GRAMPA WHEELER – THE BLACKSMITH
The following was written by Danny Hendee, age 11 , grade 6
My story is about my Grandfather Wheeler who had a blacksmith shop. It was located where my father’s garage is now. The blacksmith shop was destroyed in the 1947 flood.
Grampa Wheeler was a small man but he could shoe real big, big work horses. He wore a big leather apron and even made many of his own tools. Sometimes he made the shoes for the horses that had problems or were hard to fit. He had a homemade forge that burned soft coal. You turned a bellows to make the tire that heated the iron shoes hot so you could bend them Into shapes. Sometimes the horses were stubborn and didn’t want to stand up, or have their feet fixed and they would lean real heavy on my Grandpa. He would straddle their legs – clip away their hooves and fit the shoes. When it fit properly he would nail it in place. You had to be careful not to pound the nail into the horses foot too far, but Grampa knew just how far to do it.
He did many other jobs too, like shoeing a big bobsled to draw wood and he even put iron rim’s on wagon wheels. That was a real hard job because there were holes in the iron and in the wooden wagon wheels. These had to fit together so you could put in the screws that would hold the wheel together. Grandpa did many other interesting things that we don’t often see today. He was kind of old-fashioned.
Note: Grampa Wheeler died before I was born, but my mother has told me so much about
him, I think I knew him.
Unlike the poem— The Village Blacksmith— my Dad, Clinton D. Wheeler, was of small stature. In Chittenden his shop was locatcd on the left hand side of the road, where Sangamon Road joins East Pittford Road. I believe he was the only blacksmith in Chittenden. In 1924 he moved to Rutland with his wife and 5 children. He purchased a house on McKinley Ave. from F. R. Patch, for whom he worked, with deductions taken from his pay toward buying the house. Another child was born in 1927 and his wife passed away in 1928 leaving him with 6 children to raise alone.
In Rutland his shop was a former hen house that housed his forge and tools. The horses were hitched outside awaiting new shoes. Later he purchased land across the road where he built a larger building where the horses were inside. He combined his carpentry skills along with his smithy trade. In the new building he could build bobsleds, drays, and repair wagon wheels. He made many of his own tools. He loved horses and was quite the horse trader—swapping horses with the best of men. We have many fond memories which I probably shouldn’t relate here (there are tricks to all trades you know).
He worked for local farmers during haying season. Frank Beebe, Milo Lester, Guert Davis, and Hollis Adams are a few names that come to mind. Mrs. Gucrt Davis once told me he was a jack-of-all-trades.
In 1937 while helping Hollis Adams hay, he fell from the hay barn and broke his back. After a long slow recovery he tried one more time to shoe a horse.
Frank Beebe’s milk horse threw him, breaking his arm.
After 13 years as a chronic invalid, he passed away October 13, 1949, at 71 years of age.