Blacksmith’s Picturesque Shop Was Important Social Center Many Years Ago.
Gone is the spreading chestnut tree beside the blacksmith shop which was the first social center in the Warwick area. This was a place for horse trading, farm gossip, lewd banter, and the clientele was strictly stag. The smithy could mould anything out of iron and was a hero to small boys. To the men of the community it was a truly masculine, comfortable, satisfying place. Much of the beautiful work done by these early smiths in iron fashioning is held in high esteem today.
The first settlers had to have a small shop of their own where they would spend the cold winter months making tools and pounding out nails to be sold to incoming neighbors. Nearly all of them were German and were skilled artisans. The smiths soon followed and set up shops in dif- ferent neighborhoods. Some specialized in building the early carts and wagons that preceded the Conestoga. These were known as wheelwrights and the first in this area was Richard Carter at Oregon. Here at the crossroad of Old Peter’s Road and the Lancaster Reading Road he set up his shop using imported at this early date. Shaping a huge iron rim to fit a wagon wheel required considerable skill. First the exact fit must be hammered out after which the tire was again heated and placed over the wheel. Then water was doused over the hot iron and it would shrink to a permanent fit.
Richard Carter, an Englishman, was so highly esteemed that in 1729 Warwick Township was named for him. Penn, Elizabeth and Clay Townships were sliced off at later dates.
The Warwick artisans were fortunate in having the Cornwall iron bank close at hand, where the purest magnetic type ore in the world had been uncovered. After this metal left the Elizabeth Furnace on the Middlecreek in the 1750’s it was brought to the hammermills on the Hammer creek. Red hot, huge gobs of this iron would be heated, pounded, reheated and pounded again and again until the experts decided that all but about four percent of the carbon had been removed. The finished bars of wrought iron were the finest ever produced and there was an unlimited demand for it abroad. However the peace and quiet of Lititz was disturbed even at this early date for the noise of the pounding was clearly heard night and day.
The smiths were all busy making axes, shovels, hoes, chains, and building hardware but some of the more expert in 1771 turned to making the new Pennsylvania (Kentucky) Rifle, one of them being George Albright in Lititz. These smiths were considered so important during the Revolution that they were exempt from military duty, which caused no hardship. While most of them were willing to make the rifles they, at the same time, were not in sympathy with warfare no matter what the cause.
Henry Oerter had the first blacksmith shop in Lititz in front of the Brethren’s House. It was a natural loafing place for the convalescing veterans close by in 1778, and Oerter, as well as other townspeople, were stricken with the deadly camp fever. This shop was later to become the first John Beck School for Boys and a new shop was built at 300 Main Street.
Not all the old blacksmiths in later years were friendly however, and the story is told by a certain retired builder on North Broad of a grouch near Lititz they enjoyed tormenting when he was a boy. One of their favorite pranks was to wait until he left the shop then place a pile of sawdust on the forge after which they would pump the old leather bellows until the shop was a thick cloud of dust. Some fun.