Forging ahead in Marshfield: The Berg blacksmith business
By Kris Leonhardt
The town blacksmith was an important part of pioneering communities in the late 1800s. With the prevalence of horse-driven machinery in that time, custom horse shoe fitting was a necessity as was the maintenance of the machinery itself, wagons, carriages, and sleighs.
The smell of burning charcoal was a familiar scent in cities as blacksmiths heated iron to shape using a forge, anvil, and hammer.
The shop was a busy place year-round and most likely a welcome respite during cold winter days.
John and Barbara Haebig came to the Marshfield area in 1879. Born in Germany, John had worked under his father as a blacksmith before honing his skills around Europe as a journeyman. He immigrated to the United States in 1865 and worked in several locations before arriving in Marshfield.
The Haebigs opened a blacksmith shop in Marshfield and operated it for several years before relocating to the heavily German-populated north side of the city. They then sold the shop to Michael and Johanna Berg in 1883 for $2,400.
The Bergs, also of German heritage, established a very productive business, and Michael began crafting a solid reputation as a skilled blacksmith in the Marshfield area.
Two years later the Bergs sold the property to Michael Bast but continued to operate the business at the location.
In 1887 the Great Marshfield Fire nearly extinguished the hopes and dreams of every town pioneer, but like the other sturdy and determined early Marshfield residents and business owners, the Bergs forged on. They would purchase new property and build a two-story blacksmith shop with living quarters to continue their steady and successful business.
As time marched forward, the Bergs’ sons John and Nicholas began working with their father as the generation before had done. First John and then Nicholas started apprenticeships in smithing.
The Berg sons took over the business in 1924, naming it Berg Brothers Manufacturing Company.
Four years later John left the blacksmith shop and began a business as a wagon maker. Nick continued as a blacksmith in the city for more than a decade before selling the property to A.G. Sanders.
Nick Berg then relocated the business north of the city along State Highway 97.