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December 19, 2014
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Blacksmith most important person in a frontier town

GREENVILLE – “The blacksmith is the most important person in town.” Jeff Brocious and Galen Delk, apprentice blacksmiths, were busy fashioning tools and decorative iron from the flames at the Shawnee Prairie Blacksmith Shop, the newest addition to the Darke County Park District. Delk continued… “He made the nails, tools, any skill work using metal. Doctors used him to reset bones (because of his strength). A town could do without doctors, bankers – at least for a while – but not the blacksmith.”

It’s a Saturday afternoon and Parks volunteers are at the Blacksmith Shop and the Log House from 1 to 4 p.m. This public opportunity is available through September. Contrary to popular opinion, the blacksmith was important but not for horseshoes or knives. “Those were totally different individuals,” Delk said. “The farrier did the horseshoes and knives were done by the bladesmith.” Brocious noted some of the other items blacksmiths made, including pliers, candelabras, post hooks, about 20 different kinds of nails and spikes, hinges… wall hooks. “Anything made out of metal, he did it.”

As they talked Brocious was working on various tools while Delk worked on some of the more decorative items, such as the shepherd’s hook and a wall hook. The shepherd’s hook required several twists with the help of a vice, cooling in water and brushing to clean the metal. When finished a wax coating was used. The entire process took about 20 minutes. A few minutes later Delk created a smaller version wall hook with a single twist… this finished product took about 10 minutes and was taken home as a souvenir by 10-year-old Brixon Schmiesing from Plymouth, Mich. Many of the items Delk and Brocious were working on are for the Gathering at Garst, coming up the last weekend in July.

The Blacksmith Shop and Log House have been open Saturday afternoons since early May. The construction on S.R. 502 has slowed traffic somewhat, however Galen said their visitors are there because the want to be. They have no problem with the detours. Until construction is finished (late June or early July) most visitors take S.R. 571 to Daly then east on 502.

Visitors stop at the Log House on the way to the Blacksmith Shop. Volunteers there talk about the lives of the early pioneers on the prairie. Many of the tools used by these pioneers were made by their local blacksmith.

Galen Delk fashions a shepherd’s hook, heating sections of it then creating the “twist” using pliers and a vice. (Bob Robinson photo)

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The Schmiesing family watched Darke County’s two apprentice blacksmiths at work, learning about the value of the town blacksmith on the frontier. Ten-year-old Brixon took home a finished post hook as a souvenir. (Bob Robinson photo)

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