Yesterday’s “Men of Iron”

A 1915 or 1916 World War I era photo shows a group posing at John K. Schmidt’s two-story blacksmithing business, located on the east side of 9 Mile Road, just north of Midland Road, Auburn.

Schmidt blacksmithing

A 1915 or 1916 World War I era photo shows a group posing at John K. Schmidt’s two-story blacksmithing business, located on the east side of 9 Mile Road, just north of Midland Road, Auburn. Photo labeling indicates (L-R) (unidentified) a standing man holding a mining pail and a knickers-clad boy holding a horse’s reins; Bill Gaisey; leather-aproned John K. Schmidt, Joe Berg, and Bill Taglauer; peeking-out toddler Leona Schmidt (Feinauer); and young Della Schumaker wearing a white dress. Signage advertises several services, including buggy sales. Buggies were displayed on the second floor.

In Auburn and Williams Township, Bay County (2003), author Agness Skelton Schmidt explains that John K. Schmidt (1887-1942) and his wife, Emma (Klauss), purchased the blacksmith shop property from Lester Hemingway in 1909. Just one year earlier, Henry Ford introduced the Model T Ford. From 1910-1920, over 10 million passenger cars were sold, and Detroit’s population increased from 465,766 to 993,078. Michigan’s and America’s economies and cultures changed swiftly.

Skelton Schmidt explains that as blacksmithing needs dwindled due to increased tractors and cars around 1923, John Schmidt “moved the barn up to the road and converted it into a home, a hotel, and restaurant,” which also had an ice cream parlor. The Schmidts’s 10 children helped in the restaurant. After World War II, two Schmidt sons converted the restaurant into an IGA supermarket, which later moved to a new building west of town.

The traditional craft of blacksmithing continues still, most noticeably in architectural and ornamental items such as fencing, railing, hinges, cooking dishes, wine racks, sculptures, and much more. “Blacksmith” refers to a metalsmith who forges iron (“black” metal). Photo courtesy of Nancy Wood, Bay County.

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