Peabody Singing Tower

 NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
 North Manchester, Indiana

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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 artists.
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.