Cobblestone Museum offering lectures on blacksmithing, women’s temperance movement

Photos by Ginny Kropf: This historic marker on Route 98 stands between the home of blacksmith Joseph Vagg and his wife Nellie and the blacksmith shop to the south. Joseph Vagg, a blacksmith, and his wife Nellie, a devotee to Women’s Temperance, lived in this home which was recently acquired by the Cobblestone Society Museum on Ridge Road and Route 98, north of Albion.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 31 March 2022 at 7:51 am

GAINES – The Cobblestone Society Museum will present a virtual lecture series April 5 and 26, organized by assistant director Sue Bonafini.

“Last year, because of Covid concerns, I proposed to director Doug Farley we do a virtual lecture as a fundraiser in October,” Bonafini said. “The beauty of a virtual program is the ability to reach a wider audience and the Museum doesn’t have additional costs for a speaker to travel to Orleans County.”

Farley agreed, and last year’s event was a great success with registrants from eight states and Australia.

Joseph and Nellie Vagg lived on the corner of Route 98 and Ridge Road in the hamlet of Childs in 1909. He was an early blacksmith. His profession will be the focus of a virtual lecture sponsored by the Cobblestone Society Museum on April 5.

“This year I’ve chosen a local speaker and one from Michigan, both knowledgeable about topics connected to Joe and Nellie Vagg,” Bonafini said.

Joe was a blacksmith and his shop, as well as the Vagg home, are part of the Cobblestone Museum Complex. Nellie was active in Women’s Temperance. Joe’s blacksmith shop is a popular stop for visitors who take the Museum’s campus tour, Bonafini said. His work was highly valued and critical to a rural farming community.

Nellie was known to help Joe in the shop, especially to help fit wide metal tires over the wooden wagon wheels quickly before the hot metal burned them. A support of the WCTU, she was a member of the Orleans County Women’s Christian Temperance League for 25 years, serving as treasurer and rising to the position of delegate to area and state conventions.

Farley is offering an option for people who want to watch the program in person on a big screen television at the Cobblestone Church, Bonafini said. Advance registration is required by calling the Museum at (585) 589-9013.

The first lecture from 7 to 8:15 p.m. April 5 will feature Jonathan Bernard, an American Civil War re-enactor and hobbyist blacksmith. He will present an interactive overview of blacksmithing and the manufacturing of metal products in the United States between the 1700s and 1800s. This will include the influence of the American Civil War on the evolution and use of the traveling forge.

Having moved to Rochester from West Springfield, Mass., Bernard presents with the aid of a working traveling forge wagon, one of only three working replicas in the USA re-enacting community.

The second lecture on April 26, also from 7 to 8:15 p.m., will feature Lori Osborne, director of the Frances Willard House Museum and WCTU Archives in Evanston, Ill. She will talk about one of the most influential women and the organization she led. Osborne will cover the story of Willard’s life and evolution from teaching to social reform and the story of the WCTU under her leadership.

Osborne has master’s degrees in public history and is an expert on Willard and the role of the women’s temperance movement in the 19th century. She is also director of the Evanston Women’s History Project and served as coordinator for the National Votes for Women Trail initiative in Illinois.

A $5 minimum registration fee is required to obtain a program link to attend the virtual lecture, and can be obtained by visiting the Museum’s website at

For a donation of $20 or more, individuals or businesses will be recognized as community sponsors for the lecture series. Full details are available by contacting Bonafini at or called (585) 589-9013. Current sponsors include the Rochester Arc and Flame Center, Newstead Equestrian Center in Akron, Bloom Wellness in Churchville and Royal Equine Veterinary Services in Lockport.