Not many people have heard about Virginia’s James Anderson. This American patriot provided significant contributions to the country’s independence and he stands tall among the men and women who supported the Revolution.
Anderson was born during 1740 in Gloucester. Moving to nearby Williamsburg, he established himself as a blacksmith by 1762. Excellent workmanship earned him a reputation as one of the town’s finest blacksmiths. He soon was appointed armourer, a responsible public position that included oversight and upkeep of the arms stored in the town’s magazine.
During April 1775, Lord Dunmore (John Murray), Virginia’s royal governor, ordered all gunpowder removed from the magazine. This decision, among others, inflamed Virginians to action. It also marked a dramatic change in Lord Dunmore’s political fortunes. He quickly became highly unpopular. Forced to abandon the governor’s residence in Williamsburg, he sought safety with his family on a British ship.
Balancing War And Local Needs
As the war began, Anderson and about 40 employees completed their work in his shop, a single-forge smithy behind his house. But, by 1777, the wartime needs of the state’s capital overburdened the workplace.
Anderson expanded the existing building. Then, he added another freestanding shop. By the second half of the war, Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury practically became a community of its own.
The demands of the Continental Army and Navy, along with the ordinary daily workload, remained constant for Anderson. During the same day, he might complete 1,000 refurbished muskets for troops while an apprentice repaired a lock for a local farmer.
During stressful years that brought opposing armies to the Williamsburg area, colonists such as James Anderson, and many more who remain unknown, provided their expertise, sacrifice and support to win the Revolution.
Reconstructed Blacksmith Business
Similar to a number of structures that once were part of daily life in Williamsburg, Anderson’s original shop is long gone. But, the recent reconstruction of Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury in Colonial Williamsburg allows visitors to step back in time to experience an important business in the town as it appeared during the American Revolution.
The reconstructed main armoury building includes four blacksmith forges and the kitchen. Reconstruction of the tin shop and several other buildings on the site will continue for another year. When completed, the site will include the armoury, the kitchen, a tinsmith’s shop, an outdoor forge, a work shop, two storage buildings, a privy, a bake oven and a wellhead.
Click here for more information, photos and video about Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury at Colonial Williamsburg.