COBWEB CORNERS: Blacksmiths and wagons

By Mel McFarland

       A while back I shared with you a look at transportation in this area a hundred years ago. I recently had a question about an early industry here in Colorado City that borders on that story. In every town, the busiest places before there was a railroad were the blacksmith shops. After the railroads arrived, the blacksmiths still were busy.
       Blacksmiths kept busy making parts for all kinds of projects. You could go to Colorado Springs and buy a nice wagon built there, or even back East, but the ones built right in Colorado City were just as good. The lumber came from our own lumber yard. Some of the wagons used eastern woods like ash and oak, but if it was not seasoned in this climate owners were in for a surprise! Many a family had a wagon, and some had fine carriages. Only a well-to-do family had a buggy. Most of these were not built in Colorado City, but came from Pueblo, Denver or Colorado Springs. A few were even ordered out of catalogs, like Sears, and delivered by train.
       Many blacksmiths had arrangements with local craftsmen to build wagons that were used on the farms. The woodworking was done in one shop and the blacksmith would make the metal parts. A few places only made wheels. These too could be ordered out of a catalog. Like today's tires, wheels needed regular services and replacement. A wheelwright often had a stack of old ones that might have a few more miles in them because, also like today's cars, many people changed all four at the same time. Many wagons had different-sized wheels on the front and back, so rotation was something they never heard of. The blacksmith made parts for the wheels, like the rim or tire. The wheelwright took care of the spokes and hubs. Just building one wagon, which took a week or so, usually involved five or six men in several different shops. An old rig can still be seen here and there, resting in tall weeds by old buildings. You might wonder sometimes about where it came from, how many years it worked or how many hills it went over. Rarely did a wagon have a manufacturer's name on it, but sometimes it did have a brand on it, like an old cow. The blacksmith made that too!
       Another blacksmith item was stoves. At one time there was a big stove factory near 23rd and Vermijo. I have seen some information on it, and someday may be able to share that with you.