Charlie Herbison, Lyn Blacksmith

Memories of her father by Mrs. Hilda Rehberg

Charlie Herbison, Blacksmith

I remember my dad came home for supper one night and announced that he had purchased the Blacksmith Shop. His wife, my mother, commented that “Now I’ll have to stay in Lyn all my life”. This was around 1922.

Charlie Herbison was the son of John Herbison, a pioneer Caintown area farmer, originally from Ireland. He married Rachel White. Charlie grew up in Caintown and wed Mable Van Attan, daughter of Sidney Van Attan and his wife the former Alzina Edgley.

In 1904 at the age of 16, Charlie came to Lyn to apprentice under the village blacksmith, Bob Tennant. Young Herbison learned his trade well, for within a few years he was able to take over the business from Tennant. Tennant went on to become a bailiff. In his early years as a blacksmith Charlie boarded with the Tennants.

Charlie married Mabel Van Attan in 1912 and they had two children, both girls. The first daughter Mildred died in 1916 and a year later Hilda was born. Hilda was about five when Charlie bought the blacksmith shop, and she vividly remembers him pounding out the horseshoes at the forge and anvil.

My mother used to tell me that when they got married they had nothing new in the house. They used to go around to auction sales to buy what they needed. All the money my dad could earn went back into the business.”

For awhile Charlie was assisted in his business by his brother, Alec, who finally left to go farming. He bought a homestead on Purvis Street and settled down there.

In addition to horseshoeing, Charlie Herbison was a good farm mechanic sharpening plow shares, fashioning wagon wheels and axles, and forging new parts for farm machinery. He drew his raw steel from Hamilton and got other supplies from Kingston.

After 40 years at the forge, Charlie had to slow down because of heart trouble and he died in February 1959, Mable lived for another 12 years dying in 1971.

The blacksmith shop closed after Charlie’s death, and the building, which is believed to date from the 1840’s has had a succession of owners, including Dorothy and Fred Dempsey who operated a grocery store. In recent years it was the local post office, and now a private home.

Charlie’s daughter Hilda was educated in the old Lyn Public School, and then went on to Brockville Collegiate Institute. For her first three years there, Hilda went to BCI on the old Brockville and Westport ‘Jitney’, boarding the train in the morning and coming back late afternoon. Later she went to and from BCI by car, as the railway cut down on their service. The train ran only three times a week in her final year at BCI.

In 1935 Hilda married a Cape Breton Islander, Leo Rehberg. She recalls that as a child Lyn’s mills were still grinding. She remembers the grain wagons arriving at the grist mill beside the canal opposite her fathers smithy, and skating on the mill pond as a girl. The pond has long since gone and the canal is overgrown with trees and no longer carries the rushing water that ran the mills.

Hilda remembers the drowning of a 12 year old boy in the canal. She saw rescuers carry the lad’s body from the water. The boy was visiting Lyn with his family from Hamilton, Ontario.

I remember the old Post Office too it was in Walter Billings’ General Store. On cold nights when we went skating on the mill pond, we used to leave our shoes there. Walter Billings would tell us that we had to have our shoes out by 10 p.m. when he closed, or he would have to leave them outside. That happened one real cold night, and sure enough when we came for our shoes they were sitting out in the cold. I didn’t have far to walk, so I didn’t bother to change my skates. I just walked home down the middle of the road om my skates.

The others weren’t so lucky; they had to put on cold shoes to walk home.

(from the Recorder TV Travel Times, date of publication is unknown)

Chas. Herbison Blacksmith Shop
View of the back of the shop from the Lyn pond
The building dates back to the 1840’s


The Old Blacksmith Shop on Main Street Lyn.