Across from Eden Park is the only building in the Ogden Valley on the National Register of Historic Place: The J.M. Wilbur & Son Blacksmith Shop.
Jesse M. Wilbur was the eldest of seven children born to Elisha Wilbur, one of the first settlers of Eden, Utah, and Rose Ellen Worden Wilbur. At age 23 and upon the death of his mother, he became the legal guardian for his four youngest siblings.
Jesse began learning the skills of a blacksmith from his father at the age of 18 and it became his life’s work. Not only did he receive on-the-job training, but he also attended classes in blacksmithing at Utah Agricultural College (now Utah State University) in Logan. He married Minnie Farrell and together they had seven children. Minnie always did the bookkeeping for Jesse’s Blacksmith Shop.
One of Jesse and Minnie’s sons, Glenn, grew to love blacksmithing and in 1924, he became his father’s partner. After his father’s death in 1951, Glenn M. continued to operate the shop. Glenn operated the blacksmith shop until his retirement on May 29, 1971. For 42 years, he was one of the last blacksmiths in the Ogden area. Like his father, he continued producing necessary articles for home and agricultural use as well as horseshoes. He also provided service to the community as vice president and former director of the Eden Waterworks Co. Glenn died at the age of 69 on November 19, 1973.
When Glen retired, he just shut the doors and left, leaving all his tools and equipment. Many of the original features and items are still in the shop, including the floor, the front doors, pin-up posters, many items hanging from the rafters, the anvils, the forges, a 50-pound power hammer, post vises, a bellows, a drill press and a grinder run off a line shaft, hand crank blowers, an electric blower with a patent date of 1913, a cane belonging to Jesse, many branding irons including one believed to be Jesse’s, along with hundreds of hand tools.
Once a booming trade — indeed, an essential trade — blacksmithing all but died out in the 1970’s. The shop sat dusty and unused for years, until purchased by an an owner who wanted an expert in blacksmithing to look at and catalog the left-behind tools. Enter Aaron Richardson, our son, who has been blacksmithing since the age of 14 when our family volunteered at This is the Place State Park. He visited the blacksmith shop, saw the blacksmith “making knives and playing with fire,” became an apprentice and never looked back.
Working with the owner in Eden, Aaron was able to begin working as a full-time blacksmith. Ragnar Forge - located in the J.M. Wilbur & Son Blacksmith Shop - opened in 2015. Aaron specializes in knife-making, custom-made hardware for homes and historic Viking and pioneer reproductions. He also has the whimsical - small “Thor’s hammers” for Lego people and strung on necklaces, roses made out of metal and small fish bottle openers.
Now no longer an essential part of every community, blacksmithing lives on with artisans and craftsmen like Aaron.
This weekend marks the Ogden Valley Balloon and Artist Festival in Eden Park, a free event with daylight launches and evening balloon “glows.” Daylight launches will be at 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The ballon glows will be at 8:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. If you go, take the time to cross the street and visit the blacksmith shop. You won’t be disappointed.
Holly Richardson, a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune, loves seeing people follow their heart and creating a life they love by doing what they love.