Coming Soon

The Blacksmith Shop was one of the busiest and most important places in Catoctin Furnace. The skill of the Blacksmith in making and repairing iron objects made him a necessary worker at Catoctin Furnace and nearly every other community in America during the 18th and 19th centuries. He shaped shoes for the horses and mules that were essential for the furnace operations. He made nails, hinges, hooks, wagon parts, tools and repaired all the iron fixtures of the furnace’s machinery. Little wonder why his work kept him busy 6 days a week and on call 24 hours to maintain the furnace’s operation.

The Catoctin Furnace Blacksmith Shop is a 20 x 14 heavy timber structure based on historic archival, photographic, and oral history evidence of working blacksmith shops in Catoctin Furnace and the surrounding countryside. The shop serves as a demonstration, education, and exhibit space. In 2019, the CFHS purchased a full complement of blacksmithing tools with the generous assistance of a Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area (HCWHA) grant. These tools are utilized within the blacksmith shop to demonstrate and teach blacksmithing.

The predominance of enslaved Africans and free African Americans at Catoctin between the time of the Revolution and the Civil War is strong evidence for African American blacksmithing in the village. The Catoctin Furnace working blacksmith shop will revive and literally “reconstruct” the history of blacksmiths and their important role in early Frederick County, Maryland, and the U.S. Our research team included staff from Colonial Williamsburg as well as local heavy timber construction experts. We completed extensive research of historic blacksmith shops such as the African American owned Moses Jones (1787-1868) blacksmith shop in Carroll County and the Felicity or Oakland Mills blacksmith shop in Howard County, which was a model for the Colonial Williamsburg blacksmith shop. This research informed the completed design: an early photograph of the Jones shop was utilized to design the roofline and doors. Detailed historical research has revealed that the majority of Catoctin Furnace and related industry workers during the late 18th/early 19th centuries were enslaved and free Africans and African Americans. Recent research has identified 16 African American blacksmiths in northern Frederick County in the 19th century. In early America, blacksmithing by European immigrants and African American enslaved and free persons was a highly regarded occupation. Despite their importance, their story remains largely untold.

Catoctin Furnace contains the story of African and European iron working traditions and skills that were brought across the Atlantic Ocean. In “Striking Iron” (2019) Tom Joyce states that African blacksmiths are inextricably connected to a long and substantial legacy…these skills and knowledge were brought to the new United States. The Catoctin Furnace blacksmith shop is a platform to honor the contribution of blacksmithing to our history, revive the practice of the craft, and educate visitors of all ages about the importance of African ironmaking technology transfer.

Courtesy of NPS, Hopewell National Historic Site,  L. Kenneth Townsend, artist