Reflections: Remembering the blacksmith

By Evelyn Long - Contributing Columnist

Although I was born a few decades ago, my entry into this world was after the blacksmith, a vocation I am not familiar with. But lately read a related story in the June 21, 1928 edition of the Morrow County Sentinel.

From the tone of the story, apparently at that time the blacksmith’s area of work was declining so he was taking on other jobs, usually related to the automobile. A blacksmith’s work was equine related in days of yore, making a shoe for a horse. Today they are called metalsmiths. creating objects from wrought iron or steel to forge the metal using tools to hammer, bend and cut, producing objects such as gates, grilles, railings, etc.

The Sentinel story relates that the blacksmith of that day was adding some part of automobile work but “not only was the old blacksmith shop a haven for the older members of the community to swap yarns and for the boys to sit and wonder but it was that principal exponent of the community news, gossip or political talk.”

The story continues: “The few shops that are still in existence lack the old flavor and barely support one man and his family. Twenty years ago the shop supported from two to ten man and apprentices were always waiting a chance at wages that would not support them. Nor was the day limited to eight hours. Sometimes the entire force worked all night to keep the work from lagging.”

There were three shops in Mount Gilead in 1928: Scott Hedrick, Dumbaugh Shop, John Hayden and Frank Cline. Hayden had been a blacksmith for 51 years; Hedrick, 21 years. In Cardington there were Joe Jones and Al Caris, where four men worked. There was one shop in Marengo, Bill Stanton ran one in Johnsville; Bill Ritz covered Iberia; Lawrence Burson in Sparta; and Billy Poland worked part-time in Williamsport.

This story notes that in yesteryears the blacksmith made every article merchandised from his shop and today he makes but little or none of it.

From another source I learned that about 1900 there were 10,000 horses and mules that regularly needed to be shod in Morrow County. That’s 40,000 hooves, but by 1928 there were 4,500 automobiles owned in this county, with the number increasing every day. After World War I Morrow County farmers began trading their horses and mules in on new tractors.

On Jan. 16, 1936, the last blacksmith in Cardington died. Abraham G. Caris was 53 and had followed the same trade his father followed in Carding-ton for several years.

This trade can still be learned by attending a blacksmith or metalsmith school. I’m glad it’s carried on but like so many other things, it’s not like “the good old days.”

90 years ago: Cardington’s village council finalized plans to have watchmen placed around the clock at the West Main Street railroad crossing. Five lives were lost at that crossing in 1929.

80 years ago: Ron Robinson of Cardington, was accepted into the Civilian Conservation Corps.

60 years ago: The first baby born at Morrow County Hospital in 1960 was Roger Lee Cole, son of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Cole of Cardington. The Cole infant was born Jan. 2.

By Evelyn Long

Contributing Columnist

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