A look at the blacksmith shops of Admiral
If you were to walk into Admiral at the turn of the century, you would smell and hear the blacksmith shop pretty quick. For early communities, the blacksmith shop was a vital place of business. In Admiral, Carl Nelson has the distinction of being one of the first blacksmiths in the area when he set up his shop in a sod hut just northwest of Admiral. Soon enough, Ole Woie opened up his own blacksmith shop in a stone building south of town in 1911.
Once the railway came through, Woie quickly moved his blacksmith shop into town in 1914 on Railway Avenue to take full advantage of the extra business that was coming in. He continued to upgrade his shop when in 1916 he put in a trip hammer to speed up his work.
He also has the honour of being the first person to conduct acetylene welding in the community. The anvil that Woie used was a piece of railroad rail, showing the resourcefulness of early settlers. He also made a blower for the forge and sharpened plot shares before getting a regular anvil.
Work was going so well that in 1916, Bill Kasperski joined Woie at the blacksmith shop to handle the increase in business. Joe Woyss would also join both men at the blacksmith shop for awhile.
In 1918, Kasperski would buy out Woie and take over the blacksmith shop himself. He would continue working out of the shop for the next three decades before he turned it into a Massey Harris machine shop in the 1950s. In 1958, he would sell to Lawrence Lind.
Business was going so well in Admiral that these were not the only two blacksmiths to operate out of the community. In 1914, Emile Ubrich was also a blacksmith for Keck’s when they operated a grading outfit.
Alex Gimple is another blacksmith that operated in the area for a time. He worked for the Hicks brothers when he first arrived in Admiral before he began blacksmithing.
In 1917, he would buy a blacksmith shop and operate it until 1942 when he moved to British Columbia due to the decline in horse farming in the Admiral area by then.
For most of the blacksmiths in the area, the main work was pounding out ploughshares and putting on horse shoes. Bill Kasperski, the longestrunning blacksmith in Admiral’s history, put the front shoes on 100 saddle horses once for the 76 Ranch. These shoes were steel with no toe corks. In order to get the shoes on the horse, the ponies were thrown down and a plank was put across their belly with a cowboy on each side to hold the animal down while it had the horse shoes put on.
Today, the blacksmith shops are long gone but their impact on the early community life of Admiral is unmistakable.
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All information for this piece comes from Admiral: Prairie to Wheatfields.