Blacksmith Shop

By dhowell - Posted on 02 January 2008

"Under the spreading chesnut tree the village smithy stood."

"Stands, you mean, don't you?" the reader might ask.

No, because that's the way Longfellow's immortal poem will probably read for horseshoeing blacksmith shops are pretty much a thing of the past. Washtenaw county has none and the only place you can hear the hammer against steel is in the "Anvil Chorus" from I Trovatore.

Last blacksmith, John Schneider, at the anvil in the shop on East Main.

Manchester at one time had eight blacksmith shops. Now there are none. Children today will miss stopping at the village blacksmith shop, with its flying sparks, acrid smoke from balky horses hooves, that fascinating forge with its hand-turned blower and the sizzle of hot iron shoes in the water barrel.

Once holes in metal were hand drilled, later an electric device did the work. The blowers, once turned by hand, were later electricity operated and electricity also replaced the jack light. In the old days a horse was shod every six weeks when they were driving over the roads.

William Neebling was a blacksmith, manufacturer and repairer of carriages. He came to Manchester from Wurtemberg, Germany in 1850. His relatives lived in Freedom and he went to live with them. While there he learned the blacksmith trade and worked in Adrian and Jackson before he enlisted in the 9th Michigan Cavalry and served until the close of the war. He came to Manchester, married Elizabeth Emmer, of Bridgewater, and opened his blacksmith shop.

On October 30, 1877, the frame blacksmith shop was moved on the lot to the east on Jefferson street (now East Main). It was replaced by a new, one story brick building 60 x 28 feet. A gang of masons went to work and in eight days had the building ready for the carpenters. The shop had three forges, latest improvements and was well lighted and ventilated.

The smaller room at the rear was used by wagon makers. The old shop which was moved to the side was used for finishing and showing work. There was plenty of storage space. Later the blacksmith shop was owned by Theodore Morschheuser and then by John Schneider and Carl Schaffer. Mr. Schneider was the last one in Manchester to own and operate a blacksmith shop. He had been an apprentice and learned the trade in the same building where he worked for 41 years. With him went an art which few follow today—that of forging red hot iron to fit a horses hoof.