I am hoping that everyone has had a wonderful Christmas holiday. School is out, and I can remember how wonderful it was to have that “Christmas Vacation.” Best wishes for a happy New Year.

Remembering Ollin Willis, Blacksmith

Mr. Ollin Willis was a blacksmith here in Comanche for a number of years. I started work at Comanche National bank in 1970, and Mr. Willis was one of my favorite customers. When he came in the bank, and of course, he was working and coming to the bank from his job, he was nearly always wearing a pair of blue overalls, and a blue chambray shirt, just like the mannikin here in our entry at The Comanche Historical Museum. Mr. Willis would have his shirt sleeves rolled down, and about from the cuff up to the elbow would be tiny little burn marks on his shirt sleeves. This was from the sparks that would be flying up from his forge. He was a very fine man, and I am proud to have known him.

I never had an occasion to go to his blacksmith shop, but I believe that the shop here in the Museum is correct as to details. We have lots of school aged children coming to the Museum on tours. I show them the blacksmith shop and tell them the important role that the blacksmith would have served in the early communities. Nearly every community had someone who could shoe horses, use the shop to repair plow shares and other jobs. I tell kids that today, when their daddy has a broken part, he just throws away the old part and goes and buy another one. But things were much different in the earlier days. There probably weren’t many places to buy new plow shares and other things, and maybe no money to buy them with if they could find them.

We have a pair of broken plow shares at the Museum. The points are broken off, probably by hitting a rock.

Now, if the farmer could find the broken piece, he could take both pieces to the blacksmith, and by heating the iron to the “Red Hot” stage, the blacksmith could hammer the pieces and “weld” those pieces together. They would be as good as new and would last and last.

I believe that Mr. Willis had his blacksmith shop. probably in the 1970’s and the 1980’s on West Grand Street. This street is the street on the north side of the square, and West Grand Street went on west. This was where his shop was at.

There were a number of blacksmiths around town in the early days of Comanche. Several of them were located on the town square. Early day newspapers will have mention in the paper of a new blacksmith opening up his business.

The Comanche Chief

September 25, 1879

I have opened a new blacksmith shop on the southeast corner of the square, by Talbot’s livery stable. I am ready to do all kinds of work. I will make a specialty of horseshoeing and guarantee my shoeing to give entire satisfaction. E. D. DANLEY

The Comanche Chief

January 22, 1880

Among our artisans and mechanics there are none more worthy than W. C. SWITZER, whose hammer can be heard going morning, till night. in his old shop on the northwest corner of the square. His shop

does not shine much, but his work does. His son, RUFUS, does the heavy work, slinging the sledge, and blowing the bellows for the shop.

The Comanche Chief

January 22, 1880

Few towns boast of such a complete blacksmith shop as Mr. A. BRAETIGAM. It is kept clean and neat as a parlor and Mr. B, as a smith has few equals. Making a specialty of horse shoeing, and tire shrinking, his facilities are doing this kind of work and is perfect. Mr. B. is also a carriage ironer and plow maker, He has always contributed liberally towards any public enterprise, and is a quiet, peaceable citizen. He would be a credit to any town.

Thank you,

Missy Cox Jones

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.