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Saturday, January 09, 2016


The Blacksmiths

In the days before the automobile, the main mode of transportation was the horse. Just as we have to perform periodic maintenance on our cars today, the people had to take care of their horses back then. The occasional task of applying new shoes had to be done. I don’t know if the blacksmiths of the day had any knowledge of veterinary medicine, but they probably could make suggestions to the owner because of his extensive experience with horses.

The earliest listing I have for blacksmiths in Salisbury shows we had six people making a living at it in 1878. Most of the names are familiar locally – names like Gordy, Gray, Mitchell, Sirman, Thoroughgood and Venables. I wonder if the Wm. H. Thoroughgood listed was the father of Lacy Thoroughgood, a longtime Main St. merchant in Salisbury.

By 1891 we only had three listed and they are not any of the ones listed previously. They were C. E. Duffy, J. Duffy and G. E. Marvel. You would think that a blacksmith was a profession that someone would continue for many years, but the name changes tell a different story.

In 1899, the names of Adkins, Lorimer, Morris, Price, Sirman, Twilley & Pollitt and Peter Venables (an Afro-American who had his shop on Lake St.) are listed.

A blacksmith was also a wheelwright. He serviced the many forms of wheeled transportation that people had. This was before the days of the automobile. There was quite a transition when the car became popular and affordable. There were new things to learn and most of the blacksmiths didn’t learn the necessary repairs to cars.

We had a high of eight blacksmiths in 1908, seven in 1916 and none by 1921. One of the early blacksmiths was Charles T. Bradley. He was not listed in 1921, but he showed up again in 1940. Like today, perhaps the cost of inclusion in the directory prevented someone from being listed.

The listing for Twilley & Pollitt in 1899 was the earliest reference to Pollitt I can find. That is also the last blacksmith in Salisbury. I imagine it was his son who kept the business going well into the 1950’s. I remember the shop on Davis Street just off Church Streetbeing there in the 1950’s. By this time it was owned by a Nick Kieffer and advertised that the business had been there for forty years. He was listed in the 1961 phone book at 217 Davis Street. The building is gone now and only a memory exists.

These days they are called farriers and most of them travel from farm to farm with their tools of the trade. There isn’t enough business to set up a company and it would be impossible for someone to ride a horse into town.

Soon after the arrival of the automobile, businesses called service stations started popping up and blacksmiths started disappearing. Sign of the times – End of an era.


Sam Smullen said...

Thanks George for the blast. I don't remember but my dad and grandfather talked extensively about the lost of the shoeing trade. I was around 10 or 11 when we got our first tractor, so I missed the hard stuff with transportation with horses. Not sorry either. Sam Smullen

Anonymous said...

My father insisted that modern day blacksmiths could make a killing because they were a dying breed.He may have been on to something.