The Village Blacksmith
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1840)
Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands,
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
His hair is crisp, and black, and long;
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.
Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.
And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.
He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter’s voice
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.
It sounds to him like her mother’s voice
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.
Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.
In his own words...
My name is James Otis Ellis, Sr. born in Barnstable April 4, 1938, an 11th generation Barnstable native. My mother was Mary Louise (Jones) Ellis (1899-1998). My father was Otis Daron Ellis (1899-1983). I had two sisters, Marjorie Ellis (D) and Mary Louise Bryant (late Ed Bryant). I met my wife, Joan (Watts) Ellis in the 9th grade and have been happily married 66 years. Joan and I had four children together, James Otis Ellis, Jr. (Priscilla Isaacs Ellis), John Ellis (Laurie Benolken Ellis), Jennifer Ellis-Stern (late Andrew Stern) and Jason Ellis. We have six grandsons, four great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
My childhood was very active with family and friends. I grew up in Barnstable Village where we played football and baseball. In the summer, we hung out at Hathaway’s Pond but mostly at the harbor where we would swim and have bonfires. In the winter, we did a lot of snow shoveling and sledding. We would gather at each other’s homes on a regular basis. I started working the trap boats at 9 years old and continued throughout high school.
I graduated from Barnstable High School 1956 where I played football as a Red Raider, and watched over the years as my sons and grandsons continued the tradition. I proudly served my country in the U.S.M.C. Reserves in 1955 for one year, then the U.S.A.F. for four years in Tucson, Arizona as a Nuclear Weapons Mechanic Spec 1 and was honorably discharged 10/1/60 then moved back to the Cape.
Over the years I was a Cub Scout Leader, owned and operated the Hyannis Gulf Service gas station, served as President of the Barnstable Red Raiders Quarterback Club, founded the Barnstable County Fair Blacksmith Exhibit, was the Grand Marshall of the 2015 Barnstable Village 4th of July parade (alongside Joan), received the Town of Barnstable Historic Preservation Award in 2021, and a member of the New England Blacksmith Association.
I have been carrying on the 111 year family tradition of blacksmithing in the same village. The longest record in the country! For 44 years, I have continued this ancient and honorable craft as to preserve the past will ensure the future. I have passed this craft on to the future generations.
Joan and I have raised our four children with the values to keep the family and village history alive so that our future generations will appreciate what came before them. We have tried to make our world a better place, living by the words, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” I could fix anything except a broken heart.