Blacksmiths: The Most Important Craftsmen in Town

When Master Blacksmith John Owen Lynch (1793-1860) arrived from New York in Guelph in 1827, he faced a considerable challenge. This was a pioneer community. As the only blacksmith, he was expected to help John Galt fulfill his plans to create a thriving community in this wilderness.

There is no doubt that the blacksmith was an extremely important individual in any early settlement. He was the proverbial and indispensable jack-of-all-trades. While farmers took care of their own tools to an extent, it was the blacksmith who was educated in making and repairing these same tools to a higher standard.

It was to the blacksmith that all other craftsmen turned when their tools required repair work. A blacksmith could also make tools and create new variations. When it came to metalwork, the blacksmith was responsible for the manufacturing and repairing of all types. This meant knowing how to make everything from nails to horseshoes to ploughs to basic kitchen items to fancy hitching posts.

Blacksmiths made horseshoes and then applied them (as a farrier). They repaired the wagons essential for carrying goods and providing services. If a plough broke, an edge tool required repair, or nails were needed, people went to a blacksmith.

Blacksmiths were equipped to perform these tasks. They had the right tools, the proper training, the level of experience and the skills to do so. In the 1800s, blacksmiths did not become masters at their craft/trade until they had undergone an apprenticeship. This was followed by becoming a journeyman. Only after the requisite time of between four and seven years had passed could a journeyman be considered a master blacksmith.

From Apprentice to Shop Owner

In Guelph, examples of this route from apprentice to master blacksmith abound. William Sallows of Guelph apprenticed first with John Sallows (no relation) in 1842. He then worked with Dan Linderman, a blacksmith then George Wilson during the 1850s. Only following his training with these local blacksmiths did he decide to set up his own shop at the corner of Gordon and Wellington. By then it was the early 1860s. This particular shop became a family affair. It grew to be one of, if not the largest blacksmith shops in Guelph.

However, George Rodger and William Gibb served only one year at Coffee’s Blacksmith and Wagon Shop before setting up their own establishments. Rodger opened his in 1864; Gibbs in 1865. This, like many who today work in various industries and retail, was the goal of many apprentices. However, like so many other business ventures, it depended upon economics. When times were good, master blacksmiths had to pay their apprentices more to retain them. Yet, by doing so, they increased the chances of them obtaining enough funds to leave earlier and start a shop of their own.

In poor economic times, the opposite applied. In fact, with less demand for his skills and products, a blacksmith might do more than pay journeymen and apprentices less money. A blacksmith could release them, forcing them to perhaps travel to another community to find a position.

Before they could reach this exulted position of Mastersmith, apprentices had to adopt a hard work ethic. During this period, many apprentices and journeymen did not live at home or even in their original community. Often, they lived with the blacksmith. Under the contract, the master blacksmith was to provide the apprentice with food, training and schooling. It is a fallacy to consider blacksmiths as ignorant and unable to read or write. They had to be well-schooled in order to operate a successful business.

Many of Guelph’s apprentices lived with their masters in the years before 1861. Morris Coffee was to be found “at May’s Blacksmith,” while James Demsey was at Owen Lynch’s. In 1860, besides family members, William Sallows housed both Charles Pindar and Charles Eby. Thomas Anderson housed Joseph Blake (Journeyman) and George Black (Apprentice).

The Decline of the Blacksmith: Changing and Expanding Roles

Guelph had many blacksmiths from 1827 to 1900. During this development phase, blacksmiths were generalists, although they specialized in metalwork. They did not work from patterns or have patents. While their expertise produced ploughs, these were not generic. The same applied to pokers, shutters, hinges, springs and crews. Many combined their skills with other compatible crafts and other craftsmen becoming wagon makers as well as blacksmiths. Allan’s Mill, the first of its kind in Guelph, built a blacksmith shop on site. Later agricultural works such as Thain’s, Cossitt’s, Levi’s and Gowdy’s were to provide work for several blacksmiths.

This absorbing of work traditionally intended for the blacksmith became a trend as technology advanced.  The arrival of the Guelph Foundry (Robertson’s) came to Guelph in 1847, it marked the beginning of a new phase for metalworking. Foundries working from patented patterns could produce agricultural equipment with greater alacrity than the average blacksmith. Foundries such as Robertson’s hired blacksmiths while larger establishments such as Crowe’s Iron Works incorporated blacksmiths. Larger industrial concerns such as Raymond’s and Bell’s had their own foundries and blacksmith shops.

For many blacksmiths, this marked a major change. While some went to work for foundries and manufactories, others did not. Some continued to operate small shops or operate in conjunction with liveries. In many cases, these blacksmiths saw their role diminish from generalist to specialist; from jack-of-all-trades to farrier. This was the trend that was to continue as technology, urban development and a focus on mass production continued to undermine what had been the domain of the blacksmith – once the most important craftsman in Guelph.

List of Guelph Blacksmiths (so far)

NAME                                                       GUELPH DATES                  ADDRESS                                                               

Aiken, William                            1867-68                                     Cardigan St.

Algie, James                                1881-1894-99                            Glasgow; Norfolk

Algie, James Jr.                           1894-96                                       Metcalfe

Anderson, Allan                          1894-96                                        Suffolk

Anderson, Thomas                      1861

Armstrong, Irwin                        1889, 1894-99                       70 Yorkshire; Glasgow  Armstrong, James Jr                  1861, 1870                    at J. Armstrong’s; 92 Perth

Armstrong, Robert                        1837-1848                                at J. Armstrong’s

Armstrong, Stewart                       1882-83                                   bds. London Rd.

Armstrong, William                      1852, 1861, 1865

Bailey, James                                 1875-77                                   bds. Grove

Bailey, Samuel R.                          1889-99                                   17 Durham

Bailey, Thomas                              1901

Bailey, William                             1870-71, 1881-99                    Ann &Water; Essex

Barber, Herbert                              1873                                             bds Cardigan

Bard, George                               1861, 1870-73, 1881             Fleet and Bristol; Clark

Bard, Robert                                  1864                                         Fleet & Bristol

Bartlett, John                                 1889                                            47 McTague

Beattie, George                             1871-72                                        Dublin\Paisley

Beirnes, James                              1881, 1889-94                                      Grange

Bell, Harry P.                                1889-99                                 bds Kirkland; Kathleen

Bentley, William                          1901-3

Black, George                               1861                                         at Anderson’s

Blackwell, William                       1873                                         bds. Great Western

Blake, George                               1861                                          at Anderson’s

Bolding, Henry                             1873                                         bds. Cardigan

Bothwick, William                        1864                                          at Anderson’s

Bradford, George                         1894-99                    bds Queen’s Hotel; 158 Surrey

Bradley, Alfred J.                          1894-99                                   bds. 25 Durham

Brecker, James                              1881                                          at Home

Bridge, William                             1861

Bruce, George                               1856, 1861, 1865                     Eramosa

Brunton, John                                1885-1912                               Division, Elora

Bryden, Alex                                 1881-83                                   bds. 70 Yarmouth

Burkholder, John                          1894-96                                   258 London

Burns, James                                  1885-96                                   Grange

Burns, William                               1856-57, 1861                        Wyndham

Buskin, William                            1885-99                              61 Glasgow; 220 Neeve 

Cabelou, Samuel                1889                                                    Lane

Cane, James                       1873                                                    bds. Dublin\Kent

Carlisle, Matthews             1856                      

Carmady, James                1855-57, 1861                                     York Rd.

Carr, William                    1864                                                    at Gibb’s Smithy

Carter, William                  1865                                                    Duke St. 

Chamberlain, Clark           1871-1873                                           Nottingham; Essex

Champion, Charles            1881-92                                       Preston; Gordon\Dundas

Champion, William           1855-61                                                McDonald

Chase, Caleb                      1861, 1870, 1873                               Cardigan

Chase, Charles                   1881                                                   at Chase’s

Chase, William                  1889, 1892-94                         bds. Fergus; London            Cherrie, Yetman                1889

Clark, Angus                      1889, 1892                                             7 Woolwich

Clark(e), John                    1861

Clelland, George                1881

Cocking, William                1862                                                    at Armstrong’s

Conly, Arthur                       1889                                                  95 Kent

Cook, James                         1885-89, 1894-99                              bds. Hewer’s; Grant; 228 Grove

Cowan, Alex                         1875-76                                            30 Quebec

Cowan, Robert                 1873-77, 1885-86                   bds. Wellington; bds Quebec

Cowan, William                1873                                                    Wellington Hotel

Cross, Nathan                    1873                                                     bds. Perth & Derry

Dennis, George                   1861, 1892-4                                      Pearl

Donaldson, George            1864                                                    Edwin St.

Dow, James                   1862, 1883-1903                                     at Thomas Anderson’s ; 15 Webster                                                                                          

Dowell, James                   1894-99                                                Webster

Dreaver, Robert                1879, 1883-84                                      Woolwich

Dudgeon, Alex                 1856                                                      Cardigan

Earon, Robert                   1873                                                      Gordon

Easton, Charles                1897-99                                                Grange

Elliott, Charles                  1891                                                     hotel

Errin, Robert                    1875-77                                                 bds. 87 Woolwich

Fairgreve, George              1873                                               

Farrell, John                       1881                                                    at Home

Finn, James                       1882-83                                                bds. London Rd

French, James               1882-83, 1894-96                                     bds. Dublin & Kent; Grange

Garrard, J.H.                      1885-9, 1894-99                                 Perth

Garrard, Seaman                -1846                    

Gibb, Bernard                    1865                                                    John Harris’

Gibb, William                     1863-1865                                          at Gibb’s

Gibbons, John                    1861

Gibson, James                     1881                                                   at Hogan’s Hotel

Glew, Thomas                    1894-96                                               Woolwich

Graham, Samuel                1889                                                    bds Grange

Grant, George                   1894-6                                                   24 Green

Grant, W.G.                       1894-96                                                 bds. Green

Gray, William                    1897-99                                               30 Charles

Grindell, Henry                 1885-86, 1889                                      Catherine; Suffolk

Hackney, John                  1867-1870                                            35 Perth

Hallet, Henry                       1873                                                 bds. Mont

Hallet, William                  1871-84                                               Mont

Hamilton, William             1881                                                   at Dad’s

Harley, George                    1861                                                   Isaac Hutt’s

Harris, William                 1894-99                                                Paisley; Crimea

Hatton, Thomas               1852-53

Hays, William                  1853, 1856                                            McDonald

Healey, Pat                         1889  

Heeney, John                  1871-72, 1885-86                               Perth; American Hotel  Hewer, George                   1867                                        

Hignell, Henry                   1861, 1870-71, 1894-99                     bds. 87 Norwich

Hi(y)lliard, Charles             1867, 1882-83                                     bds Strange

Hilliard, Frank                   1867, 1885-86

Hodge, William                      1889-99                                          Palmer; Suffolk

Hooper, John             1861-1870,1875-77,1881-84              Elizabeth; 15 MacDonnell

Hooper, William               1855-75, 1881-84                23 Elizabeth; Gordon nr. Essex

Hooper, William Jr.          1889-92                                     85 Wellington; Nottingham

Horning, Robert                 1865                                                    Gordon

Howard, William               1881                                       

Hume, P.                            1875-77                                               bds. Ward Hotel

Hunt, Charles                     1889

Hunt, John                          1855-56, 1861

Hunter, Rd T.   1889, 1892-99           bds. 33 Queen/Edwin, 17 Chambers, 77 London

Hutt, Issac                          1856                                              Priory Block

Kay(e), Eli                         1873, 1881

Kelly, Barnard                    1857                                                   May’s Blacksmith

Kelly, John        1882-3, 1889-96        bds. 24 Woolwich; Glasgow & Northumberland     Kelly, Patrick                   1881                                 Thompson’s Boarding House

Kelly, Thomas H.              1862                                                             at Anderson’s

Kennedy, William C.          1889, 1892                                         Paisley nr. Glasgow

Keough, Francis                  1865-71, 1885-99                             Wellington/Dundas

Keough, William                1889, 1892                                             Wellington

King, William                    1861

Kitts, John                         1873                                                     bds. Great Western

Langdale, George              1894-96                                               280 Suffolk

Laurence, Morris               1861

Lawrence, William            1861, 1868, 1870, 1881                      Neeve St.

Leonard, Edmund               1873                                                   bds. Harp of Erin

Liddell, James                    1897-99                                               Kathleen

Liderman, Dan                   1846-52

Livy, Barton                       1882-83                                              bds. 15 Macdonell

Lloyd, Charles                   1882-83                                               bds. Edwin/Fergus

Lynch, John Owen             1827-1859                                           Gordon

Lyons, John                        1861

McAdam, William             1856                                                    Mill Block

McCandless, William        1868-70, 1881                                     Oxford

McCarty, James                 1856                                                    Wyndham

McClaggin, Charles           1875-77                                               bds. 10 Clark

McClunie, John                  1897-99                                               Grange

McConnell, John                1867, 1873, 1875-99                          82 Dublin

McCrae, Alex                    1873                                                    bds. Mill

McCullough, Charles           1870                                                  at Coffee’s

McCullough, Harvey            1882-1889,1892-99        Mitchell; Oliver/Queen; Neeve  

McDaide, W.                       1875-77                                             bds. Durham

McDonald, Alex                1881,1889-99                  Elizabeth/Norris; Quebec; Grove

McDonald, Charles              1867

McEwan, George               1881

McGarvey, Peter                 1870                                                    J.W.B.Kelly

McGarr, James                   1828, 1832 

McHardy, Andrew            1885, 1889, 1892                                 bds. Waterloo Ave. 

McIntosh, Thomas       1875-7, 1882-99    American Hotel; Reynolds Hotel; Queen    McKague, Edward                  1885-86                                               bds. Cambridge

Mckenzie, Duncan        1871-99     bds. Cardigan St; American Hotel;  New American Hotel; Charles 

Mckenzie, Murdock          1875-7,1882-84   American Hotel; Suffolk; Cork nr. Norfolk 

Mckenzie, Roderick                1892-99                                         79 London; Edwin

Mclean, Donald                         1864                                                 at Simpson’s

McMahon, John                    1875-77                                                40 Glasgow

McVicker, Charle                       1864                                        at Thomas Robinson’s

Madder, David                             1861                                               Coffee’s Hotel

Marshall, Thomas                      1861

Matthews, Thomas               1881-99         201 Waterloo; American Hotel London Rd.

Maville, Mark                         1861

Mickie(us)                              1889                                        Jane

Miller, David                           1870                                       at Coffee’s

Miller, John                            1856         

Miller, William                      1862                                         at Anderson’s

Mitchell, David                      1861                                         at Mitchell’s

Morrish, Henry                       1864                                        at W. Sallow’s

Morrison, Abraham               1864                                        Galt St.

Mosley, Samuel J.                  1881                                        at Home

Nesslen, Louis                        1875-6, 1889                 bds. 21 Perth; 201 Waterloo

Oaks, George                          1864                                        at W. Sallow’s

O’Connell, Felix                     1897-99                                   71 Metcalf

O’Connor, Bart.                      1889-99                                 70 Essex

O’Donnell, Martin                  1892                                        Alice

O’Rourke, Thomas                  1889

Parker, Robert                         1870                                        23 Queen

Paulin,                                     1882-83                                   bds. Norwich

Payne, W.F.                         1889, 1892-94                           Stewart

Pembelton, John                     1892                                        London

Perry, James                           1873                                        bds. Perth

Phillips, Robert                       1885-86

Phipps, Thomas                      1894-99                                   Eramosa; Delhi

Pinder, Charles                          1861                                     at Sallow’s

Pirie, James                            1861

Platt, Charles                        1870                                          Coffee’s Hotel

Playter, William        1885-86, 1889, 1894-97     Queen & Norwich; 65 Norfolk; Edwin

Ramsbottom, James               1892-94                                  22 Mill

Ramsey, Robert                      1873                                        bds. Edwin

Ray, John                                1870

Reason, Robert                        1864                                       Carmady’s house

Reid, Robert B.                       1894-99                                   Glasgow

Reid, Thomas                         1870

Renton, George              1852-56, 1861, 1870                       634 Paisley

Renton, James                        1861

Ritchie, John                           1875-77                                   bds. 59 George

Robertson, Alex                       1882-3, 1892-99                     Woolwich; Charles; King

Robertson, John                       1889, 1897-99                        Victoria Hotel

Robertson, William                1882-86                                   bds. Eramosa rd.

Robinson, John                       1889-96                                   Victoria Hotel

Robinson, Thomas                  1861-65                                   Coffee’s Hotel

Robinson, Walter                   1889                                         bds. 39 Ontario

Rodgers, George                     1864                                        at Coffee’s

Rogers, Edward                      1870

Roofs, Mark                             1865                                       at Simpson’s

Ross, John                               1894-96                                              

Runstedtler, Louis                  1897-99                                   Elizabeth

Sallows, David                        1871-190                                Wellington

Sallows, George                      1861-1871                               Wellington

Sallows, Henry                       1867-1904                               Wellington

Sallows, William                    1832-1895                               Wellington

Sallows, John                          1839

Seville, Thomas                      1865                                        at Coffee’s

Sheedy, Matthew                    1894-96                                   Glasgow

Sherlock, Robert                     1892                                              Alice

Sherratt, Archibald                 1889, 1892                              bds. ss Palmer

Simpson, Allan                       1852-56, 1861, 1870-86            56 Cork       

Simpson, James                      1861                                        at A. Simpson’s

Simpson, William                  1881                                           at A. Simpson’s

Slater, John                             1873-1889                               bds. Dundas; Suffolk  

Spaldings, John Jr.                  1881                                         at Dad’s home

Spears, John                            1875-77                                     bds. Kent

Steel, George                          1864                                        at T. Anderson’s

Steele, Henry                          1865                                        at George Bruce

Steele, William J.                   1875-84                                     51 Arthur

Stiffler, Alexander                  1873                                        bds. Harp of Erin

Strape, Martin                         1855-56                                   Yarmouth

Sullivan, Patrick                     1870                                        Inkerman

Sully, John                              1852-56, 1861, 1870               Norfolk

Sunley, John                           1882-86                                     bds. Hewer’s Hotel

Sype, Henry                            1861                                          at Coffee’s Hotel

Tawson, Christen                    1881

Thain, John                             1881                                        at Dad’s

Thompson, William               1870

Tobin, James                          1873                                        bds. Essex

Trainor, Cornelius                  1865                                        McTague

Tring, John                             1873                                          Victoria Hotel

Vance, John                            1881

Verney, John B.                      1875-77                                     bds. 64 Woolwich

Vernon, Charles                      1885-86

Wade, Benjamin                     1870                                        Coffee’s Hotel

Wallace, Stephen                    1862                                        At Anderson’s

Watson, Alfred                       1852-55                                   Norfolk 

Watt, Andrew                         1870                                        at Matthew’s House

Webb, Robert                         1892                                          Manitoba

Welch, John F.                        1894-99                                   Commercial Hotel; Fergus

Weston, Stephen                     1861

White, James                          1867

Wickham, Thomas                 1894-99                                     49 Woolwich

Wilson, George R.                  1885-99                                     Toronto

Wiley, John B.                                    1861

Wingfield, William                1882-83                                     bds. 15 MacDonell

Wirton, Stephen                      1861

Younger, James                      1897-99                                     88 Waterloo

Younger, Rolf                         1860

Leave a Reply