233 Davis Road Westminster, Massachusetts 01473
Raymond G. Chapdelaine, Lunenburg, Massachusetts, GMC truck dealer, began collecting headless Wittes in the late 1970s. With the help of his two sons and son-in-law, he located, acquired and restored almost the entire line of Wittes, by about 1982 or 1983. The collection included the 2-3-4-6-8-12-16 and 22 HP. They also fabricated matching trailers in order to show them, as well as purchasing and restoring three GMC trucks with trailers to carry the whole collection to shows.
Ray passed away in 1988 at the young age of 58, leaving the business to his two sons, Mike and Mark. They had young families and a growing dealership to operate, so the Wittes sat in Mom's barn, pretty much untouched, for twelve years. During that time Ray's son-in-law, Dan, got the bug for collecting John Deeres, and he joined the Central Massachusetts Steam, Gas and Machinery Association, based in Orange, Massachusetts (a favorite show of Ray's).
The club's June 2000 show featured the Witte engine, and some members of the club knew of Ray's collection and offered to help Dan get the engines out of the barn and running. Along with my persuasion, the task began of moving them from Ray's barn in Lunenburg to Dan's barn in Westminster, then loading them back up to take them to Orange. Of course, Dan doesn't quite have the equipment that Ray did, so they were loaded two by two or one by one to the show. They still attract as much attention today as they did 15-20 years ago.
Some notes and correspondence Ray made enabling us to get the history on some of the engines:
Purchased the 2 HP at the Dublin, New Hampshire show from a man in Chabot, Vermont. Ray tried to use the 2 HP to start the 22 HP, to no avail.
Purchased the 6 HP at an auction in Owl's Head, Maine, July 1979.
The 16 HP ran a gristmill on the Ohio River in West Virginia at one time.
The 22 HP ran a sawmill in Colebrook, New Hampshire.
Purchased the 12 HP from a man named Richard Burkholder.
We have a briefcase full of correspondence from all over the country regarding information and leads on John Deere tractors and Wittes. I'm sure that if Ray were still alive today, he would be spending hours on the Internet searching for the 30 HP to finish off his collection.