Edward Gray is somewhat of a lost name in the history of Henry Ford’s Highland Park Model T plant, made famous as the first highly successful assembly line auto plant. Edward Gray was born in Peotone, Illinois in April 1872. He moved from there to Stoughton, Wisconsin then to Bradford, Pennsylvania, honing his skills in engineering and construction. In 1905 he settled in at Riverside Engine Company in Oil City, Pennsylvania, a company he formed with local oilman, John B. Smithman, who had also owned a streetcar line that he recently sold but still had a plant for making gas engines.
With Edward Gray’s designs gaining fame for their durability, Henry Ford ordered his first power plant for the Highland Park new Model T factory from Riverside Engine and soon ordered two more. Seeing Gray’s skills, he hired him away from Riverside in 1909 to be his chief engineer, one of the few ‘Ford Lieutenants’ with an actual title. Edward Gray then designed most of the workspace as Albert Kahn designed a building to house the new plant. Gray also designed the next ten power plants that were built in Ohio (the first being a 5000hp ‘gas steam engine’, then nine more slightly larger 6000hp versions). He left Ford in August of 1914 to pursue real estate and other engineer jobs (the Detroit Edison Conner’s Creek plant for one). The property on the Detroit River became known as ‘Grayhaven’ and is where Gar Wood, the Fishers and other wealthy Detroiters built mansions in the 20s and 30s.
Edward Gray died in 1939, with what would seem like little notice by the general public.