Pioneer Jobs

What kind of jobs or trades were available to pioneers?

The Farrier

The farrier’s job somewhat overlapped the job of the blacksmith (see the next section). When horses and oxen were part of everyday pioneer life, taking care of the animals’ hooves was the responsibility of the farrier. The farrier put horseshoes on horses and oxen. The shoes were made of iron that the farrier made in his own iron forge. He also treated animals’ injuries and diseases, similar to what a veterinarian does today.

The Blacksmith

The blacksmith was so important in pioneer life that many towns offered him a piece of land to set up his shop for an agreed length of time. Blacksmiths made everything that could be made of iron by hand: weapons, cooking utensils, horseshoes, knives, and even padlocks. Many times farmers had knowledge of this job and often did their own repairs. However, when the job required more specialized tools and knowledge, the blacksmith’s skills were called upon.

The Woodworker or Carpenter

The pioneer carpenter/woodworker were the most skilled craftsmen in the town. A carpenter’s bench, various tools, saws, a horse-vise (watch the video-it is the thing the guy is sitting on), and various other woodworking tools could be found in the pioneer carpenter’s workshop. The carpenter would make furniture, utensils, bowls, and even coffins! (You might not have time to watch the whole video, just watch a few minutes).

The Cobbler or Shoemaker

The cobbler, or shoemaker, made shoes out of home-tanned leather, hand-twisted flax (a stringy plant) and wooden pegs. The shoes were molded over a form called a ‘last.’ Lasts were wooden or iron models of a human foot. In the years before the Civil War, both the left and right shoes were the same shape. Shoes were expensive and often many pioneer family members shared the same pair of shoes. Would you share your shoes with your brothers or sisters?

The Gristmill-the person that works there is called a Miller

A grist mill grinds grain into flour (it also grinds corn into cornmeal). Most of them were operated by water. The grist mill has a waterwheel and two stones for grinding. Water pushes the wheel causing it to spin. This movement causes an axle inside to turn. The axle is connected to a gear which causes the grinding stones to spin. At the top, there is a chute filled with grain. The grain slowly falls through in between the grist stones.

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