The Kuhns Memorial Blacksmith Shop, a showcase of craftsmanship passed from pages of Oelwein history, received a much appreciated gift this week from Tim and Denise Wilson. The local couple donated cladding and other building materials to the Historical Society Museum of the Oelwein Region to repair / renovate the store, which is in the museum grounds just south of it. ‘Arnold Motors, along Highway 150 south.
During the first 50 years of the town of Oelwein, many merchants set up shops to complement the business district and meet the needs of the growing town. Among these traders was a blacksmith named Edward Kuhns. Kuhns Blacksmith Shop was located at 111-113 East Charles St., now the parking lot east of the Subway sandwich shop.
The town blacksmith was a key figure in the construction and repair of most metal objects, from hinges to plowshares. Often using a broken part as a template, a blacksmith could handcraft an entire new part with his vast metallurgical skills learned through experience. Various hammers, anvils and a forge were common tools of the trade for the strong arms of the blacksmith.
Edward Kuhns’ two sons, Joseph and Paul, learned the trade from their father, as well as additional technical knowledge as the profession evolved over the years and became more focused on welding and repair of tractors. As the Kuhns Blacksmith Shop passed to the next generation, Dale Cumberledge, husband of the Kuhns brothers’ sister, Alice, joined the business. Alice was an accountant for many years. Eventually, Cumberledge’s son-in-law Jay Keller entered the business, becoming the last of those in the family business.
Kuhns Blacksmith Shop operated for three generations and approximately 79 years before closing in 1999. These traders have left their mark on the community in everything from tractor repairs to ornamental iron railings, some of these items still in use today. ‘hui.
The history of the blacksmith trade in Oelwein is preserved inside the Kuhns Memorial Blacksmith Shop, which opened to the public in August 2013. It has been a popular point of interest for visitors to the museum since its opening. Now, museum members are working to preserve the exterior of the building in order to protect these artifacts.
The Wilson’s generous donation is a starting point for the project. Museum members hope others will see the project as a necessity and something that deserves a contribution in materials, time / labor or funds. The museum operates as a non-profit entity, therefore all donations are tax deductible. For more information, people can call 1-319-283-0786 and leave a message.