My grandmother, Mary Ann Thompson Ellenburg, had saved this newspaper article about her Thompson family. It was in The Andrews Journal on 29 September 1994.
The Andrews Journal
29 September 1994
Newspaper Article about Gary Thompson: Actual Title of Article Unknown (The title was cut off newspaper clipping)
By Jane Birchfield
The last known blacksmiths in Andrews were Peg Palmer, so known because of his wooden leg, and Charlie Frasier.
“I remember being in the shop with Charlie back when I was in the third and fourth grades,” said Gary Thompson, who has recently opened a blacksmith shop, Happy Top Anvil, located in the Happy Top section of Andrews.
The Thompson’s blacksmithing trade was brought to Lenoir, North Carolina from Scotland in 1754 by Peter Thompson who, due largely to the demands of the Revolutionary War, set up and ran a highly successful blacksmith shop.
Generations later Gary’s grandfather, John Thompson, left his home in Clayton, GA at age 15 because he was tired of working for his father, Granville, who was as well-known for his black-smithing trade as he was for his moonshine.
Grandfather John settled in Marble where he married Lura King and established his blacksmith shop behind Abernathy’s store, but as horses and wagons gave way to the automobile, the demand for blacksmiths began to wane in the small mountain communities. Gary’s father, Blaine did not take up the trade, but Gary grew up hearing the family stories of the blacksmithing heritage that had been passed down for over 200 years.
“I always had an interest in blacksmithing but never did anything about it,” he said. “Then one day at Tri-County Community College (TCCC) I found out through Human Resources Development (HRD) that there was to be an Apprentice Program at the John Campbell Folk School.”
“I applied and was accepted in a 3-year program. I attended blacksmith classes every week for the first nine months at the Folk School and took classes at TCCC in welding, computer and small business in conjunction with other blacksmithing courses over the next two years.”
Gary produces a variety of craft items, mostly in the Colonial tradition, such as coat racks, trivets, fireplace tools, spatulas, roasting forks, hooks, boot scrapers and candlesticks.
He also makes custom knives with bone and wood handles, some of the Damascus blades themselves being a work of art with their intricately patterned steel and nickel designs.
“I really like architectural hardware, both in Colonial and Gothic styles, like door hinges and thumb latches,” he said. “I would also like to experiment with weathervanes.”
“The pioneer blacksmiths were a vital part of the community because if the item were metal, the blacksmiths made it and repaired it. They operated much as a hardware store and a service center. I don’t see myself as a vital part of a modern community in the same sense, but as a keeper of the blacksmithing tradition.”
1) Great-grandfather Granville Thompson (2nd from left) and his brothers and sister. (Copy of picture included below- My great-great-grandfather, Sidney Thompson is 4th from the left.)
2) Gary Thompson at his shop. (I'm sorry I don't have a copy of this photograph to share.)