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Putnam Chevrolet

(Est. 1923 in Jamestown by C. O. Putnam)

(California Chevrolet dealership was Tompkins Chevrolet Co. prior to 1939)


From the 1980 History of Moniteau County:

As C. O. Putnam prepares for the showing of new 1981 model cars at Putnam Chevrolet Pontiac Co., his thoughts go back to 1923, his first year as a car dealer. Fifty-seven years - over half a century - does not seem that long, but a lot has happened in that time. He established dealerships in three towns, and constructed three buildings for their operation. Dirt roads gave way to gravel and then to hard surfaces. A world war took cars off the market and brought rationing, and then a post war boom took the automobile to a prominence only dreamed of in 1923.


C. O. as he is known by his friends and customers, opened his first dealership in Jamestown, MO, in April, 1923. It was located in a small sheet-iron building from which he sold and serviced Model T Fords. In 1929, he obtained a Chevrolet franchise. The following year he built his first building, which is still used as a garage in Jamestown.


In 1937 he and Paul Gabert purchased the Chevrolet agency in Tipton, MO, and Paul managed this operation. Then in 1939 C. O. acquired Tompkins Chevrolet Co., in California, the business at that time located where Rackers Manufacturing is now.


Things were going well until World War II broke out and our country went to war. As cars were taken off the market, there was nothing to do but retreat and wait it out. The California agency was closed, the tools were taken to Jamestown, and C. O. did service work to keep the cars running through that time of shortages. After the war ended, the present building on Highway 50 in California was constructed. C. O. moved to California to manage the agency. He continued his association with the Jamestown garage for a number of years through a partnership with Tom Geiger, but ultimately sold his interest in that business to concentrate on the growing dealership in California. In 1965 the Pontiac franchise was added. Paul Gabert continued to operate the Tipton agency until he retired in 1967, at which time it was sold.


C. O. is still [in 1980] active in the business at California. In 1979 he was selected by Chevrolet as one of several dealers nationwide to appear in a promotional film tracing the history of Chevrolet Motor Division. The film, narrated by Lorne Green, ends with C. O. describing his pride in being a Chevrolet dealer and the work of providing quality automotive service to his community.


A dream came true when Don Putnam, after 27 years in the aerospace industry, joined his father as general manager of Putnam Chevrolet Pontiac in 1979. Third generation Dave Putnam, a freshman at University of Missouri-Columbia, has already expressed his determination to become part of the business. Thus it appears that there will be a Putnam in charge at Putnam Chevrolet-Pontiac Co. for the foreseeable future to continue the tradition established by C. O. and currently used as the company slogan - "Providing service to its Customers for over 50 years."


On the Putnam Chevrolet website it states:

Putnam Chevrolet Pontiac has been in business in Moniteau County since 1928. We are a local, family-owned dealership. Current owner, Bill Campbell, purchased Putnam Chevrolet-Pontiac from Donald Putnam in 1983.



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Last modified: January 10, 2015