The 1830 Murdock Log House and Bennett's Forge
THE MURDOCK LOGHOUSE
The cabin originally stood approximately three-quarters of a mile north of the courthouse square. Built about 1830, the building has been associated with Berrien County's first lawyer and one of Berrien Springs' founders, Francis B. Murdock of Pennsylvania. By the 1960s, the cabin was completely concealed beneath numerous additions and wooden siding when workmen uncovered it. Demolition on the building had begun to make way for a new subdivision.
The Historical Association moved the house to the 1839 Courthouse Square in 1974 and restored to represent early pioneer life in southwestern Michigan. The log house is furnished with reproductions that can be handled by school children and viewed up close by visitors during special events.
Early settlers built log houses like this one as a first home. After a family became better established, it either built a more stylish and comfortable house or covered the log building's exterior with siding and plastered its interior walls. Early residents of Berrien County did not live in log houses indefinitely by choice. Accustomed to refined homes back East, they desired the same standards in the West.
No blacksmith shop ever operated on the courthouse square. The building housing the current blacksmithing exhibit is actually a cement block structure built around 1930. The exhibit, funded through gifts from the family of George H. Bennett, illustrates the importance of blacksmithing to small communities throughout Berrien County. In the 1890s, for example, the Village of Berrien Springs had no fewer than three blacksmith shops or livery stables.
Blacksmiths did considerably more than just shoe horses. They made or repaired almost anything made of metal, including tools, farm equipment and kitchen utensils like pots and kettles.
The typical blacksmith shop or livery stable was a barn like building with oversize doors to accommodate wheeled vehicles. A small office near the door typically contained a pot-bellied stove, a battered desk and several chairs. Smells of horse manure mingled with those of harness oil, grease and coal smoke from the forge. The blacksmith shop served as a gathering space for local men to enjoy the pleasures of loafing and gossip.
Bennett's Forge is a working blacksmith shop. The 1839 Courthouse Square offers demonstrations of the blacksmith's art periodically throughout the year. Dick Postman, former Museum blacksmith, is the author of Anvils in America (1998), the first reference work on the blacksmith's basic tool ever published. The book can be purchased through the museum store listings on this Web Site.