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Blacksmith demonstration to be part of Middlesex Museum open house

Nathaniel Frost strikes while the fire is hot in his demonstration of blacksmithing skills used in the 1800s.

The sound of a blacksmith’s hammer hitting an anvil will ring out again in Saluda when the Middlesex County Museum hosts an open house this Saturday, June 25, from 1-4 p.m.

In addition to an on-site live blacksmith demonstration by Nathaniel Frost, other family-friendly open house events will include an antique quilt exhibit, scavenger hunt, and fossil dig. The museum, the clerk’s office and the visitor center will be open with special themed exhibits. 

Original plats, deeds, manumission papers and other historical documents also will be on display, and the 1920s general store is always a favorite with visitors.

Frost has been blacksmithing for two years and presently works in Lexington, Kentucky, as a professional blacksmith. His parents live in Urbanna. He will be demonstrating traditional skills from the 1800s, such that would have been utilized in Middlesex County. The working space will include a forge fueled by charcoal or coal, anvil, post vise, and display board of projects.

Dressed in costume, Frost tries to keep the set up “rustic,” but without a set time period depicted, with tools ranging from 1820-2016, both handmade and machine made. Active projects during demonstrations are short so visitors will be able to see a completed project in a relatively short manner. Keeping this is mind, most demonstrations cover nail-making, which is done the same way now as by colonial smiths, fire strikers for flint and steel fire starting, horse shoes, basic horse-drawn wagon or implement parts and, for more involved demos, tools along the lines of chisels, hammers, axes, and garden tools.

The new antique quilt show will be open, featuring 13 pieces from the Deltaville family of Diane Basheer. The quilt collection was discovered while going through old trunks of the estate of Basheer’s mother, Marjorie Mercer Cox. Her parents and grandparents lived in the Syringa, Wake and Deltaville areas from the time of the mid-late 1800s. The family names included Clarence and Daisy Garland Mercer of Syringa, Captain Russell and Inez Hodges Parker of Wake, Hilda Hodges Stiff of Deltaville (a granddaughter of Nancy and William Kelly of the 1840’s Kelly House in Deltaville), and Garland and Frances Parker Mercer of Syringa, parents of Marjorie Mercer Cox.

Occupations of the families during those times ranged from sea captain to ownership of the local concrete plant in Urbanna, and florist and funeral home businesses. Of particular interest is that prior to her marriage Frances Parker Mercer taught in a two-room schoolhouse in Wake from 1918-20. Teaching was one of the few occupations available to women in the early 20th century.

Marjorie Mercer Cox was born at Syringa in 1923, educated at Mary Washington College, and lived in Richmond for many years until her return to Deltaville in the 1990s where she lived until her passing in 2014. The gift of the family quilts is from her daughter, Diane Cox Basheer of McLean and Deltaville. The quilt collection showcases many various patterns, including pinwheels, autumn maple leafs, diagonal-square within a square, and Dresden plate pattern—all hand-pieced together and hand top-stitched. The crazy quilt is backed with hog and chicken feed bags and is finished with the blanket embroidery stitch. All types of fabrics were used in the quilts’ construction, including wool, flannel, cotton and linen.

The museum’s themed exhibits include many stories of past residents and their interesting lives, such as Tuskegee airman George Taylor, WWII flying ace Billy Marchant, civil rights pioneer Irene Morgan, and Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated U.S. Marine in Corps history, and many more.

Other family friendly offerings will include a 10-question scavenger hunt (with prizes) and a fossil dig with locally found 5-million year old scallop shells. Robert Montague will have his 1932 Packard Convertible, 900 series, on display.

Refreshments will be served on the porch of the museum and live music will be performed on the porch of the visitor center. “It will be a free family fun day for all,” said museum director Holly Horton. “We boast a big collection in a small building. Our open house is a wonderful opportunity to bring the kids and grandkids to the museum to have some fun and learn more about our local history.”

The museum is located at 777 General Puller Highway in Saluda, across the street from Chesty Puller Park and one block from the historic courthouse square. To learn more about the museum, visit

posted 06.22.2016

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