Keeler Notes: Forging a village

The blacksmith was a man held in high esteem in the colonial village. Working the “black metals,” iron and steel, the blacksmith met the metal needs of the village, making and repairing farm tools and parts, hardware, cooking and fireplace tools, and repairing vehicles. He often also shoed horses and oxen. The blacksmith’s craft helped a growing population and stimulated early commerce by supplying other craftsmen with needed tools.

Ridgefield’s first blacksmith arrived in the village in 1712 at the behest of the proprietors. The town fathers provided Benjamin Burt of Norwalk a plot of land for a forge and a home in return for his service as a blacksmith for a period of at least four years. This first blacksmith’s shop was located on the north corner of Main Street and Catoonah Street (currently Fairfield County Bank Insurance Services).

Without his services, early Ridgefielders in need of iron tools for their farms or trades would have to journey to Norwalk or Danbury in search of a blacksmith, or do without. Since Mr. Burt first arrived, Ridgefield has had many blacksmiths; the 1820 census counted 11 among the town’s residents, and Harry Thomas ran his forge on Catoonah St. into the 1970s.

Learn more about the blacksmith and his work on Sunday, Oct. 22, 1 to 4 p.m., when Alan Horowitz and Ralph Lapidus will be at KTHC to demonstrate colonial blacksmithing in a Sunday Family Talk, part of the #HandsOnHistory special exhibit “It Takes a Village.”

For more information on the #HandsOnHistory exhibition and Sunday Family Talks, visit