“For 42 years, Frank Brockmeyer has lifted, heated, pounded, molded and tempered hot steel,” I wrote in a rare bylined story on The Missourian’s front page August 23, 1967. (The paper doled out bylines about as often as it gave raises.) Unfortunately, the page was microfilmed at a 90-degree angle, so you can’t search on that date. You have to search for August 22, then lay on your side to read it.) Click on any photo to make it larger.
One of the last blacksmiths
Mr. Brockmeyer, who was going to turn 66 on September 17, was one of the city’s last blacksmiths. His shop – a small, sagging brick and wooden structure with a weatherbeaten door – was located at 35 South Spanish.
Behind the door were the tools of the smithy’s trade: the massive anvils securely anchored to equally massive blocks of wood; the huge wooden tub filled with water; the forge, and the tongs and sledge hammers and grinders and other paraphernalia.
The work is getting harder, “but any kind of work gets harder when you get older,” he quickly added, with a smile breaking out around the curved pipe usually carried in his mouth. “Lot of people think this is easy, but you try to hold this hot steel with tongs and swing at it with a hammer. Here – feel this hammer. That’s eight pounds,” he said.
Hired as apprentice in 1925
Back in 1925, when Mr. Brockmeyer was apprenticed to Joe G. Schonhoff, owners brought their horses into the building to be shod. After the shop acquired so much equipment that there wasn’t enough room for the operation, they went to the farms to do the job. The original owners started the business in a different location in 1890.
The worst thing you can do
Those days were past. Mr. Brockmeyer said it had been 27 years since he had last shod a horse, and he didn’t appear to have missed the task. “Do you know the worst thing you can do?” he asked. “It’s shoeing a horse laying down.” Noting a perplexed look on his listener [another rare thing: Missourian reporters were not to insert themselves into the story] he continued, “That’s where you have to rope him, throw him, hogtie him and then shoe him.”
You can’t trust newspapers
I was curious to see if the paper had run any other stories about Mr. Brockmeyer. I found his obituary in the May 15, 1983, paper, the day he died at 81. He was born Sept. 17, 1901, at Apple Creek, the son of Theodore and Mary Schumer Brockmeyer. On Sept. 24, 1924, he married the former Mary Eftink of Oran, who survived him. The couple had nine children. His only son tried blacksmithing, but didn’t like it, Mr. Brockmeyer said.
The obit said he was a self-employed blacksmith, operating a shop on South Spanish from 1925 until his retirement in 1963. He couldn’t have retired in 1963, because I shot him working in 1967, back when he shared his philosophy of work: “When things get too rough, I just quit and go fishing.”
17 Replies to “Frank J. Brockmeyer, Blacksmith”
Love this story.
I appreciate the blacksmith’s toil. My grandfather, John Jacob Feuers, as well as his father before, was a blacksmith. I love how you covered this story.
Blacksmithing is a dying art. Still it amazes me how they could pound a piece of iron and steel into any shape they wanted. Great story
Great piece! I remember him well. Please include me on your emails.
I added you to the list you’ll get an email every time I do an update. Based on your name and your email address, you might be interested in these stories from around the Harrig neighborhood:
Ed Unger’s Stylerite Barber Shop
Farmers and Merchants Bank
Meyer / Suedekum Hardware
Sprigg and William
Pure Ice Company
Unnerstall Drug’s door
Frank Brockmeyer was my husband’s grandfather. I love all the pictures and thank you for the article. I will be sure to share it with other family members.
Great. I’m glad you enjoyed it. He was an interesting character.
I am going to share it on my facebook page so other grandchildren and great grandchildren can read it. You may be hearing from others today. I did not meet Grandpa Brockmeyer till 1976 and really enjoyed seeing these pictures, thanks again for the memories.
Great. I always like it when folks link to my pages. The stuff doesn’t mean anything unless it is seen.
Stan is the grandson and was wondering where we could get those pictures from. Who put them on. Please email me back thank you.
Ken Steinhoff (me) was the photographer. I shot them for The Southeast Missourian in August 1967. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss reprints.
I hope your family enjoys the story.
I am one of Frank Brockmeyer’s many grandchildren. Something made me Google his name today and I came upon your article and pictures! What a wonderful surprise! The article and photos are wonderful! I would also be interested in reprints. I will be sharing this story with my family. Thank you!
I am one of his great-grandchildren and was one of the lucky ones that got to meet him before he passed. I was only three but I do remember his cane. Thank you for sharing this story. I can’t wait to show my children these pictures.
I am also one of his grandchildren. I was only 9 when he died, but I still remember seeing all his blacksmith tools in his garage/shop. I am not sure when he retired, but when my mom, Theresa, his daughter, and my dad got married in August of 1969, he made them a set of tools for their fireplace. At that time he was only able to make a twisted decorative design on one tool handle. He didn’t have the strength anymore to do the rest of the them. I am pretty sure that was one of the last things he made.
I’m another one of the Grandkids with many great memories of Grandpa Brockmeyer. Thank you for a wonderful article! I’m sure there will be quite a bit of interest in photo reprints.
I am another grandchild. I showed your story to my mom. She was his baby girl. She is very interested in getting reprints. She said some of the pictures she had never seen. I will email you at the above email address. WONDERFUL story. Gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes.
Neat story. He must have been semi-retired since he could stop and “go fishing”. Like most carpenters, he probably had friends that kept him busy! 🙂