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Source: NMHS Newsletter May 1995
Farrier or Blacksmith
By L. Russell Long
The following article, which first appeared in the
February edition of this newsletter, is being reprinted
in its entirety. A portion of the original article was
inadvertently omitted, a victim of the communication
age, lost in etherspace.
Was he a farrier or a blacksmith? Let's try the
dictionary. It describes a Farrier as a man who shoes
horses: Blacksmith it describes as a smith who works in
iron, including the making and fitting of horseshoes.
Apparently the two are interchangeable. The men in my
story considered themselves farriers doing smithy work
on the side.
There was a time when the trade described above, was an
essential business in every community, including North
Manchester. The work of village smithy could be classed
as an art considering what a trained person could do
with a piece of iron. The tools of the trade consisted
of a forge, equipped with a bellows, an anvil, sledges,
numerous hammers of different types and tongs of several
sizes. The forge was fired by coal, with a bellows that
pushed oxygen into the embers, raising the temperature
to a high degree. Iron was heated to a red hot condition
making it pliable. Thus the artisan could pound it into
the desired shapes on his anvil.
The farrier I best remember was my grandfather, John H.
Parmerlee who learned his trade from his father,
William. Both called North Manchester, home. John had
shops in several locations over the years; the northeast
corner of Main and Market, the southeast corner of Main
and Maple and on Walnut at the present location of the
Inn. In his later years he moved to a barn on his
property. This was located on South Market.
Alvion Bugby apprenticed under John and later had his
own shop just north of United Technology's building on
Mill Street. The foundation of his building can still be
seen by a passerby.
The annual highlight of John's career was the county
fair held in North Manchester. Here he set up shop in
the Horse Barn and shoed the harness racers.
Incidentally, John and Alvion both owned Pacers. John's
was named Velox and was considered one of the fastest
around at that time. Granddad, however, hired drivers
rather than racing himself. I can still remember seeing
Alvion driving his horse around town.
Being mindful of a horses ability to kick, John never
allowed us kids to get very close when shoeing a horse,
but from a distance I was amazed, as a child to see what
he could do. Watching him form a horseshoe to fit each
individual hoof made me realize that farriers were also
Kids of that day, for the most part knew the Parmerlee
compound to be a place to get a drink. Flowing wells
were numerous on south Market, but the Parmerlee well
was the only one visible from the street. Many a
youngster stopped there to get a drink on their way to
and from the Pony Creek swimming hole. I'm sure there
are several people who still remember the swimming hole
and the Parmerlee well.
John retired in 1936 at age 73. He passed on in
November, 1939. Alvion Bugby was the last active farrier
or blacksmith in town. He passed on in 1948. Yes,
another colorful page in North Manchester history is no
more. Blacksmiths can still be seen demonstrating their
craft at festivals and village museums, but to see a man
(or woman) shoe horses is a rare scene today. The
Historical Society owns a picture of John's shop on Main
and Market. Both John and Alvion are in the picture.