John C. Dahlinger Sr

Strange as it may seem Ray Dahlinger's wife, Evangeline Cote, was the daughter and sister of the owners of Cote Motor Company of Ferndale, Mich. 

There were also rumors of a mistress of Henry Ford's, named Evangeline, bearing a son shortly before the Cote Motor Company came into existence and there was a young man named John Cote Dahlinger who on occasions worked in the Novi crew in later years.

John Cote Dahlinger who co-authored a book in which he claimed to be the illegitimate son of Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford I, has died in a Saginaw hospital of cancer at age 61. Mr. Dahlinger, who lived in Lexington on Lake Huron, died Friday at St. Mary's hospital.

In "The Secret Life of Henry Ford," Mr. Dahlinger wrote that his mother, the late Evangeline Cote Dahlinger, Henry Ford's personal secretary, was also the auto pioneer's mistress.

Dahlinger had operated nightclubs in the Detroit area for many years. His family's former estate is a mile upstream from Henry Ford's Fair Lane mansion, now located on the University of Michigan's Dearborn campus.

Ford, Mr. Dahlinger had said, built the mansion, which was occupied by Evangeline Dahlinger and her husband, Raymond. Ford had showered him and his parents with expensive gifts, Mr. Dahlinger wrote.

Both Raymond and Evangeline Dahlinger had worked for Ford in the early days of the Ford Motor Co. Evangeline began work as a secretary for one of Ford's design consultants for the Model T, and later was Ford's personal secretary, handling correspondence for Ford's wife, Clara, and overseeing the development of Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. Her husband, who died in 1969, worked as a bodyguard for Ford and later managed the Ford Farms in Dearborn.

Dahlinger had said in his book, co-authored by celebrity biographer Frances Spatz Leighton, that as a boy he had played with Henry Ford's four grandchildren. In his book, Mr. Dahlinger said his mother would never discuss his parentage, but he said her diaries and her close relationship with Ford convinced him that Ford was his father.

The Hispano Suiza Flying boat that was on display at the Henry Ford Museum was Evangeline Dahlinger's.. a gift from Henry Ford. Not sure if it's still on display now.

His mother seemed obsessed with Ford, despite their 30-year age difference, wrote Mr.Dahlinger. "She kept track of everything he was doing day by day in her diaries. She seems to have destroyed some of her diaries as she grew older and more discreet," he wrote. "Even so, I found enough of the little books secreted around the house, painstakingly written by hand (partly in French) to get a good picture of their relationship."

After the death of his mother in 1979, Mr. Dahlinger sold the Dahlinger farm in Dearborn. In an interview in 1978, Mr. Dahlinger said he wrote the book to put his parents "back into history."

Most Ford biographies include brief references to Raymond Dahlinger as
the manager of the Ford Farms. One Ford family biographer, David Lewis, named Evangeline Dahlinger as one of the 10 people who had the most influence on the Fords.

Mr. Dahlinger never worked for Ford Motor Co. He had been a pilot in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was a professional race car driver for several years. In 1959 he bought Cliff Bell's, a popular downtown Detroit supper club. He and his second wife, Elizabeth, operated the Act IV nightclub on W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit for five years until 1969.

Mr. Dahlinger had one son, John Cote Dahlinger Jr, from his first marriage. John Dahlinger Jr. was murdered in a grisly manner in Grand Rapids, MI 2013

River Oaks School is on former Dahlinger property. Evangeline sold the property to the school board after the SB approached her about some land for a school.

The Subdivision in front of the house was the result of some property being sold to help pay back taxes.

John C. Dahlinger Sr did, in fact, work for Ford Motor Co. at the same time he was attending Greenfield Village Schools. He worked on the test track in the mid-1930s.

Ray Dahlinger started with Ford in the early days as a driver- running new cars off the assembly line. He was also the 'bag man' on HF's Peace Ship, guarding the gold and also serving as HF's bodyguard.

It's said that Ford arranged the marriage between Evangeline and Ray, whether or not that's true is up for discussion, but Ford had a history of playing matchmaker.

Not too long ago, there was a 1930s era Ford race car that was owned by John Dahlinger that came up for auction. The story has it the race car sat in a Detroit garage for years and someone, that knew what it was, bought it, then restored it to the original colors of the Cote Motor Co.










Anonymous said...

been by the estate who owns it would love to walk the grounds and see the house is it for sale

Anonymous said...

lived on Evergreen road...As a child used to sneak on the estate grounds.
Which were very impressive...although beginning to show age and decay.... My parents had a limited encounter with the son
He was not a very nice person....
A "Ford" Wannabe!

Anonymous said...

My father worked for Mrs D as a handyman in the early 1970s for about 3 years exclusively at the mansion. Dad told me about the interior of the mansion and brought home many artifacts that she told him to take to the "dump" (that was my house). My dad worked there with a friend of his who stayed on for a few years after my father left. I met John and Mrs. D but only once.
She would pay Dad at her discretion from a cash box that she had and would ask him how many hours he worked for her since she last paid him (validating Dad's honesty because she knew exactly how many hours he worked!).
Dad brought home many antiques from Mrs. D's. He once brought home a secretary's desk in a crate marked 1929. The desk inside was virtually brand new. He had also brought home thousands of fireworks that she had stored in the carpenter's shed from many years before. Only about half of them were still good. He brought home an organ grinder's box with several rolls of music. Some old BB guns (probably John's). There was an old Indian motorcycle there that Dad was trying to buy from her. She said she was interested in getting rid of it but the topic never came up again before Dad left. Besides she wasn't interested in Dad's money, she was wealthy until the day she passed away. I kind of think she kept the old Indian "because she could".
Dad brought home a lot of "junk" from Mrs. D's and a lot of interesting stories. Dad worked there well before John published his book.
Interesting website. I enjoyed it!

Retro Kimmer said...

thank you so much for the lovely comment!

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