ONANCOCK, Va. (Delmarva Now) --A group of hardy volunteers braved freezing temperatures to help clean up the grounds of the Samuel D. Outlaw Blacksmith Shop Memorial Museum in Onancock on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 15.
The King holiday is known as "a day on, not a day off," and community service is encouraged on the day.
The event at the Outlaw Museum started with a prayer offered by Clinton Strand shortly after 8 a.m.
Onancock Mayor Russell Jones read a proclamation designating Jan. 15 a day of service in town and calling on "the people of the Eastern Shore of Virginia to pay tribute to the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through participation in community projects and events on Martin Luther King Day and throughout the year."
Gerald Boyd, executive director of Eastern Shore Training and Consulting, Inc., spoke briefly about the King holiday and the fact that the federal King Holiday and Service Act was enacted in 1994, the same year that Onancock blacksmith and community leader Samuel D. Outlaw died.
The shop, built by Outlaw in the early 1900s, was operated until the early 1990s by him.
Outlaw's family gave the property to Onancock to serve as a museum after he died in 1994 at age 95.
The shop is thought to be one of the best-preserved blacksmith shop's remaining in existence in Virginia, Boyd said.
Outlaw, a native of Windsor, North Carolina, was born in 1899. He studied blacksmithing at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, now Hampton University, for four years, graduating in 1925.
He came to the Eastern Shore of Virginia to ply his trade in Cape Charles at first, then moved north to Onancock in 1927, after the Cape Charles shop burned.
He built a 20-foot by 50-foot shop next to his home on Boundary Avenue, where he practiced his craft for 65 years, until poor health forced him to retire in 1991. The shop still had his equipment and tools inside when it was given to the town.
Outlaw's customers were local watermen, farmers and his neighbors — "He was as likely to repair a bicycle as he was a crab scrape, oyster dredge, plow or a truck or car," a portion of a commemorative plaque mounted outside the shop says.
He was the last known full-time blacksmith in Accomack County and was a respected member of the Onancock community, where he served as clerk of Bethel AME Church for nearly a half century and as Sunday school superintendent for 58 years.
A nonprofit corporation for the museum was created in February 2017 and a board of directors was put in place in May. The group has created a mission statement and developed a strategic plan, Boyd told the Onancock town council in an update in November.
The first phase of the plan, including assessment of the building and its contents, has been completed. The contents, including Outlaw's tools and equipment, were inspected by a working blacksmith, then inventoried and stored.
Additionally, the nonprofit group signed a five-year lease with the town of Onancock in September. PNC Bank in October awarded the group a $2,500 grant to develop a website and other marketing material.
The group also is creating a curriculum around the blacksmith shop's history.
The goal is for the museum to open by spring 2019.