Throwback Thursday by Matson Insurance: The Axe

barking axMatson Insurance is partnering with Jefferson County History Center to offer readers a look in Jefferson County’s past. Today “The Axe” is being showcased.

(Different kinds of axes are exhibited at the Jefferson County History Center, including a barking axe, pictured above.)


With the arrival in 1830 of the first blacksmith, William McCullough, local folks could be supplied with things of metal. McCullough located his blacksmith shop and home on the land where the present Baptist Church now stands in Brookville. According to Eric Sloane who has written extensively about the things of early America, the axe-making process was the same until the end of the 19th century. First an iron pattern was folded. Then a steel wedge was added before both were hammered over a metal handle pattern. Then the metal handle pattern was replaced with a handle of wood.

Sloan describes many kinds of axes; felling axes, broad axes, mortise axes, and chisel axes, each with distinct characteristics. Clearing the land for the first crops took precedence and this required a felling axe. The axe could cut a saddle-notch or sharp-notch in the longest log one man could handle, probably about sixteen-feet long.

With a broad axe, a log could be “squared.” Then using a maul, mortise axe, and saw, square-notch corners could be used to build a better structure.

To split rails for fencing, these pioneers used a maul to pound and an oak or iron wedge. Exchanging the wedge for a froe, the same technique was used to split a block of wood into shingles, barrel staves, or clapboards.

Several axes are exhibited in a show window and an exhibit case at the Jefferson County History Center.

[email protected] County Historical Society, Inc.

Throwback Thursday is brought to you by Matson Insurance in Brookville.


Submitted by the Jefferson County History Center.

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