Editor’s Note: This is the 313th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON — In 1911, Benjamin Franklin Gravely began tinkering with an innovative design for a power-driven plow. Using an Indian brand motorcycle engine and a push plow rigged to a single tractor wheel, Gravely constructed his first motor-driven plow, a crude version of the machine that would revolutionize garden cultivation.
Gravely continued to refine his initial design, first in his kitchen and basement and later in a friend’s machine shop.
In 1916, a patent was issued for the Gravely Motor Plow, and by 1922 Gravely had started his own business, the Gravely Motor Plow and Cultivator Co., located in a former tire factory in Dunbar, West Virginia. The machine became so popular that often a year’s worth of motor plows sold in just 90 days.
As the Gravely plow grew in popularity, the company established a network of sales outlets in a number of cities, including Huntington.
Gravely’s Huntington dealership opened in the early 1950s in a small brick building that had been built in the 1920s for Mossman Brothers Building Supplies. Gravely occupied the building at 745 7th Ave. for more than 35 years, until it closed in 1987. In 1937, Ben Gravely retired from the day-to-day management of the company, and his business partner, D. Ray Hall, acquired control.
Hall sold the company to Studebaker in 1960 for a reported $12.5 million. The last Gravely tractor rolled off the Dunbar assembly line in 1968 when the tractor’s production was moved to Clemmons, North Carolina. Today Gravely is owned by a Wisconsin firm, the Ariens Co.
The building that long housed Gravely’s Huntington dealership is still standing and, greatly enlarged, is now home to the Bahnhof restaurant.