History of the Ceremony for
            Christening of a New Blacksmith Shop

by Rick Helwig, blacksmith

For the last four years, the members of the Big Walnut Area Historical Society have been working hard to recreate a livery stable similar to the one that would have originally serviced the stagecoaches and travelers that stayed in the Myers Inn.  When completed this new livery stable will include a wheelwright display, a harness display, stables, and a blacksmith shop.   This new living history exhibit will be dedicated on July 4th at 12:20 pm

The occupation of blacksmith goes far back into antiquity.  The Old Testament talks of a man named Hiram Abiff who “was the first to work in iron and brass” and employed at the building of King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.   The ancient Greeks had a blacksmith god named Hephaestus, who made armor for the gods.  The ancient Romans also had a blacksmith god named Vulcan.  He came to be considered as the manufacturer of art, arms, iron, jewelry, and armor for various gods and heroes, including the thunderbolts of Jupiter.

Over the centuries, blacksmiths continued to improve and master their craft in Europe. When Europeans came to the New World, the blacksmith was one of the most esteemed craftsmen to settle in a new community.  The blacksmith was held in such high regard, because new items were very hard to get as they needed to be imported from the old world.  But, the Blacksmith could either repair or repurpose metal items immediately. 

The importance of the blacksmith did not diminish as the United States matured.  By the mid 1800’s almost all communities has at least one blacksmith.  The 1866 Atlas of Delaware County, Ohio shows that Sunbury had two blacksmiths and the Big Walnut Area employed at least eleven blacksmiths. 

Each blacksmith would have had his own independent shop, but before he could open his smithy, he would first have to serve an apprenticeship of up to seven years.  At the end of his apprenticeship, he would be allowed to open his own shop.  As part of the ceremonies in opening the new smithy, the young blacksmith would take some glowing coals from his master’s forge to light the first fire in his new forge.  A blacksmith would work from Monday to Saturday and then bank the coals in his forge so he could easily restart his fire on Monday, his forge would never go cold.  Thus, according to folklore, all blacksmith’s fire can be traced back to the original blacksmith, Vulcan.

As with many parts of folklore, the same story will have different versions.  The most common mythological story claims that Vulcan’s smithy was situated underneath Mount Etna in Sicily.  While others believed that the Sun was the forge used by Vulcan.

Since there are no coal fired forges being used daily in Sunbury anymore, the new forge in the Myers Inn Livery and Blacksmith Shop will be christened by returning to the “original”  blacksmith and take “coals” from the fire of the forge of Vulcan, the Sun.


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