A Concord Coach comes back to the city, and it brings a lot of history with it

  • Abbot-Downing Historical Society Vice President Patrick Maimone of Chichester helps unload wheels belonging to a newly donated Concord Coach to be stored at Johnny Prescott & Son Oil Co. in Concord on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Members of the Abbot-Downing Historical Society, including director Brian Erichson (right) of Contoocook, unload a newly-donated Concord Coach to be stored at Johnny Prescott & Son Oil Co. in Concord on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Now there are eight – eight Concord Coaches in the city, that is.

The latest addition to the local collection of Concord’s most famous transportation product arrived Tuesday, having come from the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan following a long tenure in Vermont.

“It’s in beautiful condition, seats six people,” said Merwyn Bagan, president of the Abbot-Downing Historical Society, which will eventually display the coach at its museum. “There’s also a lot of leather luggage that fits on the back, which came with it.”

Officially it is Concord Coach No. 306, bought by a man named J.J. Kelty for use on the Mad River Valley route in Vermont, between the towns of Waitsfield and Middlesex. It made two runs daily at the eye-popping cost of 75 cents, Bagan said.

When Kelty died in 1906, the coach was bought by a collector who eventually sold it to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., during which time it was damaged after being pushed through a too-short doorway to escape a burning building while on loan, Bagan said.

Another collector bought the coach and repaired it, and in 1991 sold it to Eleanor Haskin. The Haskin family owns Waitsfield Telecom, a telephone business in Waitsfield, Vt., that was planning to create a transportation museum and thought this piece of local history would fit the bill.

But the company never got permission to build the museum, Bagan said, and, after having the coach on display in the company offices for two decades, decided to give it to a suitable home – hence its arrival Tuesday in Concord.

The coach was unloaded at Johnny Prescott & Son Oil Co., where the body and wheels, separated for travel, will be reconnected. Tom Prescott, company owner, is a board member of the Abbot-Downing Historical Society and a fervent collector of Concord historical items.

Once back together, Bagan said, the coach will be shipped on a flatbed truck to the museum, making it the third Concord Coach owned by the society.

Along with Prescott’s two coaches and one each at the Concord Group Insurance, the New Hampshire Historical Society museum, and on the first floor of the Concord Monitor, it will make eight of the beautiful machines around the city.

Horse-drawn Concord coaches were made by the Abbot-Downing Co. from 1826 until World War I, when the firm was bought by Wells Fargo. During most of their history they were famous for beauty and durability, famously featured among places in Roughing It, Mark Twain’s tale of the Wild West.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)