Packer Forge demonstrations are one of the activities at this year’s Pima Heritage Days

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Nick Bingham, left, and Scott Alder flip up some pancakes and fun at a previous Pima Heritage Days festival. The event runs this Friday and Saturday.

Contributed Article/Courtesy Terry Bryant

Contributed Photo: Amos Packer is shown in his shop with the forge and his helper, Joe Horn. Demonstrations of the forge will be made this Friday and Saturday during Pima Heritage Days by Max Maxwell.

PIMA – Pima Heritage Days, celebrating the 144th anniversary of the founding of the town in April 1879, is this Friday and Saturday and will feature a variety of food, fun, family displays, and a historic forge demonstration. 

The event kicks off Friday with a Quilt Show at the Old Pima Church Cultural Hall from 12 – 4 p.m. followed by a BBQ dinner at the Pima School Cafeteria from 5 – 7 p.m. The dinner will be $10 a plate ($7 for children 6-11 years old, with those 5 and under free) and will feature homemade BBQ beef and beans, coleslaw, dinner roll, homemade root beer, and water. 

Contributed Photo: These are some of the items at this year’s Heritage Days.

Saturday morning kicks off with a cowboy breakfast at the Willman Carter Farm Museum at 7 a.m. for $6 a plate and $4 a plate for children. The breakfast will feature pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, gravy, and Dutch Oven biscuits. All proceeds benefit the Eastern Arizona Museum & Historical Society of Graham County. The Quilt Show also continues on Saturday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Russell Woods checks on his Dutch-oven biscuits, which were in high demand as always during the 2019 event.

This year’s theme is “Eastern Arizona Museum – 60 years of Honoring Gila Valley Heritage” and will feature a flag-raising, a performance of the National Anthem, steam engine demonstrations, the quilt raffle, and multiple family displays. This year, the event will also feature blacksmith displays on Amos Packer’s historic forge by Max Maxwell. 

At the Eastern Arizona Museum & Historical Society of Graham County in Pima, there are many artifacts displayed of tools and machinery used during the 19th and 20th centuries. Most of them were hand-powered or animal powered and have not been used in decades – only looked at curiously by thousands of museum visitors over the years.  That has changed in recent months thanks to the consistent efforts of Mr. Maxwell, a local self-taught blacksmith.  

First, some background on the artifact. In 1908, Amos Packer opened a blacksmith shop in Pima offering repairs for wagons, buggies, and farm, ranch, and horse equipment. The accompanying photograph shows Mr. Packer in his shop with his arm on his forge and in the background is his helper Joe Horn. Mr. Packer served as Pima’s mayor for six terms and when the town council wanted him to continue for another term, he turned them down. His business building stood one block south of where the museum is located which is 100 S. Street and several yards west on that street.  He operated his business until his death in 1940. It is not known how the forge came into the hands of William (Bill) Carter, but his family donated the forge to the museum in 1977.

Contributed Photo: Max Maxwell will be giving demonstrations on the historic Packer Forge during Pima Heritage Days on Friday and Saturday.

Max Maxwell and his wife Korra were vendors at the Museum’s Holiday Bazaar last November and December when he became aware of the forge and started thinking of the possibilities of bringing the dusty artifact on the museum patio back to useful life. After approval from the Museum Curator, Karrie Wilson, and the support of the Museum Board, Max fired up the forge and now offers a demonstration of the process he goes through to create various useful metal items for sale.

Mr. Maxwell is one of those blessed souls who have found what he loves to do with his time each day. He easily shares his passion and what has brought him to this point in life. “In 2007, I had an art teacher by the name of Robert Pugh,” Maxwell said. “He was and still is a knife maker in Joseph City, Arizona. He used the material removal method (grinding away unneeded material) to make knives, not forging. He gave me a lot of guidance for grinding bevels, handle attachment methods, and handle shaping. My methods have changed a lot over the years, but I made knives that way until sometime in 2018.” 

Contributed Photo: This is a forged knife made and sold by Max Maxwell that utilizes a deer antler as its handle.

“I was working for Ponderosa Aviation and was asked to train the new mechanic to run the fuel trucks. His name is Parker Merrill. He noticed one of my knives on my hip and asked if I made it. I told him that I did and the conversation turned to forging. He had made a gas forge and offered it to me. I jumped on the opportunity to learn the new skill. There were many YouTube videos that were watched and plenty of wasted steel in the beginning. I’ve now been forging full-time for a living for two years.”

Max will be demonstrating his blacksmith skills this Friday and Saturday on the patio of the Eastern Arizona Museum on  Friday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.  His products can be seen at