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DID YOU KNOW? Stoughton Has Been Selling Automobiles Since 1903

A short history of James Lehan's Ford Dealership in Stoughton.

James Lehan was born in Stoughton on November 3, 1868 just three years after the end of the Civil War. His parents were both immigrants born in Ireland.

Lehan would become one of the most well known Stoughton businessmen for over a half century. He was just twenty-three years old in 1892 when he started a shop for selling bicycles in Stoughton.  Besides bicycles people could purchase phonographs, records, sewing machines and even fireworks right in downtown Stoughton. 

In 1900 he moved his shop from Freeman Street to Washington Street.  If you notice above the current in Stoughton center the building still bears his surname. 

When Lehan first opened he had one employee named George Bragg who converted an old blacksmith shop into their first repair shop. By the next year they doubled the size of their shop. In 1903 he sold two “Orient Buck-boards,” one cylinder cars with long steering rods made in Waltham, Massachusetts.  These automobiles were sold to Charles Jones, the owner of Charles Stratton and Sons (underwear manufacturer), Percy Draper of Canton, and Mr. Lehan also bought one for himself.

In 1904 the first Ford automobile was sold in Stoughton on April 16 to Henry W. Britton (1851-1924). The bill of sale states – One Ford Toneau Model A - $900, Apron $6, Pair of Lamps $10, 1 horn and 1 glasses $8.75, and 1 cap 50 cents. 

A large photo of Henry W. Britton and his Ford Model A can be seen at the Town Spa in Stoughton (in the dining room near the bar).

Between 1905-1909 the Ford Model A continued to be a popular model. The engine was under the seat and was reached from the rear of the automobile.

In 1909 Lehan was already regarded as a pioneer automobile dealer.  He sold more than just Ford’s in the early days.  The other models included old names such as Wayne, Pope Hartford, Hudson, Flint, Oakland, Willys-Overland, EMG. And other names still known today such as Buick, Cadillac, and Lincoln. 

By 1912 Stoughton became the first in the area to own motorized equipment supplied by Lehan’s.  A committee made up of Charles Welch, James Pye and James Lehan conducted a public subscription to present the town with its first fire truck, a Pope-Hartford. Shortly after that the towns of Hopkinton and North Easton purchased fire engines directly from Lehan’s dealership. 

In 1916 Lehan moved his business to a new building on Porter Street (now the site of the Post Office and and adjacent parking lot). This automobile showroom included a four alley bowl-o-drome for patrons. 

During World War I, there was a shortage of automobiles due to military production, so to keep his customers happy, James Lehan would travel to Detroit, Michigan and drive Fords back to Stoughton.

By 1936 Lehan’s Stoughton Ford had set the year's record in Ford sales throughout the United States in it’s class.

Lehan died on July 12, 1946 and was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery with his wife Elizabeth (died 1937), and his business was continued by his son Ralph E. Lehan (1900-1986) and his employees for more than two decades. 

James Kourafas took possession of the old dealership in the 1960’s and operated it under the name of Dentch Ford. 

In May of 1975 the old 1916 building was demolished to make room for the current Stoughton Post Office at 31 Porter Street. As a result, Dentch Ford moved to a new location down on Route 138 at 1776 Washington Street. 

A series of other Ford dealerships followed Dentch Ford at this location, including Stoughton Ford, Victory Ford and as of 2006, Bay State Ford. All can be traced back to the “World’s Oldest Ford Dealership,” first opperated by Lehan.

From the early beginnings as a bicycle shop, many generations of Stoughton residents had a chance to by a bike or car from the dynasty started in the Lehan showroom so many years ago. I personally remember my mother purchasing a 1975 Ford Maverick from Mr. Kourafas. Other cars included a 1978 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon and a 1986 Ford Crown Victoria, which was my mother’s last car. 

lowertaxes March 28, 2011 at 12:57 PM
Fantastic article!!!!! Thanks for the history lesson Dave!!!!
David Allen Lambert March 28, 2011 at 08:26 PM
My pleasure - thanks for reading the article.
lowertaxes March 29, 2011 at 01:08 PM
I have been looking forward to your next article for a while now. Glad to see you back. Must say I miss the 50 years ago today however as it was nice to look for familiar people and names, always looking for relatives. Are we going to see that from you again?
SoxFan March 29, 2011 at 10:44 PM
I miss the "50 years ago" articles as well. It's nice to see things from my generation.
Jeffrey Pickette (Editor) March 30, 2011 at 12:41 PM
I like what we are doing now with the history content...I think it gives Dave a lot more opportunity to explore a wide-range of topics, not just limited to one specific year. However, I'm open for suggestions, so let me know in the comments section or via email (jeffrey.pickette@patch.com) and if I get a lot of feedback, I'd be up for having a column that looks at the town's history 50 years ago and run it once a month (i.e. 50 years Ago in April) along with the other new history content.
DJ March 30, 2011 at 01:14 PM
I had an elderly neighbor who had told me that Henry Ford visited Stoughton on more then one occasion to meet with Lehan. That makes a lot more sense to me after reading your article. Can you confirm?
lowertaxes March 30, 2011 at 01:18 PM
Well, you have had my opinion, bring back 50 years ago today, and I know that my dad too agrees with that.
David Allen Lambert March 30, 2011 at 08:27 PM
I have heard stories that Ford did visit Stoughton. I think it would take some detailed reading through the old Stoughton New Sentinel (which sadly is not indexed).
Ed Dentch February 20, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Hi Dave. Good article. One point that you appear to have missed is why it was called Dentch Ford ! My uncle Sidney Dentch and Jim Kourafas where neighboring car dealers located on N. Montello St. Brockton up till 1960. They decided to buy the franchise together and formed a limited partnership with Jim as President and Sid as treasurer. this was decided through a coin toss. They shared the responsibility of running the buisness untill it was moved to the Washington St location. They built the building and improvements without a mortgage. A feat to be admired. My Uncle Sid also bought some, 56 acres up the hill behind the buisness which has been sold and developed into housing many years ago . The trust still owns the land and road north of the buisness allong Wash St.
Kirsten Camp February 22, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Thank you for this article. I grew up at 179 Walnut Street in the Lehan house. It was a wonderful house to grow up in. Even though I now live in Maine I still drive by the house whenever I am in the area. I have been able to share the history of the man that built my childhood home with my children. Thank you for that!

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