vehicles. And you can drive any one of these.” According to Shelton, the owner of the vehicles learned about him and his passion for carriages and wagons after his open house, the last weekend in November. “She saw and article about the open house in the GVEC Review,” he said. “She wanted to come down but couldn’t. It was so cold and windy. She called about two weeks ago and wanted to come down. She was pretty persuasive, so I agreed to meet her her and took her through my shop where I had my wagons. As she looked at the wagons she seemed like she was thinking about something.”




Finally
, she told Shelton what was on her mind. “In the 1940s, her dad spent years collecting wagons and buggies. She wanted me to take a look.” He had to find someone to take his place on call with GVEC, but he eventually made it to the woman’s hill country property. “The place was nothing but solid cedar brush. We started through the property and there was one little shed after another. Cedar trees four or five inches in diameter were growing through the doors so that you had been inside any of the sheds since the ‘40s.” He was amazed by what he found.


Even the property owner didn’t realize
the extent of her father’s collection. “There were 17 vehicles in all: three wagons, one ice wagon, two gigs (one-horse carts), and 11 buggies.” They also discovered a shed containing wagon and buggy parts, and antique farming equipment. “I told her it was like being buggy heaven,” said Shelton. “We both broke down and cried.”


Most of the vehicles
were collected right after the depression, when people were trading in their carriages for Model T Fords. Over the past several days, Shelton, assisted by Oscar Duncan, Dick Collins, and Harold Reeves, have proceeded to move “buggy heaven” to Gonzales. Anyone who would like to help Shelton and his new friend from the Hill Country preserve this important collection of turn-of-the-century vehicles can call 830-672-3609. Or visit Shelton’s website: www.texaswagonworks.com

 
 
   
     
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