Sainte-Marie among the Hurons Blacksmith forge was built 1642, as one of the keys to creating a self-sustaining community in Huronia. With the forge up and running, the people living at Sainte-Marie could custom build the items that they needed. The only other option was waiting for supplies to arrive from Quebec. The trip from Quebec to Sainte-Marie among the Hurons took thirty days one way, by canoe, which made custom manufacturing iron goods that much more important.
The primary Blacksmith at Sainte-Marie was a Jesuit lay brother by the name of Louis Gauber. He was charged with the task of making iron tools, hinges, spikes, nails, and other structural items used to assist in the construction of not only Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, but other structures throughout Huronia that the Jesuits were involved with. Gauber would have also created items that were used for trade such as awls and fishhooks. Gauber worked the forge at Sainte-Marie from 1642 until the settlement was ultimately abandoned in 1650.
Mining operations had not begun in New France in the 1640’s therefore iron was brought to the New World from established mines in France. Iron would have been transported in various forms, from large bars known as ingots, to flat, round, or square rods, in various weights and dimensions. The ingots would have been used to create larger items such as tools. The rods would have been used for smaller items like nails, or hinges. During times when iron was scarce, items around Sainte-Marie that were deemed nonessential could have been repurposed and turned into need supplies like nails.
Most people are familiar with a typical one hearth forge in which a blacksmith uses coal to heat the metal they are going to work with. Sainte-Marie among the Hurons forge is not unique but is a less common type of forge that uses two hearths. The black smith uses the first hearth to burn hardwood and produce hot wood coals. Once enough wood coal is available the Blacksmith scoops the hot wood coal out of the first hearth and places them in the second hearth. The second hearth would have a set of bellows attached, that allow the blacksmith to pump a large amount of oxygen in to the bottom of the coals, providing a perfect place to heat metal to a temperature at which it can be worked.
Many special events take place at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons throughout the year, so be sure to check out their special events calendar.