Black Business Month: Blacksmithing in Koran

 August is Black Business Month, founded as a time to acknowledge and uplift Black-owned businesses across the U.S., that have existed and persisted despite the obstacles historically put in front of them. Unfortunately, there are obstacles in researching black owned businesses, too. When searching the History Center’s own archives, and city directories and local newspapers readily available to us, such as the Shreveport Times and Journal, the Bossier Banner and the Plain Dealing Progress, there was little to find on early black businesses in Bossier Parish, when life and news sources were segregated in the first half of the 20th century and beyond. Then I remembered History Center staff Margaret Rhodes Mims telling me about her grandfather’s blacksmithing shop in Koran in south Bossier Parish.

Margaret’s grandfather, Henry Louis Rhodes, who was born in 1888, lived just up the hill from her on what is now the Johnston-Koran Road. Mr. Rhodes had learned the blacksmithing trade from his father, also a blacksmith, and had built his own shop on his father’s land. Margaret’s father and uncle also stayed on this land, as did Margaret until the destructive floods of 2016.  



Margaret’s parents both worked outside the home, so she and her younger siblings would go up the hill to “bother” their grandfather, “Papa”. Papa, in turn, would put Margaret and her brother Iza to work, but to the kids it was entertainment. Margaret remembered getting to work the bellows, blowing air to make the coals turn red. She didn’t even remember being bothered by the heat!

Though by the early twentieth century some blacksmithing shop work was taken over by steel and factory manufacturing, blacksmiths were still in demand for farrier work, shoeing horses and mules, especially in a rural agricultural area like Koran. The mules and horses were critical to pull wagons, plows, or haul logs for the timber industry. Mr. Rhodes was the only blacksmith from south Bossier to Minden as his grandkids remembered. 

Care of the hooves is essential to a horse’s health and ability to perform their duties, since the hoof carries their entire weight, so someone who can properly trim and shoe horses was and is a critical skilled worker for horse owners. Mr. Rhodes was especially valuable as one who could both make the shoes (a blacksmith) as well as safely handle the horse or mule in order to trim the hooves and properly fit and nail the shoe to the hooves. In other words, he possessed both the technical or ‘hard skills’ of a blacksmith with the ‘soft skills’ of a horse whisperer. Perhaps not surprisingly, Mr. Rhodes himself owned horses that lived on his Koran property, and that Margaret and her siblings loved to ride bareback (when no adults were looking!) 

In addition to shoeing horses, Mr. Rhodes had other smithing skills, such as repairing plows and making neck yokes for cows to keep them from escaping through fences. He also had a superpower in his key-making ability. Margaret said he made the key for the First National Bank in Shreveport simply by looking at the lock! 

Of course, with the advent of motorized vehicles and farm equipment like tractors, demand declined. None of Mr. Rhodes’ kids or grandkids carried on the blacksmith business, but before his passing in 1981, he did teach another local man to shoe horses. Trail riding is still a very popular pastime in Bossier Parish, and farriers are still needed. 

If you know a Black-owned business in Bossier Parish history, we would love to hear about it, or copy information and photos for our collection. The History Center is open M-Th 9-8, Fri 9-6, and Sat 9-5. Our phone number is (318) 746-7717 and our email is

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  • Henry L. Rhodes, C. 1970’s
  • Horse shoeing exhibition, pilgrimage at West Feliciana Parish, La. circa 1980s. Digital Collection, State Library of Louisiana Historic Photograph Collection (

Article by: Pam Carlsile