George Diven’s Wagon Wheel Brake
This block was donated by Linda and Loy Garber in honor of George Diven.
George Diven, 1782 – 1858 and Christina Diven, 1781 – 1854. George Diven, a farmer and wagoner who lived in what is now Fulton County, was the earliest inventor of the friction brake for Conestoga wagons, a brake whose essential design principles have influenced friction type brakes ever since. Due to the fact Diven did not have his fraction brake design patented, most of the world never knew of his accomplishment. However, in 1926, test engineers from various brake and bus manufacturers who were testing new brake products on the mountain roads around here knew. After finding Diven’s grave-site and some 80 years after his death, representatives of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company, the American Brake, Shoe and Foundry Company, and Mack Truck Company laid a wreath upon his grave recognizing George Diven as the earliest inventor of the friction brake shoe system. Conestoga wagons varied in length from 14 to 20 feet. These early freight haulers weighed close to 2000 pounds and were capable of hauling up to 5 tons of cargo. These heavy wagons had a difficult and dangerous time attempting to descend steep grades like the mountains leading into the Great Cove Valley. Wagoners often resorted to chaining logs to the back of the wagons to slow their descent. By inventing a rectangular brake shoe made of wood and iron, and a brake lever to apply the brake shoe to the large back wheel, Diven was able to control the speeds of wagons and bring them to a safe stop. The Fulton County Historical Society, in conjunction with St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, placed a new tombstone and signage at the gravesite commemorating Diven’s invention in 2012.
(Thank you to Linda and Loy Garber for this information and donation)