The image of the village blacksmith remains as one of the more popular and enduring romanticisms of the homesteading era. The last Osborne County practitioner of this demanding profession was born March 13, 1845, at East Clarksfield, Huron County, Ohio. Harry Otis Pixley worked on his parent’s farm until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, when at age sixteen he enlisted in Company E of the Seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He served for three years and four months in the war, and by his own count fought in fifty-three battles, including those at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Antietam, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, and Atlanta. He was under fire sixty-three times and was wounded three times, the last time severely. Once Pixley shared his spoon and tin cup of beans with Abraham Lincoln while the president inspected the Union army. The spoon and cup became treasured momentos of the war and later were given to Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas.
During the war Harry learned the blacksmithing trade, which became his full-time occupation. At one time he shoed a horse for Jesse James. On September 20, 1868, he married Mrs. Emma Louise (Pleasanton) Burroughs, widow of E. U. Burroughs, at West Salem, Wisconsin. Six years later the Pixleys moved to Kansas, and in 1878 they settled on a homestead along East Kill Creek in Independence Township of Osborne County. They lived there for two years and then moved to the town of Osborne. While in Osborne the Pixleys adopted a son, Harry Clyde “Trot” Pixley, who was born October 14, 1879. After working in Osborne for two years, Harry traded his homestead for several lots in the community of Covert, Kansas. He built a stone house and set up a blacksmith shop, which became a fixture in the village for the next thirty-six years.
Harry Pixley was a large, jovial man who possessed great strength. Once when living on his East Kill Creek homestead he walked the fifteen miles into Osborne through six inches of snow. He bought a hundred-pound sack of flour and twenty-five pounds of groceries, which he hoisted onto his back and started on the journey home. In spite of the wind that whipped the snow into a howling blizzard, Pixley made it home safely and with his burden intact.
In 1918 Harry closed the smithy and retired after fifty-five years as a blacksmith. The Pixleys enjoyed three more years of contentment until Emma passed away and was buried in the Covert Cemetery. Alone and now confined to a wheelchair due to his Civil War injuries, Harry moved back to Osborne and spent his remaining years with his son. He died August 19, 1938, in Osborne. “A valiant soldier, a good citizen, and a real patriot has gone to his final reward,” eulogized the Osborne County Farmer. Harry was laid to rest beside his wife in the Covert Cemetery, the last Civil War veteran living in Osborne County.