One of the goals of the Museum’s
1975 Long Range Plan was the creation of a working old time blacksmith
shop. In the early years in Weaverville there were six to eight
blacksmith shops in town. As the population declined and metal work
became available from factory sources, the number of shops decreased.
The Pioneer Blacksmith Shop
was the principal blacksmith shop and originally stood on Main Street
just opposite the existing old Weaverville Volunteer Fire Company’s
firehouse. Benton and Armentrout first owned it in the 1870s. They
built a new shop in 1885 and it eventually passed to David Davis
in 1888. That building was rebuilt in 1905 following the great fire
that destroyed it and most of Chinatown.
David Davis’ younger brother,
Griffith "Griff" Davis, came from Illinois to work at
the Pioneer Blacksmith shop when David Davis died in 1908. Griff
worked at the shop and became owner in 1913. He took in Johnny Hagelman
as his partner, but Hagelman left in 1919. Griff carried on as smithy
until he died in 1936. In 1937 the building was dismantled.
The creation of a working old
time tin shop was included in the Museum’s 1975 Long Range
Plan, along with the blacksmith shop. The antique equipment was
installed and operational in 1989. It is now used by our own tinsmiths
in demonstrating the use of the tools to school tours, bus tours
and to the general public during the Saturdays of three-day weekends
and on the 4th of July.
The Tin Shop occupies the right-hand side of the same building which
houses the blacksmith shop. This pioneer shop was inspired by Max
Lang’s Tin Shop with the support of his descendants. Lang
also operated a general merchandise store for about 30 years in
the brick building that still stands at the northeast corner of
Main Street and Highway 3 in Weaverville. Max Lang’s Tin Shop
was originally located across Main Street from his store.
When Max Lang retired, he sold
his shop to Ann Whitebread. It changed from owner to owner and smith
to smith through the years. As this project developed, it was discovered
that Hal Goodyear was in possession of a treasured collection of
tin smithing equipment that descended to him from his grandfather
and uncle’s partnership, Miller & Goodyear. Many of the
machines in the shop were manufactured by companies that had gone
out of business by 1870. It is very likely that Max Lang, and other
tinsmiths including Whitbread, John Timmerman, H.T. Bush, and Anderline
& Miller had used most of this equipment.
The museum site was perfect
for the duplication of the old Davis shop uptown. The building was
completed in 1988, equipped and fully operational by 1989.
The interior of blacksmith side
of the shop is set up from an old Gene Goodyear photo. The tools
are not original Davis tools, but come from other pioneer shops
- the old Harmon Schlomer shop in Helena (North Fork) and the Van
Matre Ranch shop in Minersville, now covered by Trinity Lake. Two
permanent forges are set up - one blower type and the other using
bellows. Every attempt is made to retain its 1920s flavor.
Local blacksmiths use the replicated
shop to produce items for sale in the Museum’s Gift Shop and
for live demonstrations for school tours, bus tours and on holiday
weekends. Blacksmithing classes are taught under the sponsorship
of the California Blacksmith Association.