Blacksmith shops were features on all of the larger plantations in the state, and also occurred as separate industries in many of Georgia’s small towns. As an archaeological site type, few “smithies” have been examined in the state. However, one site, 9CO246, has been recorded by David Rotenstein and Rotenstein’s (1986) report provides both an overview of elements of a blacksmith shop as well as example of the types of materials which can be recovered from such sites archaeologically. — Historical Archaeology in Georgia.
In the fall of 1986 I was working as an archaeologist with the Georgia Department of Transportation when I got a chance to do some traditional archaeology inside a 20th century blacksmith shop. Located at the intersection of Due West Road and Dallas Highway (Ga. 120) about six miles west of Marietta, the Georgia state archaeologist’s office assigned it a site number after my work was completed: 9Co246. I wrote a report that was filed with the state historic preservation office and an article that was published in The Florida Anthropologist.
The shop dubbed 9Co246 was the first of two blacksmith shops I investigated along Dallas Highway between September 1986 and March 1987. The second, located at the Lost Mountain crossroads about three miles west of 9Co246, was in my opinion the more interesting of the two shops. Why? Because the man who built it in 1941 was still alive in 1987 and he was still running the Lost Mountain store across the road.
Before I photographed, measured, and excavated the shop I did two brief interviews with its builder, New Sanford (1904-1997), at his rustic store. The results of that research were reported in a Georgia Archaeological Site Files form (9Co247) and in an article published in the Tennessee Anthropologist. Both shops provided the research basis for my 1992 M.A. research project — a thesis-light equivalent on the road to finishing Ph.D. coursework at the University of Pennsylvania.
I had not been back to that stretch of highway west of Marietta in more than 25 years prior to the last week in 2012. A sunny and warm winter day and the prospect of little traffic in the week between Christmas and New Year’s gave me a chance to return to the former blacksmith shop sites.
I looked up the two sites on Google Earth and in Bing Maps. Back in 1986 I likely would not have described the Dallas Highway corridor as paradise but the lyrics from Joni Mitchell’s 1970 song, “Big Yellow Taxi,” aptly describe what I saw in the 21st-century aerial images: “They paved paradise / And put up a parking lot.” There’s no pink hotel nor a swinging hot spot but there are Krogers, banks, boutiques and lots and lots of surface parking lots.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting material from the 1986-87 research and images that show the landscape as it appears now. Back in 1987, New Sanford was a reluctant informant because of a recent robbery stemming from publicity he had gotten in Atlanta newspapers as the proprietor of an anachronistic business. The fact that I worked for the highway department also probably didn’t help with developing a rapport with Sanford.
To protect Sanford’s privacy, I hid him and his crossroads behind pseudonyms in my subsequent research. Sanford’s store was closed in 1997 and he died soon after. The new posts will give me an opportunity to tell more of Sanford’s story and how he came to run a small blacksmith shop across the street from the store his family had bought in the 1920s.
View Cobb County Blacksmith Shops in a larger map
To be continued.
Part I: Cobb County blacksmith shops: a return (this post)
Part II: Cobb County blacksmith shops: Due West Road (9Co246) (January 11, 2013)
Part III: Cobb County blacksmith shops: Lost Mountain (9Co247) (Forthcoming)
Joseph, J.W., Theresa M. Hamby, and Catherine S. Long. Historical Archaeology in Georgia. University of Georgia Laboratory of Archaeology Series, 2004. http://shapiro.anthro.uga.edu/Archaeology/images/PDFs/uga_lab_series_39.pdf.
Rotenstein, David S. Historical Aspects of the Lost Mountain Blacksmith Shop, 9Co247, Cobb County, Georgia Report on file with the Georgia Department of Transportation and Georgia Folklore Archives, Georgia State University. Atlanta, GA: Georgia Department of Transportation, 1987.
———. “The Historical Archaeology of Two Rural Blacksmith Shops.” Tennessee Anthropologist 12, no. 2 (1987): 119–127.
———. Traditional Culture in the Twentieth Century: The Architecture and Archaeology of a Rural Blacksmith Shop. Atlanta, GA: Georgia Department of Transportation, 1986.
———. “Traditional Culture in the Twentieth Century: The Historical Archaeology of a Rural Blacksmith’s Shop.” The Florida Anthropologist 40, no. 2 (1987): 124–136.
© 2012 D.S. Rotenstein