History of the Blacksmith Shop
The William W. Furman Blacksmith Shop is now housed at The Oakley Farm, 189 Wemrock Road, Freehold Township, NJ. One of the oldest establishments in Freehold Township, it was owned and operated by members of the Furman and Vanderveer Family from 1832 until 1965.
4 Generations of Furmans
The Blacksmith Shop itself has an unknown date of origin. However, in 1832, William W. Furman, grandfather of J. Elmer Vanderveer, was the proprietor. Working with Mr. Furman was his son, Elwood, who died at age 23.
After the death of William W. Furman, Elmer's father followed in 1876, then Elmer in 1895. In 1927, Elmer's son, Howard, started in the business of repairing cars in one half of the Old Blacksmith Shop. In 1928, Elmer and Howard moved into the new building built directly in the rear of the Blacksmith Shop, which had been razed.
Learning the Trade
Elmer learned the trade over a period of 3 years. Compensation was evidently the least consideration in those days. The 1st year Elmer received $50 and his board, the 2nd year it was $100, and by the 3rd year he was compensated $150. Then, having completed his apprenticeship the 4th year, he entered into a partnership with his father. In that venture, each partner netted $300 for the year.
Elmer, not being wholly satisfied with the outcome, approached his father on the subject, and he suggested that Elmer buy the business and operate it. This he did, and then his father worked for him for a period of time.
Elmer was the 4th generation to operate the shop. Members of the Vanderveer Family still operate the auto repair shop on the original site of the Blacksmith Shop, which stands on Route 537 West near the traffic light at Wemrock Road.
It is of interest to note that while William Furman worked in the shop and occupied the dwelling on the property from 1832, it was not until 1849 that he purchased it. The purchase price was $500 and included 2 acres of land, the Blacksmith Shop, and the residence in which many of the family were born, as well as a large lot.
To relate how hard money was to accumulate in those days, when William Furman died in 1875, which was 26 years after the purchase, he still had a mortgage of $300 on the property.
In 1906, Elmer and wife, Emma Nivison Vanderveer, built a new home on the East side of the Blacksmith Shop and moved in around Thanksgiving of 1906. This house was razed on December 22, 1982.
Today's Blacksmith Shop
Most of the tools in the Blacksmith Shop are unique and handmade. You will notice the anvil sits atop a piece of tree trunk probably cut from the property at the time of the inception of the Blacksmith Shop. Since the Village Of Freehold Township was started in 1693, we assume the Blacksmith Shop started not long after.
Our thanks to the Vanderveer Family for donating these artifacts to the Freehold Township Historic Preservation Commission. Also, to the late Howard Vanderveer for keeping these tools and this part of our Township's heritage for future generations to admire.