J. McLane Blacksmith Shop, Sherbrooke Village

The Village Blacksmith in Sherbrooke Village opened in the 1870s and was operated by several generations of McLane’s. The shop still makes iron products daily as well as hosting a “Five Hour Forge” program where visitors can visit for a day for a Hands-on Learning Experience.

Joseph McLane, the first owner of blacksmith shop in Sherbrooke Village, was born in Onslow, Colchester County, on May 26, 1820, to Captain William and Margaret McLane. 

In 1837, the family moved to Stillwater near Sherbrooke. In 1844, Joseph McLane purchased a lot of land in the upper end of Sherbrooke Village on the southeast side of the Main Street, leading out town. There he set up his carriage and blacksmith shop. The building was a modest size with a coal burning forge. It was not common for a blacksmith to tend to all aspects of carriage making, rather, the blacksmith would play a major role in the production of a carriage from the manufacture of the hardware to the welding of the iron rims on the wheels. Some blacksmiths also had a degree of competency in woodworking. Manufacturing farm implements (carts, plows, and tools), making hardware of all kinds (chains, sled runners), as well as shoeing horses, were all part of the work of a village blacksmith.

In 1846, Joseph McLane married Margaret Bent, daughter of William Bent, the first teacher in Sherbrooke. They had six children before Margaret’s death in 1858. A few years later, Joseph married Mary Creelman Deckman, and together they had five children. The family lived in a house on Front (Main) Street near the shop until Joseph built a larger house on the corner of Court street. The McLean’s were devoted Presbyterians and well respected in the community. Joseph was a member of the Grand Jury from 1848 onward, a court crier and constable in 1862, and later, Justice of the Peace. Between 1866 and his death in 1882 at 62 years of age, he was an elder in the Presbyterian Church

Four of Joseph’s five sons grew up to be blacksmiths, each of which served their apprenticeship in Joseph’s shop: his eldest son, William Bent McLane (b. March 11, 1847), Henry Cumminger McLane (b. March 17, 1853), Charles Adam Dean McLane (b. 1865), and his youngest son, Allan MacQuarrie McLane (b. 1867). After completing his apprenticeship, William set up his own business in a shop in the upper end of the village near Stewart’s Carriage factory. Henry took over his fathers’ blacksmith and carriage-making business on Front Street. Some time prior to 1876, Joseph built a second shop on the river side of the street near the first shop. This shop was later passed on to his son Adam. Joseph’s youngest son, Allan, moved to the United States and set up a blacksmith shop in Bisbee, Arizona.

The gold rush of the 1860s to 1870s ushered in a period of prosperity in Sherbrooke. Not only did the mines themselves provide work from machines and equipment needing repairs, but the influx of people seeking their fortune in gold findings created a demand for wagons, tools, and horseshoeing. In the early 1880s, the first gold rush was over, and people started moving away, many to the gold fields in the United States. Joining this exodus were Henry and his older brother Charles (not a blacksmith). 

On April 7, 1880, Henry sold all his blacksmith and carriage-making tools, carriage parts, plus his household furniture and effects to his father, Joseph. His brother, William, was given power of attorney over his Sherbrooke holdings.

Apparently, William took over Henry’s shop on Front Street shortly after his brothers’ departure. That same month, William took on a mortgage for 121 British Pounds, possibly capital for enlarging the blacksmith shop and the addition for at least one more forge. William took out another mortgage in 1893.

It is claimed that there were three forges going in William’s blacksmith shop. William had different interests than his father and brother, Henry, and it seems that he did not continue the carriage making business. He probably continued making wagon wheels, however. In addition to running the blacksmith shop, William owned a livery stable and was a dealer in horses. He also carried the mail between Sherbrooke and out laying areas, and he served as a deputy sheriff for the District of Sherbrooke.

The McLane blacksmith shop was a busy but sociable place in those days. Two of William’s three sons assisted in the shop, Joseph Thomas (b. 1880) and Frank Maxwell (b. 1888). There was a bench by the front door and a bucket of fresh well water hung on the left side of the door. Those passing by could stop in for a drink of water and maybe sit and chat for a while. 

Frank married and moved to the United States after completing his apprenticeship in Sherbrooke while Joseph T. remained with his father. In 1911, William died, and Joseph T. took over the business.

Joseph T., like the McLane blacksmiths before him, had an excellent reputation as a tradesman and was a well-respected citizen. He owned one of the first automobiles in Sherbrooke. Unlike his father and grandfather, Joseph T. didn’t have any sons assisting him in business, nor was it necessary, since the level demand for blacksmithing had decreased.

Joseph T. died on February 12, 1953 and the following year, his widow Ida sold the shop to Lester McKeen. Lester operated the shop until 1970 when Sherbrooke Village acquired the building and moved it to its present site.