poetry and prose about place

occupation: shoemaker

with 7 comments

On a short vacation to eastern Ontario last month to visit my niece, we visited Upper Canada Village.  It was a memorable day.  My favorite of the many buildings on site was the shoemaker’s workshop.  I was particularly interested because my great, great-grandfather, Josiah Hawk, was a shoemaker.  I know this from two sources, an entry in the Pennsylvania Census for 1860, and a list of the items in an Inventory and Appraisement at his death in 1865 at 33 years of age.

In 2001, I became interested in studying my maternal great-grandmother Ellen’s history.  Ellen (Ella) was Josiah’s daughter.  One evening, I was puzzling over a poorly copied entry in the 1860 Census, trying to figure out his occupation.  I was tired and my eyes went a bit blurry … by bending the paper a little, I suddenly saw what it said… ‘Master Shoemaker’.  My delight at this discovery was immense.

Later, when I read a list of Josiah’s property at the time of his death, his occupation was confirmed.  His belongings included: ‘…1 shoe bench, 1 lot of shoe mackers [makers] tools, one cramping [crimping] machine, [and] 1 lot of leather …’, among other worker’s tools.

I have relatively little information about my great-grandmother’s life, but I can imagine that she knew her father’s profession and his workshop.  Perhaps, as a little girl, Ella played in the workshop and knew the smells of the leather and the sounds of the shoemaker at his work.



leather and boot polish


the leather in my Papa’s shop

makes a kind of tent

where I can play


Papa pays me no attention

sews seams in Mr. Gruber’s boots

heels a pair of Sunday shoes


at church, I bend to see

beneath the benches

all those solemn feet

wearing Papa’s leather

boots and shoes



Copyright Jane Tims 2012

Written by jane tims

October 17, 2012 at 9:39 pm

7 Responses

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  1. How thrilling it must be to find all that information about your ancestors – even what he left in his will. Everything was so perfectly documented in the US. My family moved to countries where nothing was written down – even births and marriages were not recorded.



    October 22, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    • Hi. I owe much of what I have to my Aunt’s hard work. I have also done some research of my own and I am always impressed by the contents of the US Census. Church records are also good sources for information. I have all the church records for the years when my great-great grandfather was alive… interesting to see the marriages, births and baptisms. Jane


      jane tims

      October 23, 2012 at 10:53 pm

  2. Great story and the poem seals the deal.



    October 21, 2012 at 3:46 am

    • Hi. Glad you like the post and poem. Our ancestors leave so little information for us, but I like to imagine the experiences they may have had. Jane.


      jane tims

      October 21, 2012 at 8:50 am

  3. Reblogged this on Welcome to Hakes' Virtual Cafe and commented:
    Mmmm…the odour that emanate from this picture!



    October 18, 2012 at 1:25 pm

  4. From your post, I can hear the squeak of leather being cut, smell its tangy fragrance and hear the tap tap of shoe tacks. Your words carry images that remind me of shoemakers’ shops I’ve visited as a child. Thanks for this memory. I like the idea of the little girl peeking under church pews and checking out Papa’s handiwork.


    Carol Steel

    October 18, 2012 at 4:48 am

    • Hi Carol. Thanks for the observations. Even today, shoemakers’ shops have a distinctive sound and smell… Jane


      jane tims

      October 18, 2012 at 9:24 am

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