Originally Published in the Lowden Sun News, submitted by Joe Goodlove, Cedar County Consul
Before there was a Lincoln Highway, before the Hoover Highway, there was at their junction H.D. Kemmanns. After 141 years in the same location in Lowden, IA one of the oldest Chevrolet dealerships in Iowa ceased operation in August 2016.
With no one to manage the dealership after the death of 83-year-old owner Don Meier in April, his wife Donna had to make a tough decision. “I think GMC would have approved a new dealer if we had someone interested, but that didn’t happen,” she said. So the once vibrant business closed. The new vehicles on the lot were sent to other Chevrolet dealerships and the remaining used vehicles were sold.
Except for one vehicle: The 1906 Orient Buckboard. This automobile was sent to H.D. Kemmann from Massachusetts in pieces in a large box. In those days the dealership put the vehicles together themselves. Except for new fenders, tires and the seat reupholstered it is in original shape and running condition. It has been donated to the Cedar County Historical Society.
H.D. Kemmann, born in Germany in 1854, migrated to America and Illinois in 1870. He came to Lowden, IA in 1875 and laid the foundation for the present business. A blacksmith by trade he took over his employers shop in lieu of four months back wages ($80). With his own shop H.D. went into the buggy and implement business and then automobiles. In addition to being the first garage in Lowden, the first farm machinery sold was McCormick Deering later to become International Harvester.
In 1912, Kemmann’s sold the Marathon car, the Ford in 1913, the Case in 1914, Overland in 1915, and Chalmers in 1916. Ford was discontinued in 1923 and replaced by Chevrolet, selling and servicing them ever since.
Over the years Kemmann’s has also been associated with DeLaval Separator Co. (dairy machines), Massey Ferguson Co. (farm implements), the Frigidaire Appliance Division of General Motors, and Zenith radios, televisions and stereos.
An auction of items that included tools, parts, service manuals and Don Meier’s collection of Dale Earnhardt collectibles was conducted in October. At this time no decision has been made on the future of the building.