SYRACUSE — Merrell Harkless of Harkless Boat Company (now known as Wawasee Boat Company) built a line of boats over 100 years ago. There were reportedly only 60 of built. Today only one of those remain and it has been in dry-dock for over 20 years.
A look at the wooden interior of the Premier.
The boat was found at an estate auction of John Sudlow. “It was setting at the auction,” said Jim Janes, who noted its condition was derelict. “We (Jay Edmundson and Janes) looked at it and decided to restore it.” After it was bought, Dale Butt and Charlie Penn were hired to restore the boat to its current beautiful state. Butt immediately recognized the boat from his childhood. It was also discovered that Col. Lilly had originally owned the boat.
Butt and Penn began the restoration, finding the original inboard single cylinder engine and reinstalling it. Restoration began by Butt and Penn. After the restoration was complete, it was entered in the 1998 Wawasee Flotilla, with Janes as the captain. It received the Commodore’s Trophy that year.
Edmundson ended up selling the boat to Janes who has owned the historic boat until recently, when Doug Grant took over ownership and brought it “home, here on Wawasee.” Grant stated “I bought it because Jim lives in Elkhart and it felt good … get it back to Wawasee.”
Besides having the single cylinder engine, the boat is unique because it can be steered from the bow or two places on the starboard side. “It has a steering wheel and two other levers along the side,” said Grant, noting you can’t, however, control the throttles from any of the steering positions.
The boat has once again been removed from the waters of Lake Wawasee and placed in safe keeping.