One of Highland's early blacksmiths

I say “blacksmith” and you say “horseshoes.” That is the picture that many have of the blacksmith shop. But, this craftsman is capable of much more than that.

A blacksmith is a metal smith who creates objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal, using tools to hammer, bend, and cut. Blacksmiths produce objects such as gates, grilles, railings, light fixtures, furniture, sculpture, tools, agricultural implements, decorative and religious items, cooking utensils and weapons.

While there are many people who work with metal such as farriers (specialists in equine hoof care, including shoeing), wheelwrights, and armorers, the blacksmith had a general knowledge of how to make and repair many things, from the most complex of weapons and armor to simple things like nails or lengths of chain. (Wikipedia)

Our first, and maybe best known, blacksmith was Claudius Milton (C.M.) Hill.

C.M. Hill was an Iowa transplant, born May 17, 1859 to William and Mary Jane Banta Hill. The family came to California, settling first in Tulare about 1884, and coming to San Bernardino about 1887.

It was about this time that Arad T. Foster was developing the area on the northeast corner of Palm Avenue and Base Line and here Mr. Hill built a blacksmith shop. And, by this time, there was a smattering of homes and orchards, and everyone’s horses and wagons and farming implements needing care and repair.

Some of the early landowners included Ingham, Haven, Cleghorn, Jackson, Waite, Corwin, Frazer, and Jones.

Business was good. A Nov. 9, 1890 article in the Daily Courier reported:

“C.M. Hill, the blacksmith, has found it necessary to increase his working plant by the addition of a number of drills suitable for heavy and expeditious work, and is now in a position to undertake the repairing of any class of agricultural implements and do it in first class style.”

Mr. Hill did not work alone. A Dec. 20, 1890 article names his employee: “red-hot iron slinger, L.W. George ….” An interesting column by Earl Buie in The San Bernardino Sun about blacksmiths reports that his father, Ed Buie, a general blacksmith, especially a wheelman, left “Blacksmith row” (D Street) in San Bernardino to work with Mr. Hill (date unknown). Born in Tennessee in 1860, Mr. Buie’s career ended at East Highlands Orange Company’s ranch about 1935.

By 1892, the original blacksmith shop was too small. “A new brick building in “Messina” was constructed and hay scales were added in front the building.

By this time, a railroad station had been built 1/2 mile north of Messina on what is now Palm and Pacific avenues. and a townsite had been surveyed (1891) and was recorded in 1893. The area was beginning to grow, so, not surprisingly, some competition arose with the construction of a blacksmith shop by Will Jones on Linville Avenue. (Pacific Street) in 1892.

Part 2 next week!

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