The Fort King Blacksmith Shop Project was conducted in 2020 to locate, identify and evaluate the remains of the fort’s blacksmith shop, located off the northeast corner of the fort. The excavation work was done to follow up on earlier 2012 research excavations that revealed an assemblage of broken tools, charcoal, and blacksmithing debris. Not all frontier forts were equipped with blacksmith shops but nearly all had mechanics or artificers, troops with practical and technical skill sets to build and repair the forts and equipment. Finding a blacksmith shop at Fort King signals the importance of the fort as one of the earliest U.S. forts in Florida with the ability to support the resident garrison and its diverse mission. The blacksmith shop likely also served the Indian Agency near Silver Springs and supported military troop movements to and from Fort Brooke, Tampa along the strategic Fort King Road.
The fieldwork discovered the remains of at least two structures on the site, implying at least one re-building event. It is likely that at least one of the structures was close, if not connected, to the fort walls. Though the excavations within the forts show a great diversity of artifacts related to everyday military life and behaviors, the excavation of the blacksmith shop provide specific functional information related to making building hardware and metal object repairs. The artifacts also provide in their distribution a sense of the everyday use of the shop and differences between metal fabrication and other shop duty areas.
The objects below provide a glimpse of some of the 15,500 artifacts recovered during the excavations including ceramic vessels, clay smoking pipe bowls and stems, nails of all sizes, brick and limestone building debris and metal hardware such as furniture metal and door pintles, iron rods for making tools, and bottle glass in a variety of colors and functional styles. By far the building hardware make up the largest artifact assemblage. The number of light to heavy and very heavy duty (spikes) nails exceeds 1000 with the majority of nails having been recovered in-situ. This information provides a powerful sample when establishing the nature and extent of wooden structures. The large number of light and medium duty nails is consistent with plank sided buildings with open interiors. The in-situ nails revealed building wall lines. The spacing of post holes at roughly 5’ apart is consistent with that finding, but several post patterns indicate two different buildings. These posts are smaller in diameter than those used for the fort palisade construction. The distribution of smithing fuel debris including coke and coal fragments as well as charcoal and that suggests the use of a portable furnace rather than an in-house built furnace. An itinerant blacksmith visiting the forts is consistent with the growing needs for such services on the Florida frontier. The graphic shows the distribution of features identified.
Ceramics: Pearlware, bowl body fragment, blue and green painted floral pattern, ca. 1820s
Hardware: FS2030_pintle (Door frame pintle), FS2242 (brass furniture tack), FS2045 (Joist Spike), DSCN2293 (Heavy duty iron joist nail, note very little oxidation), FS1879-1 ( Door frame pintle), FS3847-b (Iron Cask strapping), Brass furniture knob (Possible walking cane handle), Bridle fragment
Glass: IS_bottles#2&3-2 through -5 (Liquor bottles in-situ east side of the blacksmith shop floor)
Tools: FS4963-b1 and -f2 (Iron hafted adze, woodworking tool)
Smoking Pipes: FS340b (decorated English pipe stem fragment, ca. 1830s)
Buttons: FS1835, FS1845 (2nd fort 3-piece, brass, Eagle with shield “I” Infantry blouse button); FS1816a (1-piece, brass Artillery button, used pre-2nd Seminole War, likely 1st fort)
Coin: FS2199 (1841 Sitting Liberty Silver Dime)
Weapon Related/Lead Ball: FS268 (54 caliber, lead ball, unfired, with screw extraction hole, damaged by rodent chewing), FS2397_gunflint (Imported Amber Flint, part of a flintlock ignition system, broken)