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Back Tracks by Bryan Dunnigan, Educational Coordinator, Sophia Coxe Memorial Foundation

It is interesting to look back at the trades that helped to develop our forefathers' world. The colonies as they were founded in the 1700s depended heavily on the blacksmith.  He  was perhaps the most important skilled tradesman in each town or village.   The word blacksmith is derived from two words - black and smith or smite.  The iron is black in color and smith or smite means to strike. Hence, the blacksmith is the person who strikes or hammers iron.  Iron was very valuable, as it could be forged or heated and hammered into many useful items, ranging from nails to farming implements, tools, cooking utensils and children’s play things. The blacksmith also took on the shoeing of horses, mules and oxen.  Some blacksmiths eventually specialized and became expert at forging a particular item - for example - the locksmiths and gunsmiths. The village smithy or blacksmith shop was

often located at the corner of two main roads, so it was easily found. It was a busy place. The smith also supplied tools for other tradesmen.  The blacksmith was well known and respected in each town. He was a skilled tradesman. It was not unusual to find him holding public offices, such as alderman, constable or perhaps mayor of a town.  In monetary value, we find the blacksmith earning as much or more than the physician of his time frame. Early trade guilds were developed in Europe and other countries to produce highly skilled workers/tradesmen.  An apprentice blacksmith worked under a master smith.  He signed an indenture or contract, meaning this apprentice agreed to work for the master smith for up to 6 years without pay.  At the end of his indenture, the apprentice became a journeyman.  Journeymen were paid for their work.  At this point, the journeyman had an important choice to make.  He could stay on in the shop or travel about repairing and making iron products, eventually establishing his own shop or smithy. 

The coal fields of Pennsylvania depended heavily on this trade. Miners' tools had to be kept in constant repair and the company blacksmith filled this need, along with repairing machinery in the large coal breakers used to process coal.  The railroads also demanded the work of skilled blacksmiths in their shops.  Longfellow immortalizes him in his poem, "The Village Blacksmith" in 1840.  The Sophia Coxe Memorial Foundation and Education Center offers classes in traditional blacksmithing with a focus on artistic metal forging.  Students will experience a bit of history intertwined with coal fired forging and hammer techniques. The introduction to blacksmithing class is intended to give students a basic working knowledge of this fascinating trade.  Our classes run May through October.  No prior experience is necessary - just heart and desire to learn.  Our smithy is located in the grove area directly behind the historic Coxe House in Drifton.  For more information, contact Bryan Dunnigan, blacksmith, at 570-956-6706. 

THE SOPHIA COXE FOUNDATION 2207 ROUTE 940, DRIFTON, PA 18221 570-926-5427 or 570-956-3881

APRIL SCHEDULE OF EVENTS & CLASSES Sat. 4/14 and Sun. 4/15 – Titanic High Tea – 2PM - $20pp – Come to the Coxe house for a wonderful afternoon with a high tea and information on the Titanic. Enjoy soup, salad, a variety of wonderful finger sandwiches, great desserts and tea. You can bring your own bottle of wine and we will supply the ice, bucket and glasses. Everyone is encouraged to wear your Titanic hats and if you desire, feel free to dress up in a costume. Reserve early as seating is limited and you don’t want to miss all the good food and fun. For further information, call Karen at 570-956-3881. Sun. 4/29 – 6:30PM - $15/pp – American Literature Series will present the famous Gold Rush-era poet & writer of Western fiction, Bret Harte. He is known for stories depicting miners, gamblers and other romantic figures. The Luck of Roaring Camp, The outcasts of Poker Flat and parodies of other writers, including a satirized version of Sherlock Holmes. Bobby Maso will bring this story to life as he captures the emotions of the characters, the background of the author, and select readings. Seating is limited. Light refreshments will be served. For further information, contact Karen at 570-956-3881. Reservations can be made on line at www.sophiacoxefoundation.com or by mailing a check to The Sophia Coxe Foundation, 2207 St. Route 940, P.O. Box 235, Drifton, PA 18221. Reserve early as seating is limited and you don’t want to miss all the good food and fun. For further information call Karen at 570-956-3881.

14 • Panorama Community Magazine: April 2018

Panapril2018 web  

April 2018 issue features the Spring Home & Garden Guide glossy center insert with home improvement tips, gardening articles and ideas for t...

Panapril2018 web  

April 2018 issue features the Spring Home & Garden Guide glossy center insert with home improvement tips, gardening articles and ideas for t...

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