Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands,
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands
His hair is crisp, and black and long;
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whatever he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.
— First two verses of The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Winfield Scott (W.S) and Nellie Rynearson, along with their two sons and daughter, arrived in Edmonds in December 1900. Lemuel Rynearson, Winfield’s father, was also riding in the covered wagon, which the family had driven from Idaho. Reportedly it was the first covered wagon that had transported a family to Edmonds.
At the turn of the century, Edmonds was a rough logging town with shingle mills lining the waterfront. Vast forests were being logged, and as many as 80 teams of horses, mules and oxen were carrying or dragging logs down to the waterfront every day.
Near the waterfront, two hotels had been built, along with smaller boarding houses and several saloons. Further uptown, a number of general mercantile stores were present along with a livery stable. A doctor and a lawyer were available if needed. A grade school sat above the town, and a scattering of homes dotted the hillside around the town’s core.
Overland travel was arduous at best, but the Northern Pacific Railroad provided daily runs to Seattle and Everett, and water transportation was available by a variety of steamboats on Puget Sound.
But Edmonds was primitive in many ways. The streets were comprised of mud, water and manure. During the winter months many of the streets were impassable. There were no street lights, so people had to carry kerosene lamps to see at night. Sanitation was an issue. A sewer or water system didn’t exist.
With the influx of new settlers, townspeople were fearful that things were going to get worse. Edmonds needed infrastructure and skilled workers beyond loggers and farmers. One of the glaring needs was for another blacksmith who could repair broken wheels and mill equipment, plus make new tools and farm implements. Both Winfield and his father were experienced blacksmiths and Winfield saw the opportunity to meet the town’s growing needs.
Author’s note: Lemuel (Grandpa) Rynearson was 72 years old when the family arrived in Edmonds. He had originally driven his family in a covered wagon from Pennsylvania to Oregon in the early 1850s. There he was credited with handcrafting the first plow in Oregon, and it was shown at the Oregon State Agricultural Society’s Fair in Clackamas, Oregon in October 1861. He subsequently moved the family to Ada, Idaho where he was widowed, and then traveled to the Edmonds area with his son and family.
Winfield began working as a “metal burner” — aka blacksmith — in several of the logging camps around the area during his first year in Edmonds. He then for a short time traveled to Alaska to look at mining opportunities. Not seeing what he wanted in Alaska, he returned to Edmonds. In early 1902, Winfield entered into a partnership with Ole Sorensen, who had established the first blacksmith shop in 1895, and Winfield worked as the lead blacksmith. The small shop was located on 3rd Avenue North, between what is now Bell and Edmonds Streets.
According to historical records, W.S. Rynearson was an excellent craftsman, and specialized in the fabrication and repair of horseshoes, wagon wheels, axes, shovels and heavy farm equipment. By 1905, the shop had expanded in size and W.S. had managed the business for several years, while Ole Sorensen had moved to Echo Lake to start up a shingle mill.
The shop continued to expand its business with W.S.’s leadership. Historical accounts reflect the blacksmith shop made and repaired harnesses as well as various-sized metal rims for wagon wheels. They also made and repaired plows, hammers, shovels, chains and other implements for both the logging and farming industries.
In 1906,W.S. decided to strike out on his own, and he established a second blacksmith shop at the northeast corner of 5th and Main.
Differing from Ole Sorensen’s blacksmith shop, W.S. — as a master craftsman –made a wide range of common items including nails, bolts, fasteners, sickles, axes, chisels and plowshares. He also made candlesticks and other household items to meet the growing needs of both the residents and merchants of Edmonds.
Author’s note: Interestingly, there are several oral histories by children of that time period that recount that they loved to stop and look in the doors as the blacksmiths worked at the forges and hammered away on the anvils.
W.S. successfully ran his blacksmith shop for over a decade. After closing the business, he continued to work as a blacksmith for another 10 years at the Standard Oil Company located at Point Wells.
The April 24, 1936 Edmonds Tribune-Review announced the passing of W.S. Rynearson at 81 years of age on April 19, 1936 at his home in Edmonds. The obituary outlined his career as a blacksmith and business owner. It also stated “Mr. Rynearson was beloved by all, his sunny disposition and cheery smile won him many friends. He was a faithful husband and a loving father, and his helping hand will be missed by a host of friends as well as in his home.”
Author’s final note:
W.S.’s daughter Myrtie, who was 8 years old when the family arrived in Edmonds, became a beloved member of the Edmonds community until her passing in 1981. She was one of the classmates of legendary educator Frances Anderson. Myrtie — along with Frances — was a member of the school’s championship basketball team and was one of the eight students who comprised the second graduating class of Edmonds High School in 1911.
Myrtie later married W. N. Otto, who owned a butcher shop on Main Street, and they had one daughter, Arleen. But Myrtie was different than most early 20th century women; she worked most of her life. She was employed as a clerk and bookkeeper for several local stores and then as the bookkeeper for the State Bank of Edmonds. She later purchased the Edmonds Grocery and Market with Frank Kingdon in 1927. Myrtie operated the grocery for 19 years, selling it in 1946. After a two-year respite, she purchased Modiste Shopp, renaming it Lady and Baby, which featured ladies and infants wear. She ran the store until she retired.
Myrtie was also well known for her large contributions to the cultural development of Edmonds including being a charter member of the Edmonds Music and Art Club and the American Legion Auxiliary.
This article was researched and written by Byron Wilkes. Thanks go to the Edmonds Historical Museum and the Sno-Isle Genealogical Society for their assistance.