The firm of Platt, Martin & Gordon was established in the year of 1803 in Salem. It was an establishment that increased in magnitude rapidly, employing many workmen. From the start they put out finished wagons, buggies and carriages of the latest improved patters. using up-to-date, modern machinery.
They also supplied foreign orders for wagon hubs, fellows, shafts, spokes etc. thereby putting money in circulation from the sale of articles of home production. This manufacturing plant was a great acquisition to our town. They were rapidly gaining prestige, favor and patronage in new districts, holding with firmness, by fair dealing, old customers. Orders for finished work were increasing constantly for the little time that the establishment had been running at full capacity.
When the firm had just gotten in good shape for remunerative business, unfortunately on the 20th of February 1860 the entire plant, consisting of several buildings, stock in trade, machinery and all were reduced to ashes. The loss that this firm sustained was a great check to the early growth of the town.
There is no computing the damage a place of the size this sustains by a disaster like that. Had that establishment been preserved, and continued running until the present time, Salem would now be noticed. In big letters, on a great majority of wagons we see moving along our streets and highways, and the streets of other towns, counties and states Instead of some other bard sounding names like Studebaker, Birdsell and such.
South Bend would hardly be second in population classed with Salem, had no misfortune befallen our town up to the present day. Instead however, that one disaster dispossessed many workmen of a lucrative employment, and was partly the cause of a long paroxysm of business stagnation. No one of that firm recovered from so heavy a financial loss. None like, or at all similar, establishment has ever been introduced here since. That downfall crippled Salem’s business and future prospects immeasurably.
- Recollections from a story presented at the 1902 Old Settlers Days Reunion