Sunday, September 30, 2018

Blacksmithing ~ A Lost Art

I am aware that I am getting this post about an old occupation in a little late for Labor Day, but at least it is still in the month of September.

I recently rediscovered this article from the Herald-Tribune, the local paper for the Batesville, Indiana area.  Although, I could not find a specific date that it was published, I can say that it is somewhere in the year 1964.

George Washington Hillman is my great-grandmother's brother. I never knew him, because he passed away before I was born. After reading this article, I really wish that I had gotten the chance to meet him!

He was the only brother to several sisters.  As my great-grandmother recieved training in a typical female occupation at the time, teaching; her brother also recieved training in a typically male profession.  

He learned the trade of blacksmithing as a young man of 20, and worked for the next four years, in Moores Hill, Indiana.  When the United States entered World War I, he did not abandon his occupation.

He joined the U.S. Army as part of the Rainbow Division, where they put his blacksmithing skills to good use. He not only shod horses himself for the cavalry, but he was also a supervisor of four other men.

Returning home from the war, he didn't break stride in his chosen career path. Although, within a 20 year time period, he moved his shop from Moores Hill, to Sunman, and finally to Negangard's Corner, he never stopped blacksmithing.

Through the 1920-30's, shoeing horses was the main income in his blacksmithing shop. However, there were still wagon wheels to be repaired, and tools and plowshares to be sharpened.

He spent many years in the 1940's at some of the major racetracks in the U.S. Not for the betting, but for shoeing horses.  Although it was the same work that he had been doing for decades, racehorses provided a new challenge to him.  Racehorses and workhorses both put a lot of wear on the shoes, but in completely different ways.

When this article was written, Uncle George was already 71 years old.  He estimated that he had shod about 100 animals in the previous year.

My husband has taken up learning the art of blacksmithing, and I think he would have really enjoyed meeting my great-uncle George, also.  I could just see them now, sitting and talking about the tricks of the trade!


  1. Such an interesting post! It is great that his profession sustained him through the depression and beyond. You know that he was well liked and trusted or he wouldn't have been in business so long. Nice that you found that lovely article about him.
    My friend's husband has been a blacksmith for over 45 years and he has to travel far and wide, not because he can't find work close to home, but because there is no one else!

  2. My husband is learning the blacksmithing skill, but he hasn't needed it to make a living. I i would guess in this day and age, it would be hard to make a living at it.