Back again with another fascinating story about Chattanooga’s unsung African American heroes. Meet W.H. Smith, Blacksmith Extraordinaire!
W.H. Smith was born on August 6, 1866 in Walton County, Georgia and learned the blacksmith trade from his father. His passion was horses, and he quickly began making horse shoe nails, which were a rarity in the county districts near where he lived.
After learning much about the blacksmith trade, Smith moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1884 to work in a blacksmith shop. Unfortunately, most blacks were not allowed to use fire or forge metal, and he was no exception. He soon left Atlanta and moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee–which was considered a progressive city for blacks–in 1887.
Within a year (1888), Smith had opened his own blacksmith shop in the St. Elmo area. It was not long before he found himself in high demand–and overrun with business. He formed a partnership with a second man in order to give his customers the very best service he could, but after five years of blacksmithing, he longed to add to his craft.
He moved to St. Louis, Missouri to work under master craftsmen and gain a more scientific knowledge of his trade. He said his desire was to gain a more physiological knowledge of a horse’s hoof so he could be the best blacksmith of his time.
Smith eventually returned to Chattanooga and built another shop in St. Elmo. This time, he built a 20X70 building, which cost him $1,342.50…a small fortune in the late 1800’s.
He also owned a very successful merchandise business at 705 Main Street.
Be sure to pick up your copy of African Americans of Chattanooga and find out who else was doing it. Just click on the icon to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon.com’s website, where you can make your purchase.
Until next time, best wishes and happy writing.