Created By: Coleman Memorial Museum
Lacey & Barta / Otto Gerling Blacksmith Shop
Blacksmithing has been a crucial trade in Ellendale for most of its history. The ability to mend, shape, hone, harden, and join a variety of metals and machinery parts made the blacksmith one of most important connections for farmers, ranchers, and ordinary townspeople.
This shop, bearing the name “Lacey and Barta Horse Shoeing Parlors” was an all-purpose blacksmithing shop that also advertised “plow work” and “wagon work.” The business was founded by Tom Barta and Jim Lacey in 1906. Their first shop (the building behind the long livery barn in the second photo) burned in the big 1907 fire, so they promptly erected this brick building which has stood strong ever since.
The Barta family was one of three Bohemian families (the Kelshes and Pazandaks being the others) that settled north of Fullerton in 1901. These families were very machinery oriented: the Pazandaks, for example, invested in the latest steam and gas field equipment and established the county’s first “horseless” farm in 1916. Tom Barta began his blacksmithing career in Montana, but soon returned to the area to found a prosperous business and to wed Alice Flemington, the daughter of one of the town’s leading families.
In 1938 Otto Gerling, a lifelong Ellendale resident, purchased the Barta and Lacey shop, and converted part of the building into a family residence. Gerling was extremely devoted to his craft and regarded his work as a service to the community. At the height of his business in the early 1950s he sharpened or rebuilt at least 6,000 plowshares each year. He was particularly respected for his elegant wrought iron railings, which graced the porches of scores of Ellendale homes and businesses.
Otto worked in his shop steadily until the day of his death in 1980. His wife Ruby continued to operate the popcorn stand on the corner of the property until her death. The blacksmith shop remains in the family and still contains most of the tools used by Otto and his predecessors Lacy and Barta. Otto’s granddaughter Cindy, an accomplished artist, lives in the home and carries on the Gerling tradition of creativity.
A June, 1971 Dickey County Leader article about Otto and his work can be accessed here: https://archive.org/details/ottogerling
This point of interest is part of the tour: Ellendale - Tour of the Core City