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The Sound of Smithie's Anvil

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

For many years in Kopperl the ringing of an Anvil could be heard down the dirt streets. A man named Chester Brown "Ches" or as the children called him "Poppa Brown" deserves his story told once again and I hope to do just that with a little help from his grandson Ron Carlisle and his daughter Georgia Brown.

Chester was born in 1885 in Temple to James and Abbegail Brown. This was only 4 years after the town of Kopperl was established and during the great rise of industrial America. Grover Cleveland was the President and the United States flag flew with only 38 stars. This must have been an amazing time to be a child as Texas was going through vast economic growth and prosperity.

On December 28th, 1904 at the age of 19, Chester married his lifelong companion Rosa Lee "Babe" Hammond in Bosque County. Babe was born in 1886 in Union Hill just 4 miles northwest of Kopperl. Union Hill was located on the Chisholm Trail and was a prospering town until 1939 when the school was consolidated with Kopperl. Many more lines need to be written on Union Hill, but we will save that for another day.

Chester and Babe lived a short while in Cleburne, Venus, and Clifton before settling in Kopperl by 1919 in time to have their sixth child together. They had eight children together including James (1905), Willie (1907), Ruby (1911), Carl (1913), Arlene (1916), Leta (1919), Abbie (1922), and Georgia (1928).

Chester learned to be a blacksmith at an early age. The photo to the right is of Chester standing next to his prized anvil in approximately 1916. This photo was taken in Clifton before he moved his shop and family to Kopperl. Chester remained the Kopperl blacksmith for the remainder of his life and was a town favorite. This cannot be written any better than by his own daughter Georgia as she wrote in his obituary in 1968.

Sound of Smithie's Anvil Is Heard No More In Kopperl

By: Georgia Brown Kelly

In memory of my father, Chester H. Brown of Kopperl, Texas.

"Under a spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands, the smith a mighty man is he," so goes the famous poem.

For 49 years the ring of an anvil has echoed throughout this town, and at one time or another has touched the lives of all of you. Today, we pay our respects to the greatest blacksmith in this part of the country. Mr. Brown was the last of the village smithies.

The old blacksmith shop was usually a beehive of activities. Time and thousands of feet had worn the old dirt floor perfectly smooth. The old anvil, of course, was the dominant feature of the shop. Everyone of you has at one time or another had something for him to repair on this anvil His talents were too numerous to count. He was a jack-of-all-trades; a blacksmith, gunsmith, shoe cobbler, inventor, and just anything that need repairing he could do, and do well. Unique experiences were not uncommon to him, from shoeing horses to pulling teeth.

The old anvil not only served as a source of revenue for his family, but for pleasure as well. An unusual swing, that could best be described as a two-seated Ferris Wheel was his pride and joy. Not only his children, but every child that came into the yard was treated to a ride. It was impossible to count the number of children that enjoyed it.

The ring of that anvil meant things to many people, but to his family it was like music to their ears. Their lives centered around that ring; whether to set a meal on the table, working overtime, or just the mere fact that as long as it rang, they knew all was well.

The old shop is gone, the anvil has been silenced, the mighty smithy has retired to his eternal rest, but the echo of that anvil, and the joy, peace and contentment that it gave as it rang, has branded many hears and written many chapters of history that never will be forgotten. I am very proud to say I was the daughter of that blacksmith.

Excerpts from the book "The Ring of The Anvil" by G. B. K.

Georgia speaks to how much the community loved Chester and it is apparent when speaking to Kopperl "old timers" that remember him to this day. Ron Carlisle remembers playing on the Ferris wheel swing that Chester invented and was awarded a patent for. Chester is photographed next to his invention on the right.

All of the Kopperl children were welcome in his yard and spent countless hours playing on the Ferris wheel swing. Ron can remember someone getting hurt on it nearly every time.

Ron remembers visiting his Grandfather during his earliest childhood memories in Kopperl. To Ron he was known as Papa. Papa Brown took a liking to Ron and they spent lots of quality time together in the blacksmith shop. Ron remembers his grandfather fixing everything from wagon wheels to guns. People would bring guns from all over to have Chester fix them, sometimes requiring parts to be fabricated from scratch. Chester had quite a gun collection of his own which had to be more than fifty at one point. All of them hung on the wall of his shop including an old Sharps rifle. Chester sold the whole collection for $100 which at the time he thought was too good of a deal to pass up.

Chester's primary income was from shoeing horses and sharpening/fixing the local plows and farm implements. He also sharpened the grist stones for the local mills. The railroad would hire Chester to go out on the railway and sharpen some of their tools. He was very proficient when it came to tempering metal which was an art in itself. At one point in his career a special train would come to Kopperl just to pick Chester up and take him out to West Texas to sharpen drill bits.

Ron remembers Chester telling him that the grist stones used in the local mills were made from hard stone quarried on the mesa that is now known as the "Mesa Grande".

Chester was also a local historian and was very passionate about preserving the local history. He saved many local items that were eventually passed down through his family. Ron still has many of Chester's tools and items from the blacksmith shop which sat just northeast of the modern day Post Office. The small building is still there today and many of you might pass it every day.

Although today you cannot hear the ring of an anvil in the Kopperl streets, Chester Brown is still with us in spirit and will not be forgotten. You cannot help but smile when you see the photos of Chester knowing that he must have been such a character. I wish I could have met him just once!

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