The section of north St. Louis County, Missouri known as Spanish Lake takes its name from the nearby pond, which local tradition says served as a recreation area for the Spanish soldiers garrisoned at at the Spanish fort Don Carlos founded in 1764.
A German immigrant named Jacob Wilhelm built the old blacksmith shop in Spanish Lake in 1875. Wilhelm had come to St. Louis to work as an ironworker on the Eads Bridge, the first permanent expansion bridge across the Mississippi. When the Eads Bridge was completed in 1874, Jake Wilhelm moved to Spanish Lake, building a house and shop near the present day intersection of Bellefontaine Road and Parker Road.
Jacob’s son Joe followed his father as the blacksmith in Spanish Lake. Joe Wilhelm, in a 1958 newspaper interview, said that he walked up to his father’s anvil at the age of 11, and never left it. Joe was an institution in Spanish Lake, a character fitting the image of the old-time blacksmith. The image to the left shows Joe Wilhelm working on a plowshare. Photo from 1958
The blacksmith shop was a focal point of the community, a gathering place for neighbors. The open front door of the shop was the community bulletin board, posted with upcoming events, items for sale, public notices and the like. Items placed on the door were rarely taken down, (just covered over), and so the blacksmith shop door became a sort of community archive as well.
Then in 1976, as the blacksmith shop passed its century mark, Robert Schantz became the blacksmith in the old shop. After moving from his native St. Louis to Tennessee in 1974 to attend horseshoeing school and practice the trade, Schantz returned and re-opened the Spanish Lake Blacksmith Shop. His father Chester Schantz, a carpenter, helped him fix up the shop, and reminisced that he and his brothers and sisters came to the same shop more than a half century before, driving their horse and wagon from their farm at Chain-of-Rocks, overlooking the Mississippi river by the present-day I-270 bridge.
By the early 1980s, Bob Schantz had developed and patented an atmospheric propane forge, which was being manufactured in the shop, and had begun to sell horseshoeing supplies with his wife, Marleen. Bob cut back on horseshoeing to concentrate on blacksmithing, specializing in reforging jackhammer chisels and moil points, making tuckpointing tools and other custom forge work.
For several years it was apparent that the good old shop was too small and too outdated to sustain the business. In 1993, the Schantz’s built a new shop in Foristell, MO (about 45 minutes west of St. Louis), on property that had been in Marleen’s family. The new building has room to operate a large and diverse blacksmith shop, along with a full-scale Farrier supplies store.
In 2004 Bob Schantz was elected by his peers to the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame, located at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY.
In September 2013, Marleen Schantz lost her battle with cancer. She is remembered and loved by the hundreds of farriers that came to her horseshoeing supply store.
Bob and Marleen’s niece Charlene Mahood now manages the Farrier Supply business, which has a solid reputation with local farriers and supply dealers across the country. With complete shipping facilities, the Spanish Lake Blacksmith Shop offers nationwide farrier supply service.
Several items from the old shop, including hardware and tie rings forged by Jake Wilhelm, are kept and cherished at the new shop. They remain fond mementos of 138 years of blacksmithing history.
In 2012 the old shop was dismantled and moved to Faust Park in St. Louis County. There it is reassembled and restored as part of the park’s historic village. There will be a ribbon cutting when the old shop has been completely restored it will be opened to the public with demonstrations of the art of blacksmithing.
If you would like to have a work of art memento of the historic old shop check out the signed and numbered prints by Wisconsin artist Todd Persche, donate $100 to:
Checks need to be made out to: “Historic Sites Foundation” and mail to:
ATTN: Jesse Francis
15185 Olive Blvd
Chesterfield, MO 63017
The St. Louis County Parks Department will send the signed and numbered print to you.