By David Fleet
Ortonville-It’s been more than 70 years since the ring of blacksmith Carl Williams’ hammer and the smell of his coal fired forge were an everday part of the village.
Ron Sutton, 90, recalls Carl along with his son Ervin’s blacksmithing business along the banks of the Kearsley Creek near Mill Street.
“Carl was north of Mill Street, east of the creek and William was on the south side west of the creek,” recalls Sutton. Ervin worked on shoeing horses while Carl fixed plows, wagon wheels along with other blacksmith work. Both used coal and hired kids to bring water from the creek to fill their cooling barrels in the shop.”
The sights, sounds and smells of the village blacksmiths more than a half century ago will soon return thanks to the efforts of a team of Ortonville Historical Society members.
On Monday night, the village council voted 7-0 approving the construction of a blacksmith shop between the Mann School and the Kearsley Creek near The Old Mill south of Mill Street. The 12 feet by 24 feet metal roof, wood structure will include a traditional turn of the century blacksmith shop facade. A portable coal fired forge will be operated outside the structure by a local blacksmith during hours when The Old Mill is open.
Ortonville Historical Society member Mary Alice Seelbinder says the blacksmith shop has been on their wish list for the past 20 years.
“This shop will be built next to our beautiful little one room schoolhouse behind The Old Mill Museum,” she said.
“The 1856 grist mill was built on the banks of the Kearsley Creek by Ortonville founder Amos Orton, who harvested the water power of the creek to run his mill for area farmers. Blacksmith shops were nearby to the cool the hot cast iron items, which included horseshoes. Those shoes were necessary items for America until Henry Ford’s Model T cars replaced the horses.”
The historical society has been blessed with some generous donations, added Seelbinder.
“We felt this is time to build our blacksmith shop,” she said. “Our plans are drawn and donated by lifetime resident Lee Palshan. The property has been staked out and we have just enough room between the schoolhouse and the creek. We also have a local resident that can help us to demonstrate and teach the art of blacksmithing.”
Donations are still needed for the blacksmith shop and can be made at OCHS, P.O. Box 155, Ortonville, Mich. 48462.
Any questions contact the blacksmith shop committee Arnold and Mary Alice Seelbinder, Mary Kassuba and Chairman Ron Sutton.
From 10 a.m.-2 p.m., each Saturday The Old Mill Museum, 366 Mill St., Ortonville is open. Admission is free.