Kelso-Waddle Blacksmith Shop in Greenbrier: “Looking Back”

Picture: The Kelso-Waddle Blacksmith Shop in Greenbrier in the early 1900s. Clyde Kelso and Tom Waddle are the two men in the middle with rods and horseshoes in their hands. Kelso is sixth from the right holding a horseshoe.

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

At the turn of the century, every village had a blacksmith shop. Its services were always vitally needed because most communities were agricultural and needed farm implements as well as shoes for their horses. Even the townspeople needed blacksmiths for their horses and buggies as well as for household tools.

The Kelso-Waddle Blacksmith Shop in Greenbrier was owned and operated for many years by Clyde C. Kelso and Tom Waddle. The building was made of a rough wooden frame with a dirt floor. A grist mill was located at the rear of the shop and customers could also get a “turn” of corn ground as well as
get a horse shod or a plow sharpened.

The blacksmith was Clyde Kelso. As a young man he learned the art of “smithing” through an apprenticeship in Colt, Arkansas (St. Francis County). It was there he learned to shoe oxen with slit shoes. Oxen were used in that area to move heavy logs through the slashes and that type of shoe gave more support.

Kelso also learned to make repairs on the heavy log wagons which were used extensively at the time in that area. When he moved to Greenbrier with his father, W.C. Kelso, just prior to the turn of the century, he was ready for similar work in Greenbrier.

When the railroad tunnel was being built in 1902-1903 just west of Conway, Kelso worked with the Iron Mountain Railroad. Soon after that, Kelso set up the shop with Tom Waddle in Greenbrier. They built up a good business, having a trusted and respected reputation for their work.

By 1905, Greenbrier also had eight general stores, three grist mills, four cotton gins, a steam sawmill and shingle mill, three churches and a six-room school building. There were 350 people living in the area.

The Kelso-Waddle Blacksmith Shop was a gathering place for the community. When farmers came to town to shop in the village stores, they had work done at the blacksmith shop. The shop mended wagon and buggy axles, tightening rims on wagons and buggies, sharpening plows, shoed horses and did any other sorts of repairs that were needed.

Kelso and Waddle also made many wooden products needed by farmers. Many farm implements also had wooden parts so they made wooden plow stocks, hammers and ax handles. They also made beds and sideboards for wagons. Some sideboards were designed for hauling cotton to the gin while others were frames for wagons that hauled hay.

The men could also build wooden items needed in the home or barn. They made small cabinets, boxes and utility baskets. They also made chair bottoms out of stripped hickory and white oak bark. Often caskets were built there for those who could not afford to go elsewhere.

One of the most memorable occasions at the Kelso-Waddle Blacksmith Shop was when Governor Charles H. Brough, Arkansas governor from 1917 to 1921, was in Greenbrier in 1916 to meet the people at a political rally/picnic. He was driving one of the few automobiles on the road and had some sort of trouble. He was directed to the blacksmith shop and Kelso succeeded in making the necessary repairs.
Later in the day at the picnic, Gov. Brough chanced to meet Mrs. Kelso and remarked, “O, you are the wife of the mechanic.” Her husband was not known by that term and in her shocked state she remarked, “No, I reckon not.”

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