Let’s take a look at the lives and businesses of two South Portland blacksmiths, Joseph Boucher and Clarence Turner. Joseph H. Boucher, Jr. was born in 1834 in Cape Elizabeth (now South Portland), the son of a farmer in the Ligonia neighborhood (the Ligonia area encompasses the land surrounding the triangle of Lincoln Street, Main Street, and Broadway).
He married Adelaide Dorrothy in 1861 and together they had three children, Alice “Luna,” Edward and Estella. Although Joseph grew up farming like his father, he turned instead to the blacksmith trade. He operated his own blacksmith shop in Ligonia as early as 1879. After several years there, he took a job with a blacksmith in Portland for a year, around 1882. Around 1883, he was back in Cape Elizabeth, first running a shop in the Knightville neighborhood, then moving back to the Ligonia area around 1884, operating a blacksmith shop on Main Street, near Lincoln Street. Around 1885, Joseph partnered up with another blacksmith, Thomas S.
Dunning. They opened the Dunning & Boucher blacksmith shop in Knightville, on Ocean Street near the Portland Bridge, on the corner of A Street. By 1886, however, Dunning left and Joseph partnered up with Clarence Turner. They did business for over 15 years together, known as Turner & Boucher, blacksmiths.
For the first 10 years, they worked out of the building on the corner of Ocean Street and A Street; around 1896, they moved their business to a building at 146 Ocean St. Advertisement A blacksmith in the 1800s would have made a large variety of items. The tools of the trade in a blacksmith shop would have been a forge (the furnace that would provide enough heat to make iron more malleable), an anvil (which provided the surface on which the iron would be worked), tongs to hold the iron while working with it, and various tools like hammers and chisels to flatten, cut, and otherwise shape the iron into the desired piece. Blacksmiths could make hammers, nails, saws, axes and other hardware and hand-held tools; household items; farm tools like shovels, hoes and plows; metal parts for carriages and wagons; or any of a myriad of other items. Since this was the time of farming and traveling by horse, blacksmiths would make horseshoes (a blacksmith specializing in horseshoeing was called a farrier).
In an area like ours where shipbuilding was common, the blacksmith could make all of the metal work needed for a ship (and if a blacksmith specialized in metalworking for ships, they were called a shipsmith). Turner and Boucher fell into the generalized category of blacksmithing, producing virtually anything that a potential customer would want. In the Portland Daily Press on April 20, 1899, we see an interesting project that they worked on: “The South Portland Hose and Ladder company No.
1 [Ferry Village] are painting their ladders and getting everything in readiness to equip the new truck which is being built for them by Turner and Boucher of Knightville.” Advertisement Clarence E. Turner was 30 years younger than Joseph Boucher. Clarence was born in 1864 in Cape Elizabeth (South Portland), the son of carpenter William Turner.
He married Charlotte “Lottie” Coolbroth in 1885 and they had two children, Alice and Clarence Jr. They lived for many years in an apartment at 22 Cottage Road (the building across from the South Portland Post Office). Clarence Turner was a member of the Knightville Hose Company. He was also very active in the Masons, being a member of the Hiram Lodge for over 50 years, including serving as the master of the lodge at one time. Turner & Boucher operated right up until Joseph Boucher’s death in 1903 (Boucher is buried with his wife Addie at Brown’s Hill Cemetery). A few months after Boucher’s death, Clarence Turner purchased the property at 146 Ocean St.
with the blacksmith shop on it and continued operating under his own name, Clarence E. Turner, blacksmith, until 1920. In 1920, Turner closed the blacksmith shop and sold the property. He took a job working as a blacksmith for the Portland Terminal Company (railroad) where he worked for several more years.
In his retirement, Turner worked as a janitor at the Knightville School in Legion Square (working as a janitor was a common job for older men prior to the start of Social Security) as Social Security monthly benefits didn’t start until 1940. Clarence Turner died in 1952 and is buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery with his wife Lottie. Advertisement There were several other blacksmiths who had shops on Ocean Street over the years. One of them was James A.
Fullum, who operated his blacksmith shop at 474 Ocean St. (near Sawyer Street) for over 30 years. He started in business around 1894 and continued through 1925 when he retired due to ill health. He reopened the shop around 1926 when he took on blacksmith Walter A. Swinyer to work for him. Around 1928, he turned the shop over to Swinyer, who continued operating it through roughly 1932. An interesting sidenote: James Fullum and his wife lived at 407 Ocean St.
for many years. In 1902, antimony was discovered there by George Blake. According to an article in the Portland Daily Press, “Mr. Blake, who has long been a state assayer, has been accustomed to take long walks about the country examining the rocks and ledges which he came across. In this way he discovered this deposit of antimony.” Blake immediately formed a company, Portland Antimony Co., and Fullum sold the mining rights to the new company which mined and smelted the ore. We often think of blacksmithing as an old-time trade, but South Portland is unique in that regard. Brant & Cochran is located near Bug Light Park today, just off of Madison Street in the former World War II shipyard.
The company started up at Thompson’s Point in August of 2015 in the restoration business, restoring old axes and giving them new life. Advertisement Maine has a rich history of axe making, but the craft had died off in the mid-1960s. After developing their axe-restoration business for a year, Brant & Cochran started to toy with the idea of manufacturing axes from raw materials.
They moved their business to South Portland in 2017. It took some learning of the trade, but in April, 2018, the company sold its first, handcrafted “Allagash Cruiser” axe. Brant & Cochran’s blacksmiths specialize in crafting Maine wedge-pattern axes, using traditional methods that result in an heirloom axe that can last generations. We would love to gather more information on early blacksmiths in South Portland (Cape Elizabeth).
If you have an ancestor who was in the blacksmith trade here, we would love to hear from you. The South Portland Historical Society can be reached by email at [email protected], by phone at 207-767-7299, or in person or by mail at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, Maine. The Society’s Cushing’s Point Museum at Bug Light Park has now opened for the 2023 season; the museum is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.
to 4 p.m. Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at [email protected] Send questions/comments to the editors. « Previous filed under: