The Oldest American Black smith.
Reprint from “The American Blacksmith” 1901
In response to the request made by The American Blacksmith for the name of the oldest blacksmith in America, a large number of names of aged and very interesting smiths was received. The result was surely most astonishing, for in the brief space during which the offer remained open we have been sent the names of three smiths over ninety years of age, twenty two over eighty, and a baker’s fifty more than seventy years of age, all still working at the anvil. This showing is a most gratifying one, as it seems to say most unmistakably that the grand old craft in its individual members is hale, hearty and healthful as of old. Answers came from every part of the country, so that we believe we have obtained the name of the oldest smith in America. The honor of being America’s oldest blacksmith belongs therefore to Mr. Samuel Brock, of Falmouth, Grant County, Kentucky, ninety-four years of age, whose photograph is reproduced on this page for the benefit of our readers. The name was sent in by Mr. W. D. Lemmon, of Falmouth, Kentucky. The following taken from the Williamstown (Ky.), Courier is of interest :
“S. Brock has been putting on horse shoes for seventy-six years. He will be ninety-five years old on the 26th day of October next. He was born in Virginia, October 26th, 1807, and migrated to Kentucky, August 26th, 1840. Mr. Brock has been married three times, and has raised a family of sixteen children, eight of whom are dead. He is a Democrat in politics. His father died at the extreme old age of 113 years, and his mother died at almost as great an age, 106. Mr. Brock is a blacksmith by trade, and is yet able, as he says, to put a shoe on a mule. He lives seventeen miles from town and rides or drives to town alone.He is a conspicuous figure in Grant County history on account of his extreme old age.”
Mr. Joe Bragg Turner, of Warsaw, N. Y., and Mr. Hyatt of Lake Charles, Iowa, are each ninety-two years old, but not knowing the months of birth, we are unable to say which is older. In addition to
a few notes regarding these two smiths, we show a most interesting photograph of Joe Bragg, well bearing out the description of the old gentleman. Following the mention of these two smiths are given brief details of all we have heard from, who have journeyed along life’s pathway for more than three-quarters of a century.
Joe (Bragg) Turner was born in 1810, being now ninety-two years of age. At an early age he was bound out to a blacksmith to learn the trade, which in those days meant a seven-years apprenticeship. His aptitude for the business made him a good workman, and for seventy years he has worked at his
trade, sixty-five of which have been in the county of Wyoming, and forty in the village of Warsaw. He is better known in this section as “Joe Bragg,” than by his legitimate cognomen, from the fact that he is always bragging of his work, and claims that he is the best steel worker in the county, if not in
Western New York. He is to-day as agile as a man of sixty, and per forms his daily duties regularly. He claims to be the oldest working blacksmith in the State, and up to this time his claim has not been disputed. The photograph is by Salisbury, and we are indebted to Richards and Sullivan of Warsaw, N. Y., for the details.
“Mr. Hyatt was in town Monday. He has resigned his position as black smith for the Industrial Lumber Company. Mr. Hyatt is ninety-two years old and his occupation, that of black smith, is an indication of his physical condition, says the Vinton Herald. He does not use glasses even to read, and
is certainly the strongest and brightest specimen of manhood nearing the century mark with whom the Vinton folks have ever come in contact.”
Thomas Downs, Patesville, Ky., born June 16th, 1814, is almost eighty-eight years old. He still works at his trade and runs a grist mill two days each week. The mill is one and one-half miles from his residence. He has lived in the same place fifty-eight years, and is prominent in church matters.
William Tubbs, 271 Washington Street, Norwich, Conn., aged eighty-five, was born in Lisbon, Conn., September 10th, 1816. He has been sixty nine years at the trade and is still working at the anvil. His specialty is iron work for large buildings, and a cushioned axle hand freight truck of his own patent. His name was received from E. A. Spaulding, one of the forty who learned their trade from him.
W. H. Richards, Monongahela, Pa., eight-five years old, was born October 8th, 1816, and is still working at his trade and is very active for his age. Walter Stickney, Meriden, Conn., will be eighty-five years old on the 16th of November, 1902. He has worked at blacksmithing for years, and is actively working at the forge and anvil to this day.
John Staley was born at Millbrook, on May 10th, 1817. At the age of fifteen he went to Blairstown as an apprentice in the shop of Robert Bonnell, coming to Stillwater township six years later, in which township he still resides, and has worked at the anvil continuously ever since. He has never been sick, nor has he worn glasses at any time. His early life being spent where the log schoolhouse seemed tO be all that was required, and obliged to support himself at an early age, his education was therefore necessarily limited, in consequence of which the memory became more acute, and his work to be put on account was therefore stored in memory for days at a time, or until some kind friends would do the charging, and it was a rare thing when the smallest of items was forgotten.
Albert Avery, Hartwick, Otsego Co., N. Y., eighty-four years old, is still working at his trade of shoeing horses. He commenced at the age of nineteen and has always lived at Hartwick.
Daniel Gorman, Lima, Ohio, eighty four years of age, was born in Ireland, coming to this country in 1859. He is always at his place in the blacksmith shop of the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railway Company, and has not lost thirty days time on account of ill health in the past ten years, all told. Mr. Gorman may not be the oldest man in the craft now in active service, but is getting along in years.
Daniel Bid well, Cute, Tenn., born September 5th, 1818, is eighty-three years of age. He went through the Civil War, going to the front with his company, and doing blacksmithing in the army at times when there was no fighting going on.
John S. Edwards, Leeds, Greene County, N. Y., eighty-two years old, is still working in his shop and doing a good business.
Nathan Moseley, Limestone, Tenn., born at Huntsville, Ala., May 7th, 1821, is eighty-two years old and still works at the anvil to this day.
Frank Miller, Potosi, Mo., eighty one years old, works at the forge every day.
Stephen H. Abies, Esperence, N. Y., eighty years old, is working every day at his trade.
L. D. Krum, Krums Corners, N. Y., is eighty years old and has run a shop at one place for fifty-three years. He started at the age of nineteen. Mr. Krum has in his shop a foot power trip hammer, which has always been quite a curiosity, and many a student of Cornell has stopped to see the old gentle man work with his feet, as well as with his hands. Now for fifty-seven years his hammer and anvil have rung out their work notes every morning, but his work with them will soon be over.
S. D. Bolander, Allentown, Ohio, is eighty years of age. Thomas Davey, 23rd and Callowhill Streets, Philadelphia, Pa., is eighty years old and still working hard at the anvil.
G. W. M. Drake, Monticello, Minn., is eighty years old, and one of the best blacksmiths in the State of Minnesota.
H. W. Dodge, Stromness, Ontario, Canada, eighty years old, can shoe horses as well as he could Twenty years ago.
James E. Marcum, Troy, Kansas, is eighty years old. He works at his trade every day at most all kinds of work, and has ever since the first part of 1836. He was born April 10, 1822, and was in the mexican War, fifty-five years ago. Still an active smith.
John S. Baichtal, Sac City, Iowa, was born July 18th, 1822, and is seventy nine years old. Charles Johnson, West Point, Pa., seventy-nine years of age, is working at horseshoeing at the present time.
Robert McKell, Spanish Fork, Utah, seventy-nine years of age, still works at the blacksmith trade.
John Brocht, Mastersonville, Pa., seventy-eight years old, is still working at the forge.
William Crater, Glen Gardner, N. J., was born February 9th, 1824, is seventy eight years old.
James Kane of Oshkosh, Wis., seventy-eight years old, whose portrait is given above, is a blacksmith with a record of sixty-three years continuous service at the anvil. He was born in Inniskerry, Ireland, February 14th, 1824. At the age of fifteen he began work with the village smithy, serving seven years as an apprentice, and four as a journeyman. His work was horseshoeing and general blacksmithing. After eleven years in his native town, he removed to Boston, Mass., and then to Oshkosh in 1856. Here he established himself to remain, and for forty-six years has worked at his chosen trade. endowed with a strong constitution and temperate in his habits, his sterling integrity and native honesty has made him comfortably wealthy and won for him good friends. Still he continues to work at his anvil, and attributes his excellent health at the age of seventy to hard work and plenty of sleep. While his earlier working years were confined to horseshoeing, at which he is a master, and which still forms the greater part of his business, his work of late years has been somewhat diversified, and general repairing is carried on. Mr. Kane says to-day that he feels good for ten years more of active work.
William Higgins, Salisbury Mills, N. Y., seventy-eight years old, has worked in one place forty-five years. Isaac Schohe, Mastersonville, Pa., seventy-eight years of age, is still working at the forge.
Lawrence M. Vanbuskirk, Grimsby, Ontario, Canada, seventy-eight years old, still works at the forge in the shop where he has worked forty years.
Adam Barboe, Burnt Prairie, 111., is seventy-seven years old. Stephen Miller, Wallbridge, Ontario, Canada, seventy-six years old, has worked at the trade for sixty years.
Melchior Smith, Reading, Pa., seventy-six years old, is employed by the Greth Machine Works in Reading.
W. W. Bryant, Petersburg, 111., was born on March 4th, 1827.
Charles Waugh, Hillsdale, Ontario, Canada, is seventy-five years old.
“My name is Tobias Zophee. I was born in City Spwander, Court DeGlaris, Switzerland, May 17th, 1827. Began my trade at thirteen years old, and struck for my father when I had to stand on a box to reach the anvil. I came to Courtland, Ala., in 1869. I worked at my trade for General Joseph Wheeler in 1870. I am five feet, six inches high, and weigh one hundred and forty-three pounds. l am seventy five years old, and have not a gray hair in my head. I am active, work at my trade every day, and* can do any work that any other blacksmith can. I am the father of fourteen children, am now a widower and in search of a handsome rich widow. If The Blacksmith would aid me in finding this one desire of my heart you would very greatLy oblige. Tobias Zophee.”