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Sexsmith Blacksmith Shop


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Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Sexsmith Blacksmith Shop is a one-storey log building with a gable roof situated on a single lot one block north of the town of Sexsmith's principal commercial street. The shop contains thousands of original tools and machines of the blacksmith's craft.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Sexsmith Blacksmith Shop lies in its representation of a typical village blacksmith shop in early Alberta. Blacksmithing was an essential craft in the early settlement period and vital to the development of Alberta's agricultural economy. The village blacksmith was called upon to shoe horses and oxen, sharpen plough shares, and repair tools and machinery, among other tasks.

The townsite of what would become Sexsmith was created in 1916 during the construction of the Grande Prairie branch of the Edmonton Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway. The blacksmith shop was one of the fledgling community's first buildings, erected by Dave Bozarth in 1916. From 1920 until 1928, Bozarth ran the shop in partnership with Nels Johnson, a Swedish immigrant and trained blacksmith. In 1928, Johnson took over the shop and operated it with consummate craftsmanship for the next five decades.

Sexsmith Blacksmith Shop is an outstanding example of an early Alberta blacksmith shop. A typical log building of the early settlement period, the shop is one of the most complete industrial/archaeological sites in Alberta, containing thousands of original blacksmithing tools and machines - many of them locally made and most still in working condition. Remarkably intact, the shop offers rich insights into the blacksmith's art, a once vital craft now largely unpracticed in the province. The site is particularly significant for the clever and resourceful construction of instruments, like the drill powered by a Model T Ford transmission, and the presence of a foundry for casting metals, a rare and important service for the waves of settlers who came to the Peace River country, Alberta's last agricultural frontier, in the 1920s. The site's integrity and uniqueness have also made it a significant local landmark in Sexsmith.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1149)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the exterior of the Sexsmith Blacksmith Shop include:
- form, massing, and style;
- wooden gable roof with vent cupola, gable-end coverings, and chimneys;
- round logs with saddle-notch joins;
- style and arrangement of windows and doors;
- lean-to with gabled roof;
- "Blacksmithing Welding" signage featuring black background and white letters on one side and white background and white letters on the reverse.

The character-defining elements of the interior of the Sexsmith Blacksmith Shop include:
- floor plan, lack of interior partitions, secret compartments for alcohol;
- exposed rafters and support beams;
- collection of blacksmithing tools, such as anvils, foundry, and shoeing box;
- collection of blacksmithing machinery, such as power hacksaw, pedestal grinder, drill, trip hammer, and associated belts.


Street Address:
Community: Sexsmith
Boundaries: Portion of Lot 27, Block 2, Plan 1623BQ
Contributing Resources: Building: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
6 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
1623 BQ
27 (ptn.)

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
55.349693 -118.783534 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type
6135159 0386915 GPS NAD 83


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1986/10/28

Historical Information

Built: 1916 to 1916
Period of Significance: 1916 to 1989
Theme(s): Developing Economies : Technology and Engineering
Historic Function(s): Industry : Metal Products Manufacturing Facility
Current Function(s): Leisure : Historic or Interpretive Site
Builder: Dave Bozarth

The Sexsmith Blacksmith Shop was constructed in 1916 by Dave Bozarth. Between 1920 and 1928 it was operated as a partnership between Bozarth and Nels Johnson who assumed total ownership in 1928 and continued to operate it until his death in 1978. Johnson is therefore the one individual most consistently associated with this site.

Johnson, a native of Jantland, Sweden, emigrated to Canada in 1909 with prior training and experience as a blacksmith. Upon arriving in Canada, Johnson was employed as a blacksmith by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway on the construction of its main line west of Edmonton. In 1910, he left the employ of the railway and opened a blacksmith shop in the new town of Edson which he operated until 1914. Between 1914 and 1920 he was engaged in a variety of activities including freighting over the Edson Trail. In 1920 he settled down in Sexsmith where he remained for the rest of his life.

The town site which would eventually become the town of Sexsmith was created in 1916 during the construction of the Grande Prairie branch of the Edmonton Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway. Dave Bozarth's blacksmith shop was one of the first commercial enterprises to be established at the new town site which also included a general store operated by Dave Sexsmith after whom the town was named. By 1920 the town of Sexsmith had emerged as a service center for the adjacent rural area. Its importance in this role was further enhanced in 1921-1922 when the Sexsmith Flour Mill was opened. The growth of the town of Sexsmith was therefore part of the opening up of the last agricultural frontier in the history of Alberta.

The Peace River country had lanquished as an agricultural frontier prior to the completion of the Edmonton Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway in 1916. Even with the completion of the railway, the Peace River Country continued to experience difficulties as an agricultural area after 1916 because of the declining immigration into the region, low agricultural prices and the low quality of service provided by the Ed and BC railway. By the late 1920's these problems had been overcome, so that the settlement process in this region was complete by 1930.

Preliminary investigations indicate that the majority of machines and tools associated with the blacksmithing operation are still present in the building. As well, the shop contains tools and machines that were locally made and are important examples of local Alberta craftsmanship and ingenuity. The shop and its contents for the most part remain in working condition, a valuable resource for both the historical and archaeological research, in terms of blacksmithing activity areas and their associated tools and equipment. The artifacts and their arrangement at the site, that is to say, are an essential component of the site's significance.


As originally constructed, the Sexsmith Blacksmith Shop was a log structure which utilized round logs and saddle notch joints in its construction. It was rectangular with a gable roof without any interior partitions thus permitting its maximum utilization as an industrial structure. It has remained virtually unchanged since construction. The only significant modification to the structure has been the squaring of the logs on the front facade.

The construction materials, construction techniques and the basic design of this building are indicative of the types of buildings constructed during the initial stages of the settlement process in Alberta. The log buildings constructed during the initial phase of a town's development were generally replaced with frame and brick structures if the town achieved some degree of permanence.

(Site Information Summary)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0573
Designation File: DES 1149
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 24902
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1149)
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