Wilson Morningstar’s Blacksmith Shop

Wilson Morningstar in front of barn small

Wilson Morningstar operated Mountain Mills (Morningstar Mill) from 1883 – 1933: he ground wheat grain into flour in his gristmill and sawed logs into lumber in his saw mill.  Wilson also had a blacksmith and carpentry shop where he could make anything that his family or community needed.

Wilson was a very capable and industrious millwright, tradesman and inventor!  Wilson shod his own horses, he made and set wagon and buggy tires, and scraped the road flat with railroad rails hitched to a team of horses before Grantham Township spread gravel on the roads.  In 1886, Wilson was awarded a patent for a device which removed snow from railway tracks.

As a blacksmith, Wilson did make horseshoes, but this was a very small part of his blacksmithing operations. Wilson’s logbooks reveal that he repaired and made parts for wagons (braces, tongues, whifletrees, reaches, brackets, neck yokes), carts, sleighs, shelves, pulleys, rollers, cutters, lamping irons, plow beams, pumps, wheelbarrows, rakes, tractors, disc harrows, dump wagons, cider mills, grinding guards, scrapers and sewing machines! He also sharpened drill points, cutting tools, and lawn mower blades.  In 1907, Wilson charged 12.5 cents for horseshoe; and in 1910, 90 cents of an iron tire.

Wilson Morningstar’s blacksmith and carpentry shop was located where the parking lot is now. Jessie (Wilson’s daughter) writes that the blacksmith shop was built using recycled materials from the barracks built for the Italian workers who helped build the dams for the Power Company in about 1904/5.

The ‘shop’ was a two-storey flat-roofed wooden structure clad in metal sheeting which looked like concrete blocks. The lower level contained the blacksmith shop where Wilson made iron tires for wooden wagon wheels and shod horses in bad weather. There was also an area for smoking meat which was partitioned off with old woven rugs from the house. The upper level of the building contained a carpentry shop and a small two roomed apartment for a hired assistant.  In later years, Wilson’s wife Emma rendered lard in this area.

Wilson’ grand-daughter, Lorna, recalls that… at the forge, her grandfather had rigged up an air pump to an old bicycle. ‘The frame was turned upside down, and you turned one of the pedals to operate the pump…I used to stand there and turn the handle, and the forge would glow and Grandfather would be beating red-hot metal, and the sparks would fly…I used to love to do that.’

Today, the Friends of Morningstar Mill have set up a working blacksmith shop for demonstrations and for making repairs on-site.  Here’s a link to the story Cogeco filmed in July…


Upcoming milling and blacksmithing demonstrations: August 27, September 24 and October 15, 2016.

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