Willie Gibbons Farm and Blacksmith Shop

photo of Willie and Nancy Gibbons and the blacksmith shop
Willie and Nancy Gibbons at the settlement in 1945.  Built in the 1920s, the blacksmith shop burned in the early 1950s and was completely reconstructed in the 1960s under the supervision of Willie’s son, Jess Gibbons. 

NPS photos

In the early days of the settlement, residents went off the mountain to local blacksmith shops for repair work. By about the 1920s, Willie Gibbons felt the population on the mountain warranted setting up his own blacksmith shop, attached to the carpentry shed he had built earlier. Jess Gibbons remembers his father building the two rooms of round, saddle notched chestnut logs and oak boards with a fireplace both for warmth and for burning up wood chips created by his carpentry work. The shop had a dirt floor. The blacksmith shop became a communal building for the neighborhood.

 
anvil from Hensley Settlement
Anvil from Hensley Settlement (cat. #572)

As Jess Gibbons remembers, not only did the boys of the family work in the shop, but "there'd be a lot come in and watch him work. Turn them chairs or work in the blacksmith shop. And they'd bring all of their blacksmithing for him to do. Sharpening plows, mattocks, and first one thing and another." Sometimes neighbors simply came to the shop to do their own work: "They had something they wanted to fix in the blacksmith shop, why, they come down here. And if they couldn't do it their selves, why, they'd get my daddy to help 'em with it."

 
 
 
historic interpreter plowing
Plows and horse shoes were just a couple of the items created by community carpenter/blacksmith Willie Gibbons.  Here, interpreter Chester Thomas plows a field as part of the park’s living history program in the 1970s.

NPS Photo

 
 

Last updated: June 16, 2015

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