Blacksmith Shops

From Blacksmith Shop to General

Of course every town had a blacksmith shop or two, of which, one of our world's poet and a Maine scholar was able to portray so well in his poem, "The Village Blacksmith." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was a native of Portland, Maine and a graduate of Bowdoin College, later becoming one of Bowdoin's professors.

Before telling you about the blacksmith shop let me just touch on the jail in town to clarify a few land marks. The so-called jail was sometimes known as the town lockup. A very small one-room brick building with one barred window, used for the mischief makers of town, also for the hen-pecked husbands, to get a rest from home duties. Later on it was used as a hostel for foot travelers. They could spend the night if they so desired, on their journey from one town to the next, always being provided with a can of beans and a loaf of bread from the nearby storekeeper's shop. The lock up was located on Bridge Street just north east of the Masonic building, and across the street from the blacksmith shop. Standing on the site of the lockup, at the present time, is a one car wooden garage.

Now to get back to the blacksmith shop on Bridge Street. This building was located just opposite the lock up and changed hands many times.

Joseph Curtis sold to Rufus P. Glass in 1840; then to James Huntington, and he sold to Joseph Curtis, who sold to William D. Curtis and he worked there many years. At his death the shop was sold to John F. Hysler in 1909 and he carried on the blacksmith business.

In 1924 the property was bought by the late John A. Purington a resident of the town, his home being located on the River Road, where his widow Lottie M. Purington, now resides and nearby his daughter, Mrs. Delmar Curtis, and his son, Ralph A. Purington. Previous to buying this property Mr. Purington worked for W. B. Kendall, a grain mill operator.

After purchasing the blacksmith shop, it developed into a service garage. Later renovations were made and a grain store materialized, finally a general store was in operation. Mr. Purington operated his business until 1940. The business was then sold to his son-in-law, Delmar E. Curtis, who also made some renovations, to land and buildings, and built a service station nearby. Mr. Curtis operated the store until 1959, when he sold his business to the present owner, Mr. Robert H. Blake.

One of the buildings owned by Mr. Curtis, known as the old engine house, was moved off the property, it had housed two of the towns older pieces of fire apparatus, two hand tubs. One of these was the Water Witch, sold to a party living in Lewiston, Maine and the Phenix, which you will see in operation at the Firemen's Muster Saturday, July 7, held on the Community School grounds, under the direction of the Androscoggin Veterans' Firemen's Association, Inc. who has kept in repair, this piece of equipment. Bowdoinham owns the Phenix but through a lease program with the Androscoggin Firemen's Association, the Phenix is housed in their town.

Both hand tubs were used to help fight the most destructive fire in the history of the town, December 14, 1902. The Phenix, at that time, having been in town over half a century. Originally the Phenix was acquired by the town, from a ship which docked here to load supplies. The tub was used in the ships hold for pumping out water, which was one of the many uses for this type of hand tub, in those days.

Two years later another fire broke out in the town, March 1, 1904 wiping out completely the businesses that had managed to survive the first holocaust.

All in all we have a rich heritage, our forefathers before us that steered the course and laid the ground work, with many a chuckle and good times, sprinkled with tears of joy, and tears of sorrow, handed down to us, a community to be proud of.

Let us not forget to bow reverently in humble petition to the Giver of all good and perfect gifts, and take the time to count our blessings one by one, as we live one day at a time.

So written by Ella May Purington Curtis


The Blacksmith Shops

The first blacksmith shops were as essential in the early days as garages are now. It was at these shops that all the tools, nails, pipe tongs, needles and also the iron parts needed for the ship building were made. They used the old bark mill power at Cripps Stream to polish the pitchforks when done. All the horseshoes were hand made until the early 1900's. All the wagons and sleighs were made and repaired here also.

The first shop to be recorded was operated by Benjamin Gardiner on the Abagadassett Point. The first one in the village was owned by Alexander located near Lithco Allens home near the Brooklyn bridge. There were many shop owners but the ones since 1860 were Vincent Given, William Curtis, Martin Chapman. John Hysler's shop was located where Blakes store now is. James Brawn's at the foot of Main Street where Peterson's Mill is now located. Three members of the Temple family, John, Jean, and his son Irving owned a blacksmith shop also in that area. After commercially made horseshoes were available many people did their own shoeing and as automobiles became more plentiful they gradually replaced the horse and buggy and the blacksmith shops were no longer needed. Joseph Fulton worked the blacksmith trade along with his carriage shop for those who needed his services until it was discontinued entirely.

These shops served as gathering places to meet your friends and swap gossip and troubles while your work was being done. Many times there were some pretty serious horseshoe games that attracted both young and old. The young people of today miss much by not having these friendly places to gather.

by George Brawn
Bicentennial Booklet 1962