Bent to shape
F.A. Clayton General Blacksmith performed an essential service in the days when horses and wagons were the common form of conveyance. Frank Albert Clayton ran his blacksmith business in Armstrong, British Columbia.
The shop had several stalls in the back for the horses to cool down in before they had their shoes replaced. In the centre of the large room stood a huge brick forge with a massive chimney rising up to the wooden roof. Coal was burned until red-hot, pumped with air by manually operated bellows. New or used pieces of metal were heated to a brilliant glow in the fire, removed with long tools, and then placed on an anvil. There, Frank hammered the metal into the desired shapes –– a shoe to fit the horse’s foot, a rim for a wagon wheel, a runner for a horse-drawn sleigh or a child’s toboggan.
As his granddaughter Maxime Jones recalls, “whatever people desired to be made from metal were shaped by the use of the anvil and hammer and grandfather’s muscles.” The shop was big enough to bring wagons inside, close to the work area. In this photograph taken around 1906 Frank Clayton is second from the left. Frank married Maud Bilson in 1908 and blacksmithing sustained their family that expanded to six children: Mabel, Eva, John, Art, Frank, and Bill. All four of the boys had a turn in working for their father, until 1948, when Frank retired and his son Bill bought out the business. By then, the company had evolved into a machinery fabrication shop and Bill had a new steel-frame building constructed down the road.
This photograph was used on the Armstrong calendar in 1971 when the building was acquired by the city to become the Armstrong Spallumcheen Museum and Art Complex.
Maxime Jones is the eldest granddaughter of Frank and Maud Clayton. She lives in Ottawa.