By L. H. (Bud) Pattison
October 1, marked the closing of 50 years of continuous service to the farmer and the horsemen of Warsaw and the surrounding community by Ray McCarthur, a village blacksmith who is the last in this community to play the anvil chorus. McArthur was born Aug. 22, 1889 in Benton Harbor, Michigan. At the age of eleven he moved to Warsaw with his father, John McArthur, better known to us as "Mac," his mother Alice Nye McArthur and his sisters Lenore and Elaine.
At the age of 16 Ray began his career of 50 years as a blacksmith and horseshoer with his uncle Frank Nye, the oldest blacksmith and horseshoer in the county at the age of 82. Ray started to work in a little frame building Frank Nye purchased from Gib Furlong, monument dealer and stone cutter, which was located at the southwest corner of Lake and Market streets. Ray started his trade like all journeymen, first removing the nuts and bolts from steel tired wagon and buggy wheels. In the old days everything had steel tires, a rubber tire wasn't even heard of. In dry seasons the fellow or wooden rim would dry out and the steel tire would become loose and rattle. The steel tires had to be placed in a fire, heated to a certain temperature and then put into cold water.
They had a large wooden tub filled with water, and inside the tub was a steel slated rack with a lever. The wheels were layered on this rack and the lever pulled to submerge the tires in the water. The temperature had to be just right and they had to be submerged several times in order not to get them too cold too quick. If they were cooled too fast they would contract too much, making them too small. This was a particular operation. After they were cool, they would be bolted fast. This job was called resetting tires.
The next step for the journeyman was to sharpen plow points. Then he would cork up shoes and get them ready for the fitter. Corking shoes meant to weld a piece of steel on the toe of the shoe and bend both ends around the anvil to make what they called a heel. The next step was trimming the horse's feet. The hoofs were similar to finger and toe nails, only much thicker and harder. Horses' hoofs grew in the same manner and every time that new shoes were put on, the feet would have to be trimmed. This was done with a paring knife and then they had to be rasped. A rasp was a coarse file. This smoothed up the feet.
Now the foot was ready for Uncle Frank to fit the shoe, which he heated in a forge. Good eye sight was required as the temper of the shoe was like all other steel, determined by the color of the heat. The hot shoe was shaped and sized to fit the horses hoof, then it was dipped in a tub of cold water several times until brought to the right temper. Now after Frank fitted the shoe then he would put from two, three or four holes in the side of the shoe. In some cases they would put five but that would be extra large shoes. Then he would use a special nail called a horse shoe nail, which was flat and came to a point, with an oblong head. Now the shoe was ready to nail on the hoof. After Uncle Frank would nail the shoe on, Ray was allowed to cut the nails off as they come through the hoof, using a special pair of nippers. Then he would clinch the nails with a hammer and smooth them off with a rasp. Then they painted the hoofs with an oil preparation to keep them from cracking. There were two trades in the horse shoeing business. Before you became a fitter you had to be a qualified floorman. A good floorman could keep two fitters busy.
Face Horse From Rear
In order to shoe a horse's front feet you faced the rear of the horse, picked up his front hoof and held it between your knees. For the rear hoofs you stretched the hind leg up over your knee. In other words you practically got under the horse.
Sometimes a horse would not stand so the journeyman had to take a broomstick a foot and a half in length with a hole drilled in the end and a leather strap about a foot long through the hole. This was called a twitch. You looped the leather over the horses upper lip then twisted it so tight that it took his mind off the horseshoer. Therefore he stood perfectly gentle. This was only applied to what we called in the old days outlaws and broncos that were brought in fresh from the west. I have seen native horses stand so perfectly gentle that one man would hold up the left front foot and other man hold up the right hind foot and put the shoes on them at the same time.
In Ray's 50 years he has shod from 250 pound Shetland ponies to Walter Drudge's of Claypool, 4,800 pound world champion pulling team. Ray worked for his Uncle Frank from 1905 to 1920, starting at six dollars a week. After 1920 he went into business for himself in a building on Indiana street on the ground of the present Center Ward school grounds. This building was torn down for the school. He then moved into a building on the wet side of Indiana street. In 1924 he built his present shop located at the rear of his home, 117 East Fort Wayne street where he is still operating the business.
Ray is not only a horseshoer but he also learned the blacksmith trade. Ray's best year of horseshoeing was in 1921 when he shod 1,478 horses. This year up to Oct. 1 he has shod only 99. So you see the horseshoeing business will be like the harness business and other trades. It will soon be a thing of the past.
4 Shops Here
At one time there were four horseing shops in Warsaw. There was hardly a time for 50 years that you couldn't hear an anvil ringing within a block of the court house. Harry Oram and Son blacksmith shop stood where the Cadillac garage is, Conrad and Son was located where the Warsaw Radio Shop is, Frank Nye, where the license bureau is and John Trish at the northwest corner of Center and Washington streets.
Mat Kirk came to Warsaw to work for Conrad and Son in 1900. They then advertised scientific horseshoeing, which gave the whole country-side something to talk about as scientific horseshoeing had never been heard of. Ray has seen the career of these three shops ended as well as the horseshoers and blacksmiths, namely: Johnny Gartee, Jimmy Johnson, Bob Johnson, Jimmy Beroth, Si Schutt, George Dome, Reuben Rough, Billy Bullers, Henry Baughman, Al Bumbaugh, George Oram, Bill Cook, John Trish, Earl Ly, "Plunk" Ed Kleckner, Fred Trish, Howard Fifer, Percy Justus, Matt Kirk and Frank Nye. Ray and Frank Nye are the only two survivors of this list.
Now Ray was a husky kid at 16, 180 pounds, six foot tall. How does this writer know that he was tough and strong? He was my wrestling partner. I only weighed 140 at 17 but only once he threw me and only once I threw him. We often wrestled for two hours and never a fall. He wrestled me just like he did the horses. That is what made him a good horseshoer. Our tie wrestle is yet to be finished. Ray says he will take me on when he retires at about 70.
Warsaw Times-Union Saturday, October 29, 1955
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