In the foreground, on East Main St., the buildings to the right of the Carnegie library include the blacksmith shop.  Do you realize this aerial shot shows maybe 16 to 17 buildings and only 6 or 7 remain today?  Now a different Main St. bridge, the Courtland St. Bridge, is closed, the jail, businesses and railroad are long gone.  Times change!
In the foreground, on East Main St., the buildings to the right of the Carnegie library include the blacksmith shop. Do you realize this aerial shot shows maybe 16 to 17 buildings and only 6 or 7 remain today? Now a different Main St. bridge, the Courtland St. Bridge, is closed, the jail, businesses and railroad are long gone. Times change!
In the early years, one of the essential industries in every hamlet was that of the blacksmith shop. In visiting with Calvin Oss, 1942 graduate of Spring Valley High School, he remembered Louie Plonty, blacksmith, whose shop was along the railroad track, maybe near Washington Avenue. Several of us old-timers remember Gerhard "Gay" Caflisch whose shop was on East Main Street. His business was once located where Harlan Marchant now has his office and business, but Caflisch sold this site to Marchant and moved across the street south.

Several years ago, thanks to spring and summer floods, two buildings were demolished along Main Street - the blacksmith shop and a building that saw many businesses - at one time Delores Calhoun's Waterfront Cafe and at the last, Darrell Vikse's antique shop. The only building remaining on the south side of Main is Steve Volkart's bait shop, a neat place to visit, just east of city hall, formerly the 1904 Carnegie Library. In my lifetime, Volkart's building was headquarters for George Kaess, electrician, and Marchant says he stored his boat in the small adjacent building.

Back to the blacksmith shop. Both the Rochester Post Bulletin and Spring Valley Tribune carried articles when Caflisch retired in 1969. His story? He had been apprenticed at age 14 as a farrier, the correct name for one who shoes horses professionally. This was in Wisconsin, but when his family moved to a farm near Ostrander, he worked for "Dad" Merrick at his Horse-shoeing Palace here in Spring Valley. The Palace was located in a large lot about where Hardscrabble Fur is today in back of Essig Agency. This was back in the days when blacksmith shops were as common in every village as service stations are today. Blacksmiths were kept busy from early morning till late at night, nailing shoes to horses hooves, repairing wagons and much more. Shoes helped the horses keep their footing on icy streets and gave traction when hauling loads. Horses were as necessary as trucks and autos are today. They pulled wagons, hauled bricks and lumber for construction, carried families and business folks as needed, raced at tracks, were used for "dray services." Caflisch said horses needed to be shod about every six weeks to prevent injury to their hooves. The farrier would nail a rim of iron shaped to the hoof, a heavy casing which would break down from heavy loads. Horses were not afraid of being shod, but a farrier "needed a keen understanding of equine psychology" to be successful. Shoeing a hind hoof was fairly simple, but doing a front hoof of an unruly horse presented more of a challenge. Caflisch said he had never been hurt by a horse in his 65 years as farrier.

Caflisch reminisced a bit. In 1926 he had left Spring Valley to work on the Mayo's Plummer Building in Rochester. He then opened a shop in Eyota, but returned to Spring Valley in 1933 to remain in business till 1969. He recalled the tools of his trade which were to be auctioned off - the old forge, started every day for years with coal at $4 per 100 pounds, the anvil, trip hammer, grinder, and other equipment. In later years he had done mule shoeing for Reid Murdoch Canning Co., once located in the former staple factory along Pleasant Avenue by the Chicago Great Western railroad tracks. Until his retirement he had sharpened lawn mower blades, scythes, and welded plows. He commented that some folks think you can only weld with torches, but he had done forge welding. He said, "I'll bet there isn't a guy within 50 miles who could light a forge like this nowadays." He stated that once good roads and improved automobiles became common place, even people of modest means could afford cars, and it doomed the blacksmith trade. He admitted that horses had staged a remarkable comeback in recent years and farriers were kept busy; saddle clubs were popular, and riding horses were valued today.

One can visit the Ag Building at the Washburn/Zittleman museum complex on West Courtland to see a blacksmith bellows, horse shoes, ox shoes, and other items from this long-ago era. The museums will open on Memorial weekend, and be open daily through the summer.