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Man, anvil from A-J gold mine reunited in Tacoma

Posted: Friday, October 22, 2004

One day in late September, Juneau native Richard Ryan Anderson thought he'd lost a personal piece of his hometown's history.

The multimedia artist showed up at his rental home in the old North End of Tacoma, Wash., to pick up some of his belongings and move them into his new apartment.

Things went well until he walked to the back patio to lug away his anvil, a century-old relic from the Alaska-Juneau gold mine.

It had vanished, 145 pounds into the ether.

"I looked down and there was a big empty spot on the blocks where it used to be standing," said Anderson, 25. "I was like, 'Whoa! It's gone!' And then I called my roommates, and I called the cops. I think they thought I was making a prank call at first."

This was no joke. This was personal. But thanks to an article in last Sunday's Tacoma News Tribune, anvil and man were reunited Tuesday afternoon.

It turns out that a scavenger was driving through Anderson's neighborhood and thought his old home was abandoned. He snooped around the property, backed a truck into the back yard and drove away with the anvil and a bucket full of scrap aluminum.

The man saw the article in the News Tribune and called Anderson on Tuesday to make arrangements to return the steel block.

"Waiting for the guy to show up at my office with the anvil was like waiting for Christmas or something," Anderson said.

"I think he runs a salvage business. His truck was full of all kinds of crap," he said. "He said he shouldn't have taken it, and he knew it was wrong."

Anderson's relationship with the anvil dates to 1996. At the time, he and a friend, Brian E. Crepeaux, were both into blacksmithing. They made swords out of old cars' leaf springs - heating the metal in a forge and shaping the metal with a hammer.

Crepeaux put an ad on KINY Juneau radio's "Problem Corner" seeking an anvil. Two construction workers called and sold him the 145-pounder, which they'd picked up while demolishing the skeleton structure of a mill site near the Mount Roberts Tram. Soon, Crepeaux had two more - a 300-pounder and a small 110-pound model. He sold the 145-pounder to Anderson for $1 a pound.

Anderson can't precisely date the anvil. It was rusted when Crepeaux bought it, so he ground down the sides, including the identifying markings. But the pattern and shape are similar to some of Crepeaux's Peter Wright anvils. Wright was a well-known English manufacturer in the mid-19th century.

Anderson moved to Tacoma in 2001 and shipped the anvil south with a freight discount from Horizon Air, a former employer. He kept it in his fenced back yard, against the patio and next to his forge.

After calling the cops, Anderson put a lost-and-found ad on craigslist.com, an Internet bulletin board, and a notice on a Tacoma Arts e-mail listing. That's where Sam McManis, the features editor at the News Tribune, saw it.

"He said, 'We're going to get your anvil back,'" Anderson said. "I said, 'OK.' I figured I wasn't going to see it again. I was really bummed out."

It may have helped that Anderson told the News Tribune that the anvil was cursed. That was an exaggeration.

"My girlfriend's sister (Lisa Mitchell) is into alternative, freaky stuff, and I asked her if she could help me put a curse on it," Anderson said. "She said, 'No. I'm not going to tell you how, because it'll come back and be twice as worse on the person who casts it.' So I just told the paper it was cursed to make her angry and to fool any superstitious people into giving it back to me."

Anderson received two calls on Monday from people who thought they had seen a man drive away with the anvil. Then Tuesday, the scavenger called to apologize.

"People around here are pretty cool," Anderson said.

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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