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f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

Morrison Blacksmith Shop

Posted Wednesday, December 3, 2014, at 12:00 AM

March 23, 1918 Southeast Missourian

Harry Morrison has re-opened the Morrison blacksmith shop on South Spanish street after having it closed for several weeks on account of being unable to secure a blacksmith. Joe Schonhoff is now in charge of the shop.


Aug. 18, 1956 Southeast Missourian

Blacksmith Shops Filled Big Need in Pioneer Day

In Cape Girardeau, as in other towns, the blacksmith was an essential craftsman in the early days. In its golden age, blacksmithing was a number one trade in Cape, with as many as 12 shops being located here at one time. Blacksmithing and wagon-making went hand in hand and partnerships of this type were very common.

There were the shops of Vogt & Steimle, on Good Hope street; Banks & Beaudean, on Spanish street, Brune & Bleckwendt, on Broadway, and Bohnsack, Blacksmith and Wagon-Maker, also on Broadway.

Names of some "village blacksmiths" were: Stephen Banks, Matt Morrison, John Vogt, Wm. H. Bleckwendt, Wm. Bobb, John Maurer, Charles Moeder, A.N. McGuire, Louis Kohlfeld, Joe G. Schonhoff, A.H. Hamilton and others. Mr. Schonhoff still resides in Cape Girardeau.

Essential to Town

A blacksmith was essential to the early town. To his shop, usually in the center of town, came the citizens with their items to be welded on the forge. By heating and hammering, iron was reshaped into objects of utility and beauty.

A hearth was built to conduct smoke to the chimney. In easy reach about the hearth were the blacksmith's tools--bellows, anvils, tongs, sledge hammer, file, vise, workbench, chisels, mandrils, race wheels and others. Special equipment for shoeing horses and repairing farm machinery were also in his shop.

The blacksmithy made tomahawks, scalping knives; he ground swords, razors and scissors; he cleaned and polished pistols. The picturesque old grills and railings found on old dwellings, were also his handiwork. Man of many talents, he also made weathervanes, hinges, locks and keys for the town residents.

To become a blacksmith, boys from 10 to 14 years of age began an apprenticeship, training on the job from seven to nine years. Under the direction of a finished craftsman, these boys were taught the trade and also were instructed in reading, writing and arithmetic. Their employer also clothed and fed them, and gave them a small amount of spending money.

None Remain Here

Today there are few such shops remaining. Locally there are no blacksmith shops. However, Frank J. Brockmeyer's welding shop on Spanish street is as near to a replica of a blacksmith shop as can be found anywhere today. Until 1940 the shop did horse shoeing, but since then has switched exclusively to plow sharpening and welding.

This shop on Spanish street, founded about 1890 by Banks & Beaudean just a little north of its present location, has the same equipment the blacksmiths used 60 years ago. Mr. Brockmeyer still uses much of the same equipment, and heats his irons on the same forge.

When the shop was opened, Mr. Banks was blacksmith and his partner, Beaudean, was the wagon-maker. In 1906 Banks sold out to Matt Morrison, and in 1914 Morrison moved the shop from its original site (where Midwest Dairy is) to its present location. Morrison and his assistant, Louis Kohlfeld, ran the shop until Morrison's death in 1917.

The Morrison estate operated the shop, with Joe G. Schonhoff as blacksmith from 1918 to 1921, when Mr. Schonhoff bought the shop. Mr. Brockmeyer, present owner, began as an apprentice under Mr. Schonhoff April 26, 1925, and bought the business in 1949.

What It Cost

Cost for shoeing a horse was $12 when Mr. Brockmeyer began his apprenticeship. The four shoes could be fitted and put on in about 45 minutes, "if you really worked at it," Mr. Brockmeyer said. "I began working for $20 a week, six days, which was about 20 cents an hour. But you know, I came out about as well then as I do now. A pair of overalls cost 69 cents then. Today I pay $2.95 a pair for them."

The business of Vogt & Steimle included two buildings which faced each other on Good Hope street. John Vogt had his blacksmith shop where Unnerstall's Drug Store is, and Ferdinand Steimle made wagons in a building across the street, where Nunley's Drug Store is today.

Joe Steimle well remembers his father's wagon shop. The family residence, a two-room frame house, was directly behind the shop. Later Steimly moved his business a block away, just west of the Farmers & Merchants Bank. He went out of business about 1917 when wagon-making began to slack up.

Recalls Early Shop

Dr. Anita Bohnsack also remembers something of the blacksmithing days. Her father, Wm. H. Bohnsack, had his own shop located where the Broadway Fruit Market is today. Dr. Bohnsack has a remembrance of her father's trade--a set of horse shoes which he made and entered in the Cape County Fair. Mr. Bohnsack won a prize for his display which included a racing shoe, a hobble shoe and many other types.

Mr. Bohnsack had an assistant and also employed a wagonmaker. He closed the shop in the 1920s.

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  • You mentioned Frank Brockmeyer, who gave up blacksmithing for welding and sharpening when he got older. I did a story on him in 1967.

    He was a fascinating character, the last of his breed in Cape.

    http://www.capecentralhigh.com/cape-photos/frank-j-brockmeyer-blacksmith/

    -- Posted by ksteinhoff on Wed, Dec 3, 2014, at 10:11 AM
  • A lot of info in a short space, so great to learn this tho.

    -- Posted by jimblakemore2 on Wed, Dec 3, 2014, at 10:31 AM
  • Thanks for running this article. Where was the Morrison shop on South Spanish?

    -- Posted by tomneumeyer on Wed, Dec 3, 2014, at 10:43 AM
    Fred Lynch
    My best guess would put the Morrison blacksmith shop within the present parking lot across from Grassroots BMW. Ken Steinhoff reported that Frank J. Brockmeyer's blacksmith/welding shop was located at 35 South Spanish, and the shop was "a small, sagging brick and wooden structure with a weatherbeaten door." The present Sound Track Music is located at 39 South Spanish, just south of the parking lot. The 1956 Missourian story states: ..."in 1914 Morrison moved the shop from its original site (where Midwest Dairy is) to its present location." Midwest Dairy was located at 25 South Spanish.
  • Brune Time Memories:

    Wow. Another piece to the puzzle falls into place. My grandfather Henry J Brune who passed away in 1957 used to talk of his father's Wagon Shop (also Henry J) on Broadway and I used to know which building it was - near Sprigg street east or west. I had never heard Great Grandpa Henry referred to as a 'Blacksmith' only a 'Wagon Maker' so the business name "Brune & Bleckwendt" makes sense. Bleckwendt must have been the blacksmith and great grandpa Henry ran the wagon business.

    Grandpa Brune used to boast that his dad had the largest, fanciest and best "wagon shop in town because it was the only two-story setup. There was a large ramp that connected the second floor to the first floor so I'm guessing the Blacksmith operation was on the first floor for easy access, and the wagon production took place on the second floor.

    While Dad and Mom (Charles Henry & Louise and Grandpa Henry) worked at Brune's Cleaners & Furriers on Main Street (current site of Johnson Law Offices) - The younger three of the four Brune boys (Brad, Scott, & Lance) spent a great deal of time at the Brune homesite at 716 N. Sprigg where my apartment building "The Brent House" (built by Uncle Bill Brune & named after Greg's oldest son Brent) - currently resides.

    At the old home site which covered several acres, a "holler", a chicken house,a small concrete fresh fish pond (4' by 8'), a nice size corn crop, and every type of Fruit Tree and flower garden you could think of. We would pick cherries, apples, or pairs fresh from the trees and Granny (Alma Young Brune) would make us the BEST EVER pies from scratch!! She missed a cherry pit now and then - so you had to eat carefully - but we never complained.

    Our favorite past time in the 1950s (of course) was playing cowboys & Indians, and our favorite toy/prop was a small wagon (6-7 feet long and finely crafted by Brune & Bleckwendt. We used to build a super-structure on top of the wagon - with an upside-down table, cardboard boxes and blankets so that it resembled a stagecoach. We would take turns being the two horses and the driver, as it was heavy enough that it took two of us to pull it with any speed - while in the stage coach & driver mode.

    Many wonderful adventures and days were spent at "Grannies" climbing fruit trees, eating pies, chasing chickens, swinging over the 'creek on grape vines' down in the holler, making Tepee's out of the tall corn stalks, and blazing the endless old west trails in our authentic Brune & Bleckwendt Wells Fargo Stage Coach.

    E e e e e e H a a a a a a!!

    Brad

    -- Posted by bunken1 on Thu, Dec 4, 2014, at 1:07 PM
  • I just happened upon this in 2017. I am also a great grandson of Henry Brune through a daughter "Anita", my grandmother. My understanding is that the shop was on Broadway just west of Middle St - two buildings down. It was in the vicinity of Trinity Lutheran's big digital sign or maybe a little further west. I actually have two of the wagons from the shop, but I'm about to sell them as antiques. Bob Polack

    -- Posted by Robert Polack on Thu, Dec 28, 2017, at 2:47 PM