John Affleck (1847-1934) was born in Lanark Township in the community of Middleville. As a young man, he apprenticed the shoemaking trade with William Guthrie of Middleville. Shoemakers were actually known as cordwainers and those who repaired shoes were called cobblers. In small communities, the ‘Village Cobbler’ would usually do both. The Middleville and District Museum has a display of John Affleck’s shoemaking tools. The Exhibit includes an awl, hammer, shoe lasts, shoe trees, button hooks, eyelets, wooden pegs, patterns, leather cutter and many other items. John’s shoemaking bench has a seat on one end and a workspace on the other, A box with multiple sections holds the small, intricate pegs and fasteners that the shoemaker needed close at hand. Sewing machines robust enough to stitch leather were invented in 1846. The Museum has one of these machines on display in the Cobbler Exhibit. These machines made the process of shoemaking and repair much quicker. A person in need of a pair of shoes would visit the Cobbler’s shop to be measured. The shoemaker would work to create the footwear, piece by piece, and then the customer would return to pick up their purchase. The Cobbler was often paid with products rather than cash. In early settlement many items would be offered up as payment. Like in many examples of early commerce, trading goods and services was common. Cobbler John’s ledger containing many local names is on display in the Exhibit. Visitors can search for familiar family names in a transcript of the pages.
This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.