Sunday, November 15, 2015

On the Road to Bathgate: Great-Great-Uncle George Pringle Sanderson -- Blacksmith, Locksmith and Safecracker, Part 2

George Pringle Sanderson, 1850-1940.
Welcome to Part 2 of the three part series on George Pringle Sanderson. George was my great grandmother Margaret Sanderson Foster's (1840-1871) youngest brother. 

To summarize from Part 1:
George Sanderson was born December 24, 1850 in Carleton Place, Ontario. He moved to Winnipeg in 1877 to work as a blacksmith before moving further west, to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan by ox cart. He came to Edmonton in 1881 by buckboard. He became the settlement's second blacksmith and first locksmith. He returned temporarily to Winnipeg in 1883 to marry Julia Simpson, with whom he had four children.
Uncle George was a true pioneer. When he ventured across the Canadian prairies to Edmonton (established by Hudson Bay Company as Fort Edmonton, a trading post) the fledgling community's population was a couple of hundred residents, compared to near 900,000 today.

Edmonton's early days are celebrated in vignettes at reconstructed Fort Edmonton Park, which is operated much in the style of Colonial Williamsburg down in Tidewater Virginia.
One of Edmonton's premier attractions, the Park represents four distinct time periods, exploring Edmonton's development from a fur trade post in the vast Northwest, to a booming metropolitan centre after the First World War. The park features over 75 structures, many of which are the originals. Costumed interpreters operate the site and live the way of the past. Exploring each building, each room, and talking to the 'inhabitants' makes for an extremely enjoyable recreational visit. This attraction can be viewed in a few hours or may take many return visits to appreciate the sense of the past.
Blacksmiths were critical to the local economy in frontier Edmonton.
Before the horseless carriage age, the most essential persons in the community were the blacksmith and carriage maker. In their shops horses and oxen were shod, iron tires reset on wooden wheels, wagons and carriages made, and a great deal of wrought iron work such as hinges, hasps, and tools were fashioned. Today, the shops with their blazing forge, bellows and anvils, with the many tools, the noise and the smells would be a fascinating place.

An establishment in 1885 Edmonton combined both essential trades under one roof. George Sanderson and Edward Looby worked as partners for a number of years providing those services without which much of the community could not have survived. George P. Sanderson left Ontario in 1877 with the intention of settling in Winnipeg. After working four years as a blacksmith there, he and his friend and new partner Edward Looby, headed further west by ox cart. They arrived in Edmonton in October, 1881, and at once proceeded to set up a combined blacksmith and carriage making business.
We know George Pringle Sanderson had a blacksmith and carriage business. But what does that imply? Did he work out of a stall, a stable, a studio or something more? What was the scope of his business? What did it look like? How are we to know? Certainly no living person has personal recollection of George's enterprise, and stories passed along through oral family lore would suffer the ills of fading memory and fractured communication. 

But look see here, can you believe it? We got it! An 1883 photo of that very blacksmith shop, including mustachioed, towering George pictured out front wearing his leather work apron (affording protection from glowing hot iron rods and fiery embers) in the foreground. It will be recalled that uncle George's occupation was listed as joiner in the 1871 Census of Canada. In the construction of the shop, George obviously had put his carpentry skills to good work.

Title: George Sanderson's blacksmith shop, Edmonton, Alberta. Date: 1883
Remarks: Located at corner of Jasper Avenue and Namayo Avenue, (97th Street).

L-R: John Kelly, engineer and machinist; John Blair, carpenter; James Wright, printer at "Bulletin"; John Looby, blacksmith and partner, Sanderson and Looby; John Brown, on horse, merchant; George P. Sanderson; Charles Stewart, stage driver.

L-R on balcony: Mrs. G. P. Sanderson; Lizzie Kelly; Kat Kelly. John Brown's store, extreme left.
Subject(s): Edmonton, Alberta - Buildings / Log cabins and buildings / Edmonton, Alberta - Personalities / Blacksmiths and blacksmithing / Work clothes

George Sanderson's blacksmith shop was a substantial enterprise as well as being home to his family. 
His smithy was a fine building frontier Edmonton -- a two-story affair of whip-sawed lumber, business downstairs, living quarters upstairs, located at Jasper and 97 Street, on the corner now claimed by Canada place. There George and his partner Ed Looby shod oxen at twelve dollars per team and horses at ten.

A man of many talents, George had a dog with talent too. Snoozer, a study, sharp-nosed dog of impenetrable ancestry, could drink beer and smoke a pipe -- top-drawer diversion for a farm family waiting for a team to be shod. Snoozer was also a courier service. Edmonton had few houses. Write a message, put it in Snoozer's mouth, give him the name of the house, and he never missed. But Snoozer wasn't always on the job -- thus accounting for his name.
George Pringle Sanderson was ground breaking in the industrial use of coal.
As blacksmith he was one of the first, if not the first, to use Edmonton coal for industrial purposes. Smith's of the Hudson's Bay Company imported direct from the old country, imported their ways of doing things too. They wouldn't have coal in their forges -- must have charcoal as in the old country. But George Sanderson said Edmonton coal could do the job, and it did.
Article image
Edmonton Bulletin, June 27, 1892
Iron forges heat fuel to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. It is therefore no wonder that George had a particular interest in and assumed special responsibility for fighting fires. As our Part 1 biography noted, George was Edmonton's first fire chief. This late 19th century Edmonton Town Council notice (see right) and the Edmonton archives confirm uncle George's firefighting role.
HISTOIRE ADMINISTRATIVE/NOTICE BIOGRAPHIQUE: An Edmonton Fire Brigade was first organized in June 1892 as a volunteer corps. This system continued until 1906 when the Fire Department hired its first paid employees. The first chief of Edmonton Fire Brigade No.1 was G.P Sanderson and the first equipment consisted of a manual ladder truck and manual double four gallon cylinder chemical. Volunteers were initially paid 60 cents an hour while in attendance at fires.
On April 5, 1934, a full half century after the photo was shot, the blacksmith shop appeared front and center in the Edmonton Journal.

Edmonton Journal, April 5, 1934

This 1934 photo caption relates:
Here is a building erected on Jasper avenue in 1881 -- the smithy that served the frontier village of Edmonton. It still stands and serves as a second-hand store at 9614 Jasper Avenue. What is more, the man who erected it, the central figure with the leather apron, George P. Sanderson, the proprietor is still in business. Only three blocks away from that early shop he operates a small locksmith shop. Four others in the picture are still living, three of them in Edmonton today. 
The corner at 97 st. has changed greatly. Small buildings filled the jog, one now used as a newstand. Street cars round the corner on paved roadways. Times and customs have changed greatly since this was taken 50 years ago by Francis, a Calgary photographer who trekked north by ox-cart, lured mainly by Saskatchewan river gold. This was one of the first pictures taken in Edmonton. Autos were not dreamed of in those days. 
In this shop Mr. Sanderson shod oxen for the sum of $12 per team. One regular customer of those winters in the '80's was William Humberstone who ran the first coal mine and had to have his pair of oxen shod regularly so that they could pull a ton of coal with a sleigh over icy trails. Unlike the split shoes wrought from bar iron for the oxen which held their foot out on a stand like horse, horse shoes came slightly cheaper, $10 per team. Other work in the smithy mainly comprised the attaching of iron runners to homemade sleighs or "ironing" other articles or tools of domestic manufacture. 
In the picture, left to right, is Joseph Kelly who drove the notable team of heavy horses seen here and who later farmed on the the St. Albert trail and still lives in the northwest of the city. Next is John Blair, carpenter, fondly known by pioneers as "Dead-Eye Dick" and who built the first school in Edmonton before returning east. With only a hat visible in the shadow of the blackmith shop door is Charles Stewart, pioneer stage driver, now retired and living on Stone Plain rd. Third in the front row is James Wright, a printer, who worked for the late hon. Frank Oliver and later moved to the coast. Fourth is Edward Looby, later a partner, who in 1887 ran this shop when the partnership was dissolved. 
The man on horse is John Brown, one of the early independent merchants of the firm of Brown & Currie, whose log store is partially seen to the left. Standing in the right forefront is Joseph Coture, well-known man of St. Albert. 
On the upper porch is Miss Kate Kelly who afterwards married here a Mr. McNaughton and survives him in Montana; Mrs. G. P. Sanderson who died in Edmonton recently, and Miss Lizzie Kelly, now Mrs. A. Larue of the west end. The dog "Snoozer" with letter in its mouth had been trained to carry messages and was known to carry back sticks of firewood to the living quarters above the smith.
The Edmonton Journal featured the picture again on November 10, 1953.

Edmonton Journal, November 10, 1953

The ladies were cropped out this time. The caption reads:
One of Edmonton's landmarks for many years was the old harness and blacksmith shop, shown here. It was known as Looby's shop erected in 1891 at the north west corner of 97 st. and Jasper ave. The building was demolished in 1935. Those in the group, left to right are Joe Kelly, Jack Bain, who built the first school in Edmonton, Ed Looby, harness maker, G. P. Sanderson, blacksmith and locksmith, who made keys for old Fort Edmonton, and Joe Coture.
The Canadian government was one of George P. Sanderson's many customers during the late 19th century and into the early 20th century. 

In 1887 Sanderson and Looby earned $107.50 (CAD) passed through the Hudson Bay Company for shoeing horses and $6.75 (CAD) for 6 and 3/4 bushels of oats.

Sessional Papers, First Session of the Sixth Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, Session 1887

In 1881 Sanderson received $6.70 (CAD) for blacksmithing and Looby earned $3.50 (CAD) for repairing harness.

Sessional Papers, First Session of the Seventh Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, Session 1891

G. P. Sanderson pulled in $32.40 (CAD) from the Mounted Police for blacksmithing and repairs in 1893.

Sessional Papers, Third Session of the Seventh Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, Session 1893
G. P. Sanderson picked up $70.70 (CAD) for horseshoeing and $2.10 (CAD) for repairs in 1896.

Sessional Papers, Sixth Session of the Seventh Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, Session 1896
Another of George's government customers was the Indian Affairs Department which incurred  $6.50 (CAD) in expense with G. P. Sanderson for blacksmithing services in 1899.

Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs, 1899-1900.

And in 1903, during the reign of King Edward VII, George earned $50.35 (CAD) from the Dominion of Canada for branding horses, horse shoeing and repairs to wagons.

Sessional Papers, Third Session of the Ninth Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, Session 1903
In the current day we are blessed to have much more than images of musty records and the 132-year-old photo to get a picture of uncle George's enterprise. Log for log and brick for brick Edmonton City has recreated the Sanderson and Looby blacksmith shop at historic Fort Edmonton Park. The structure is located on 1885 Street, which transports visitors back to Edmonton as it existed in 1885.

Schematic map of Fort Edmonton Park: Sanderson and Looby blacksmith shop is building number 36 just to the right of center.
A park note describes the historic building as follows:
  • Established in 1881 this building is a reconstruction of the shop located at 97 Street and Jasper Avenue.
  • The structure has 4 sections. The blacksmith shop and carriage repair shop were located in the front. The residence of the blacksmith was located in the upper floor as well as a bunk loft for the children.
Here is the informational plaque posted on site.

Following are several front views of the structure, starting with a Google Maps street view.

Google Maps 2012 street view of Sanderson and Looby blacksmith shop. 
Second is a 2001 head-on frontal view.

Third we have an undated angle view from street side left. According to the photographer, "In the front are the blacksmithing and carriage-repair shops; the family's residence is located on the second floor. Later on George Sanderson also started repairing bicycles."

Here is the upstairs sleeping area in the living quarters above George Pringle Sanderson blacksmith shop.

And the upstairs living area.

And then we have two photos of the forge, coal bin, implements and work area on the ground floor.

The tools of the trade are off in a corner.

One park visitor relates, "SANDERSON LOOBY BLACKSMITH WHEELWRIGHT: One of five blacksmiths in Edmonton in the late 1880s. George Sanderson was also a locksmith Later he rolled with the times and began repairing bicycles." Another park patron recommends "Sanderson & Looby Blacksmith Shop where they use an original kiln and actually make stuff in front of your eyes." We recommend checking for Part 3 which focuses on George Pringle Sanderson's locksmithing and safecracking career. It will be released next week.

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