Lot six in the west end of Emmitsburg was
about the same size as other lots, 50' x 150', but this
one housed three business enterprises. These were the Frailey’s Foundry, complete with cupola and molding
department, a pattern shop and shed for drying lumber,
and "Duke" Frailey's blacksmith shop, with
space outside for scrap metal and a watering trough for
Saturday mornings, during warm weather, usually began
with a deep moan from the cupola blower, signaling that
Mr. Oscar Frailey was lighting the fire to melt the iron.
In about two hours, all hands would be expected to
assemble and pour the molten iron into the molds. We
Hays boys never needed a second invitation to help, for
during the time required, we considered ourselves to be
special. Truly, the work was dangerous, but having grown
up with every phase of the operation, it was "old
hat" to us. Our chests swelled with pride when we
could warn other kids, looking with fear and excitement
at the metal being poured, to "stand back a little
- you might get hurt."
My best friend, Duke Frailey, generally took charge of
the pouring. First he would tap the cupola with a long
sharp spear, then twist it right and left several times
and as he withdrew the spear, the molten iron would flow
into the ladles. Duke, his two brother’s Oscar and
George, Tom Hays and others, all strong men, carried the
ladles filled with the liquid metal, and poured it into
each sand mold. One boy accompanied each man and, with a
long iron rod called a skimmer, held back the slag from
each ladle to prevent the slag from entering the mold.
At days end, Duke would drop the bottom from the
cupola, whereupon the contents, slag, surplus molten
iron, coke, etc., streamed from the bottom like sticky
taffy. Barrels of water then quenched the fire, and the
show was over. Outside, the 80 or 90-degree heat felt
cool, and all helpers wore coats until they cooled off
and became acclimated to the outside atmosphere.
Another day finds Duke in his blacksmith shop,
preparing to "shrink" a tire on a wagon wheel,
the tire being a piece of iron about an inch thick,
3" wide and about 30" in diameter. Wagon
wheels were of wood, which in hot weather, would dry and
Tires thus became loose and had to be made smaller,
hence the expression "shrink a tire." To do
this, Duke would build a bonfire out in the street,
along the shoulder, and then heat the tire until it
became red, at which point it was time for Oscar and
George to come and help. A loud roar from Duke would
bring them running, and now the three of them would pick
up the tire with tongs, quickly place it on the wooden
wheel and immediately dunk the whole wheel in water. No
one thought the open fire was dangerous, nor that the
atmosphere was being contaminated nor passerby
intimidated. No one objected to the street being
partially blocked. In fact, most men would have
willingly helped, if asked to do so.
One day, while Duke was shoeing a horse, I wondered
out loud how hard it was to hold a foot. Duke satisfied
my curiosity by letting me try. I had the foot in
complete control until the horse tried to lift another
foot so as to stomp at a fly. This didn't work out very
well for me and I gave up blacksmithing in my dreams.
I'm not sure now strong Duke was, but I have seen him
hold onto a leg which the horse was trying to kick with.
Duke was full of stories. He once told me about an
evening of fun when he, with several of his cohorts,
decided to go to Rocky Ridge to a church social. Without
bothering to shave, shower or shine, they headed for the
Emmitsburg Railroad, fired up the engine, and took off.
Reaching Rocky Ridge, about five miles away, they
crashed the party, wiped their greasy hands on the
girls' faces and left, in a hurry, jumped in the engine
cab for the return to town. No one was arrested for
using the engine, no one lost his self-respect for
mistreating the pretty girls. Next day it was business
as usual and laughs for the whole week.
Busses were not plentiful in those days. Matter of
fact, the only one was a hack drawn by horses, which met
the two daily trains and carried "drummers' to the
hotels. The driver was Henry Bowman. How I envied him
his job! So with no buses, we youngsters passed Duke's
shop, as we walked back and forth to school, twice a
day. Duke's favorite pastime was to spit tobacco juice
on our feet as we passed by his shop. With absolute
accuracy he could catch either foot without leaving his
forge. Our reaction was a few choice words which never
reached his pride, reaching only his funny bone, which
fed his good humor all day.
On Sundays Duke went to the shop, but no work; just a
chance to sit on the sawbucks in front of the windows
and chat with each person passing by. Of course, when
the bell rang, he was off to church. It didn't matter
too much whose church, just so he could sit near the
back with friends, and keep them in stitches with little
quips at the opportune time. Duke didn't curse or swears
he just used words that carried the message directly to
the heart. His whispers were often loud enough to be
heard in the front of the church, with the obvious
reaction of hushed whispers and snickers. So what!
Christians ought to be happy anyway, and in Duke's
presence they generally were.
Duke served with General Wade Hampton during the
Civil War, and one didn't know Duke very long before
this became evident. When Joe Hoke operated the general
store across from the blacksmith shop, customers would
sit around the stove on Saturday evenings and might swap
stories about the crops, the government, church school
and the Civil War. This often included such first-hand
witnesses as John Mentzer, John Stonewall Jackson, Jim
Hospelhorn, John Horner, Ed Rowe, Duke and Oscar Frailey,
John Witherow and many others. Here the news was
received, dissected, corrected and spread for local
consumption. For sure, Uncle Duke would relate at least
one of his escapades with General Hampton, and about
12:30 or 1:00 A. M. the crowd would disperse, and with
arms full of groceries and hearts full of new stories or
old ones, everyone would go home.
Some people discredited Uncle Duke's stories,
especially those about the war, but maybe they were true
after all. And when the weather is cold, you have no
radio or T. V. and you don't know how to read, what's
the difference if it ain't quite correct? You can always
discuss it again next week.
When Duke began blacksmithing, no thought was given
to business records. He owned the shop, various pieces
of iron, an anvil, some coal, forge tools etc. People
generally paid cash for their work, but in case of a
shortage . . . . "well, pay me when you come again.
I'll remember it." No Master Charge, no ledgers,
just honesty. Duke didn't die rich, but he walked erect.
In stature he was about 519", but in character, at
least 10' tall.
other articles by Samuel Hays
Samuel's brother, William's memories of Emmitsburg
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