Farm Implement Business Manufactured Wayne School Buses

The company behind Wayne school buses had a history firmly rooted in farm implements and equipment.

| September 2015

Nearly every country kid at one time or another probably rode to school on a Wayne school bus. Even though Superior, Carpenter, Blue Bird, Thomas and a few others made bus bodies, Wayne was number one for many years. The firm’s history, however, is firmly rooted in farm machinery.

In 1837, a foundry was started in Dublin, a tiny town a few miles west of Richmond, Indiana, along what was then known as the National Road (now U.S. Route 40), by John Whippo and brothers Caleb and James Witt. Powered by a 2-horse treadmill (there was no water power in Dublin), the factory produced stoves and agricultural implements such as scythes, grain cradles and reaping hooks.

Through the 1840s, ‘50s and ‘60s, the modestly successful firm went through a number of owners, partnership changes and name changes, while continuing to make stoves and small farm implements, most of which were sold in the surrounding areas of Indiana and nearby western Ohio. In 1868, Davis, Lawrence & Co., as it was known at the time, built its first vehicle, a Conestoga wagon.

Reorganization and rapid growth

Then, on Jan. 20, 1871, Davis, Lawrence & Co. was reorganized as Wayne Agricultural Co. A contemporary catalog lists the firm’s products as coal stoves, mowers, reapers, grain drills, hay rakes, seeders, corn planters, cultivators, platform scales and fence-making machines. The company employed a workforce of 60 to 75, and produced $150,000 worth of farm implements in 1871.

By the end of 1873, the company increased its capital to $100,000 and hired more workmen. With the increased business and 100 men now on the payroll, the little factory in Dublin was getting cramped and the search for better facilities began. The nearby city of Richmond, Indiana, made an offer, which was accepted (although some Wayne stockholders objected) and a new factory was built.

Some of the disgruntled stockholders wanted to sell their shares, so the Dublin firm was dissolved in 1875, and all its assets were bought by Richmond stockholders, although the old name was retained.