FREDERICK GRAER - EARLY HAMILTON BLACKSMITH
Narrator: Lillie Graer of Hamilton, Missouri
The Trip From Kentucky
Miss Graer is the daughter of Frederick Graer who was born in Germany, came to the United States at the age of fourteen to escape military service and lived with a man in Virginia who was a well to do farmer with a blacksmithing and wagon making shop on his place. To him, young Graer apprenticed himself to learn the trade.
However he became a teacher being a student by nature and he taught in Kentucky. As a relic of those school teaching days the Graer girls have a note book nearly eighty years old which he wrote in methodical hand writing for his pupils as a guide in holding the pen correctly before the copy book.
Then he married Miss Denny of Kentucky and after three little girls came he decided to quite teaching and follow Horace Greeley's idea of "go west, young man."
In 1868 after seeing Iowa and Kansas he came to Hamilton. On his way here he and his family came by way of river as far as St. Louis; and on the boat his wife for the first time saw white people serving meals. It seemed terrible to her, and the sign of a "poor trash" country. When the family came to Hamilton they boarded in the home of Captain Morton till they got a home.
Then Graer bought what is known now as the Switzer farm but could make no money, not being a real farmer. Then he went to his trade of a blacksmith. First he worked in Kidder, then he bought a shop on Mill Street in Hamilton where he later built a splendid brick blacksmith and wagon shop and many 1870-80 wagons had his name on them.
He bought a house of John Courter, a carpenter here in the late sixties and early seventies and this became with additions the present Graer home. Apparently the blacksmithing and wagon making trade was a very lucrative one in the seventies and eighties for he died a fairly rich man for this town. Their early neighbors were Putnams, Tuttles, Nashes and O'Neils.
When the family first came here the Indians were still roaming through the country. Miss Lillie recalls that when they boarded with Mrs. Morton the Indians came to the house and Mrs. Graer in fright got her children in a corner and stood in front of them with a shawl out spread. The Indians came to towns to trade their Indian wares for white man's things. After that Indian visit Mrs. Graer was still more disgusted over the new country and pled with her husband to go back to Kentucky; but he had already invested his money in the farm and could not leave it. Then he said that if he could sell his farm he would go to Kansas City where there was a call for blacksmiths, but she objected to that since that would bring them still closer to more Indians in Kansas. It really was hard for her to get used to life in Hamilton where white women did manual work done by the blacks in Kentucky, but she soon got accustomed to the life and liked it.
Interviewed February 1934.
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