The Davis Cartage Story

A History of Davis Cartage Co.
The Early Years - 1941 through 1970

By: William John Hartle


In the 1930's not many jobs were available to a young man graduating from high school. Maurice R. Davis found this to be true when he graduated from Fairgrove High School in 1932. Although he might have found security on his father's farm, Maurice was not particularly fond of farming and wished to strike out on his own. With $700.00 borrowed from his grandfather he purchased a Chevrolet truck and began hauling sugar beets from Fairgrove, Michigan to the mill in Caro, Michigan. By the end of the summer he was able to repay the loan and have a small surplus.

The next year the young man decided to expand his small trucking business. In 1934, with his brother Lyle, he bought a tractor and semi van and the two became broker operators for Consolidated Freight Lines. This meant that they agreed to lease their rig to Consolidated and as operators haul that company's freight. To meet the requirements of the job, both brothers practiced on their father's farm the various maneuvers necessary to operate a long semi van.

Business was good for Lyle and Maurice so in 1941 they decided to form a partnership. They purchased the Speedway Transfer Company from Charles S. Reese and formed the Davis Cartage Co. This was a limited common carrier company which was authorized to use irregular routes. This limited the type of material they could carry according to their state authorization but did not specify which roads they had to use. From Mr. Reese they received one assembled two wheeled farm tractor and an authorization to haul general merchandise for Sears Roebuck and Company from the retail store in Bay City, Michigan and retail customers living within a fifty mile radius of Bay City.

In this first year of its operation the firm grossed $30,000. Since this was not enough to support two families the brothers continued to work as broker operators for Consolidated Freight Lines until 1942. During this first year Davis Cartage Company moved into a little remodeled house on Holden Street in Saginaw, Michigan. While located in these quarters the firm made its first expansion moves. The brothers realized the need for the company to have more authorizations in order to enlarge the business. It is with the authorizations purchased and those solicited and then authorized by the Michigan Public Service Commission that a trucking company is able to grow. Realizing this in 1943 the brothers purchased from Lora G. Hazelwood and the Co-Operative Service Company a 1936 semi trailer Model 818. Along with this tractor they purchased an authorization for hauling general merchandise in and around Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

With these two purchases Davis Cartage managed to grow and expand until they were ready in 1944 for more expansion. At this time for the sum of $30,000.00 Davis Cartage Company purchased five tractors and six semi trailers from the W. A. Muehlenbeck Company. This new equipment was to be used to move heavy equipment and carried the rights to move machinery for General Motors plants in the Saginaw Valley. This was the beginning of a long relationship between General Motors and the Davis Cartage Company.

Another new relationship was started in this transaction with the addition of the authorization to move products of the H. J. Heinz Company between Saginaw and various Michigan points. This authorization was mainly for pickles but as the authorization states other products could be carried. This leeway left to the company has been particularly helpful.

The firm utilized these authorizations and its new equipment to the fullest and found it necessary to move to larger quarters for their business. In 1945 the Davis Cartage Company moved from the little remodeled house at 400 Holden Street to a new brick building at 2532 Hess in Saginaw, Michigan. Thus at the end of the Second World War Davis Cartage Company was looking ahead to the promised peace and prosperity.

With business good in 1945 the Davis Cartage Company decided to take on a partner, William F. McNally. Together they formed the McNally Davis Company. This was a combination of trucking and construction. This was not a long association, but was quite amiable and profitable for both parties. 

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