Echoes of the past

A blacksmithing demonstration at Whitman Mission recaptures an old-time craft.



Ron Ginder, 69, of Tri-Cities, heats a piece of high carbon steel that he will bend into a horseshoe while giving a demonstration Sunday at Whitman Mission National Historic Site. Ginder uses an 80-pound Peter Wright anvil from England that is more than 100 years old. His coal tray is equipped with a crank bellows and is also over a century old. Coal is his source of fuel, which he has to purchase from a specialty supplier in Portland.


A set of horseshoes and other hardware made by Ginder sits in the sun while Ginder, in the background, heats up a small piece of steel that Ally Newton, 11, of Walla Walla will use to try out her blacksmith skills.



WALLA WALLA -- More than halfway through its summer events schedule, things got all fired up this weekend as the annual blacksmith demonstration hammered away at the Whitman Mission National Historic Site.

Longtime Tri-Cities farrier Ron Ginder, 69, now retired, lugged his 80-pound and 100-year-old Peter Wright anvil, along with an even older old crank bellows and coal tray, a load of coal, several tools and samples of his work to demonstrate how horseshoes would have been made at the Whitman Mission well over a century ago.

"There was nothing light involved about blacksmithing. Everything about it was heavy," said Renee Rusler, park ranger at the mission.

Each weekend from June through August, the Whitman Mission hosts educational events. Most are demonstrations of what life would have been like at the mission back in its heyday in the 1840s.

But the National Historic Site also includes demonstrations of some more modern happenings, like this coming weekend's Stinky Soil and Solar Power demonstration, where patrons will be treated to demonstrations of the state-of-the-art solar technologies used at the facility, as well as some good old fashioned composting.

To learn more about the Whitman Mission summer events, go online to or call 529-2761.

Cost to tour the park for a day is $3, 16 and older. Children get in free.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at or 526-8325.


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