The David Taylor Reid Blacksmith Shop as it stood in Bird’s Hill, 1909 – 1910 circa.
The addition on the left was removed in later years.
The D.T. Reid Blacksmith Shop, the latest acquisition of the Heritage Museum, was a busy place as numerous members of this ancient trade tried again, their skills on the anvil.
Moved to the Museum grounds in July from its original location in Bird's Hill, this 77-year-old building has been partly restored under the Summer 86 Student Program, with Mr. H. van der Put ten in charge of restoration. It·is expected to be completed for Heritage Day 1987.
Alf Reid, grandson of D.T. Reid, and donor of this unique shop to the Museum, was present for the partial opening. He took part in making small items out of iron for the spectators.
I enjoyed conversing with Mrs. Eleanor Reid, widow of Dave Reid, Jr. , and Mr. James Reid, son of D.T. Reid, who were also present.
By the way, the Museum is still in need of a 20Q-pound anvil for the blacksmith's shop. If anyone can oblige, please call 444-2248.
Well before the advent of mechanization the blacksmith played an important role in villages and towns across the land. Smithing was a trade unto itself and the blacksmith was expected to fix anything made out of iron. The smithy was also a gathering place where passers-by stopped to exchange opinions on local and world affairs.
Closed down in the mid 1960's one of the only original fully equi ped blacksmith shops existed until recently, southeast of Winnipeg. Completed around 1909 this smithy was built by David Taylor Reid at Bird's Hill. It was relocated in July, 1986 to the grounds of the Cook 's Creek Heritage Museum.
Born of Scottish parents at Peterhead, Scotland, around 1883, David emigrated to Canada to set tle in Bird's Hill, Manitoba. He came as a young man in the early
1900's as a newly certified blacksmith to seek his fortune in a newland.
David was in his early teens when he indentured under a master blacksmith in England. He completed his apprenticeship and at age 21, came to Manitoba, working as a blacksmith on a railway bridge outside Souris. When the bridge was completed, he worked for W.D. Tranter, blacksmith. at Middlechurch. Mr. Tranter's daughter was soon to become Mrs. David T. Reid. The couple would raise three sons, a daughter and an adopted son.
Wanting his own business, David obtained property at Bird's Hill and with $40.00 of lumber that he acquired on credit, he built his smithy. Borrowing an anvil from the postmaster, a Mr. Chudleigh, David started a business that was to span nearly half a century. Quoting in part from an article written by his eldest son and published in Red River - "Reflections”, his credentials were framed on the wall, an impressive parchment in copperplate style which recorded the terms of apprenticeship to a master blacksmith in Yorkshire. It is an amazing document to read today, detailing the covenant whereby the master pledged himself to impart all the secrets of his ancient craft, while young David promised to be a faithful servant, never to be out later than 9:30, never to frequent taverns or playhouses. He received his board and room and was paid one pound sterling annually over five years. This certificate still exists.
A short, thick-set man, David tackled any and all work necessary. An extremely careful, cautious man, he demanded precision from all who worked for him. His fees were fair and he wouldn't be dissuaded from his quoted price. The "Chief" as he was addressed by all who knew him, was a strong, caring family man. His keen sense of humor stood well in the mixed com munity of Scots, Englishmen and Ukrainians. He enjoyed the occasional brew and perhaps once a month, would walk the 10 miles to the nearest establishment across the Red River. When he returned later he carried a small keg on his shoulders, his quota for the month.
The Bird's Hill smithy was the focal point of the community where the villagers came to watch qnd admire the speed with which the ''Chief'” would shoe a horse, attach iron tires to wagon wheels, straighten crankshafts, align gear wheels, and replace new runners on sleighs.
The anvil was to sing when David set the rhythm on it. Some jobs required the use of three sledge hammers on one anvil. The ringing of the anvil was made by light hammer blows and these con tinued the rhythm as the chief decided where he would strike next and the others followed in harmony.
The coming of farm machinery at the beginning of the 1900's, soon to be followed by cars before World War I, was to change the regime of the smithy. By 1912, David Sr. was fixing automobiles as well as attending to the other blacksmithing chores. He owned the second Model T Ford car in the area. The repairing of farm pumps, which were replacing the antiquated dugout wells, often absorbed much of the blacksmith's time.
In inclement weather or during slow winter days, games with tools of the trade would take place within the smithy. One contest that usually encouraged wagering was to prop the 15 pound sledge hammer against the anvil with its handle on the floor. The idea was to lift the sledge with one hand; the man with his hand closest to the end of the handle was the winner. They were timed to see how long the hammer could be held. To see if they were getting stronger, many contestants placed a nick on the shaft and tried to beat their own record. Another game was to strike the anvil with a five pound hammer in one hand and quickly move the other hand back and for th under the tool. One had to be very expert to avoid a bruised digit.
Next to the smithy was a general store with a dance hall on the second floor. The Reid boys enjoyed dancing to the Prichard Band who performed there on special occasions. The first one home from work or school had the pick of the wardrobe and went to the dance in fine style. The others had to settle for next best.
The smithy was a well utilized building and for a short time the second story was used as a residence. In addition to the work going on in the shop, there was a grist-mill in the rear where grain was rough chopped for feed. This also did a thriving business.
The "Chief" could be classed as a man ahead of his time. If he didn't have a needed device at hand, he designed and built it.
His eldest son Dave Jr. was to attend the University of Manitoba , in Fort Garry, a long way from Bird's Hill. Weather permitting, the Model T Ford car could make it in summer, but the trails and roads were difficult to navigate in the cold winter months.
Removing the tires and tubes from the front of the vehicle, the "Chief " and Dave Jr. made a pair of iron skis and a grooved out wooden block for the wheels to sit in. These were then clamped onto the wheels. Another set of wheels, with tires, were set dual style, on the rear axle, and chains were at tached. The car would now convey Dave Jr. on icy roads, across snow covered fields and the Red River to his destination.
In later years the Manitoba Hydro was to use this idea for rural winter line work . Could this modified contrivance of the Reids' be the forerunner of today's snow mobile?
Only one of the four boys was to a e an ac ive in erest m e1r father's craft and Tom, the youngest son would, as a young man, become the Chief's partner. With the increase of mechanized vehicles during and after the first World War, the Carriage Shop was eventually turned into a garage where Tom would be master mechanic.
He was also an inventive man, a Jack-of-all-Trades and master of most. Tom or "Buzz," as he was commonly called, was a welder and instructor in welding, a mechanic, carpenter, wheel wright and more. He built brush cutters, made a split-axle low bed trailer and other miscellaneous items of heavy equipment, without the aid of a blueprint or an education in the particular field. For his own use he built two homemade "bugs," ( cars). The roadster type body was of his own design.
As a family man Tom and his wife were to raise only one child, a son Alfred David. Tom was responsible for raising funds to build a hockey shack and skating rink for the local Bird's Hill youth. He was generous with his time and efforts, where needed, to the community and to individuals.
The "Chief" passed away in 1962 and Tom carried on the business until his own demise in 1966 at age 50. The building was boarded up and left intact until this year when it was given to the CCHM by Alf Reid, grandson of the blacksmith who erected it over 70 years ago with $40.00 worth of lumber.
Before his own passing in 1985, David Jr., the "Chief's'' eidest son, had dedicated his retirement years and made an attempt to restore and preserve the smithy as a museum in memory of his father and younger brother. While this relic of a by-gone era has been removed from the original site, Alf Reid has made his uncle's efforts a reality. The D.T. Reid Blacksmith Shop of Bird's Hill will live on, completely restored and as a museum, the way David Jr. wanted it.
When asked, Alf Reid said his most outstanding memories as a youngster growing up around the smithy, were the pungent hoof odors, cat hair and spittle burning on the stove, and the gossiping. Queried as to why he chose Cook's Creek to relocate the structure, Alf remarked that after_ pursuing many avenues , it would "look comfortable and at hom >" in the Cook's Creek Museum setting. Alf is quite satisfied he made the right. choice.
The complete set of ledgers that came along with the srriithy are interesting to read and tell their own story of the man who made the entries. A couple of volumes were picked at random. Prices quoted in the 1913-1916ledger: 4 shoes, 4 set and; 4 feet dressed $3.25; 4 shoes $2.00; 2 shoes set .50; New sleigh runners $3.85; 1 plow share .40 ; 1 new wagon box complete $35.00. Quotes from the years 1928-1933 accounts: 1 gallon motor oil $1.50, 2 quarts .70; 3 bags chop .45; 1 tire repaired .50; 1 tire repaired and 1 shoe $1.00. In 1928 the records show a gallon of gas at .28; by 1932 it was .30-.31. Installing pressure pump and connecting pipes, man and helper - 10 hours $15.00; $1.00 an hour charged for labor; Spring for a truck $3.00; Battery charged, 75 cents.
The Smithy of Bird’s Hill, silent for 20 years, is not lost; it will live for future generations.
The David Taylor Reid blacksmith shop as it stood in Bird’s Hill before being moved to the Cooks Creek Heritage Museum site.
Insert – Alf Reid, grandson, who made the generous contribution of the fully equiped smithy to the meuseum.