Murrel "Mike" Morningstar
Patrick with his wife Karri and their son Kyle
Morningstar Welding has been a family owned business operating at the same location in Poolesville, Maryland for over 112 years.
"The Shop", a family moniker, is the oldest continuously run business in the town of Poolesville. The Morningstar family, however, has been in the metalworking business for over 170 years with beginnings in Frederick County, Maryland circa 1850. Morningstar Welding credits their longevity to their commitment to craftsmanship, hard work, and business practices based on honesty and integrity.
Morningstar Welding was formerly known as Morningstar Blacksmith Shop. Murrel "Mike" Morningstar opened his shop at 17612 Elgin Road circa 1908. The original building was a weatherboard structure later rebuilt in 1947 as a cinder block building, which is still in use today. Murrel was the town smithy and based his income mainly on farrier services, wagon and wagon wheel building. Murrel had a 9 foot square forge with a hand blower that his son, Dick, would operate for him. Dick recalled as a child having to stand on a box to crank it! Murrel worked ten hour days, six days a week in front of the forge and anvil. He rarely had to go off his property as the horses and wagons were brought to him. It was a hard life, but his home was located on the property, so he was never too far from his family. He died in his shop on July 22, 1954 of a heart attack at age 69. Murrel was well respected by all and an integral part of the Poolesville and surrounding area community his entire life. His anvil still remains on the property as a symbol and testament to the man and his trade.
Murrel discouraged Dick (Richard) from entering the blacksmithing business. Not only was it a hard life, he told Dick, it was a dying industry becoming one for mostly horse racing and pleasure riders. Dick saw an opportunity in the welding business and his sister, Dorothy, bought him his first welder in 1952. This welder is also a surviving family relic on the shop property. Dick was self-taught and began primarily working on farm equipment when it was suggested he take his business on the road and enter the commercial construction business. With a name change to Morningstar Welding in 1960, he bought his first portable welder and entered the lucrative world of erecting buildings and high-rises. He was known to travel as far as Ocean City, Maryland but mainly worked within a one hundred mile radius of Poolesville.
Morningstar Welding participated in the building boom in the Maryland, DC, and Northern Virginia region. They subcontracted with the largest construction companies of the tri-state area. Dick, however never forgot the farmers and locals and always made time to fix and repair the odds and ends that came into the shop at all hours (undercharging many times, if at all). Dick's accounting practices were epically antiquated, as he remembered the day and wrote down his jobs in a spiral notebook at 10:00 at night. Being a family business, his sister, Bet, deciphered his notes and sent out the bills and then later his wife, Nancy, became the bookkeeper. He billed local farmers once a year with no interest. It was an "old school Poolesville" business practice, and it worked beautifully. Gerry, his brother, a Rockville city engineer, also participated in the business, pricing jobs and reading blueprints. Morningstar Welding did experience growth, and Dick brought in employees, including his son Patrick, as well as local and not so local boys, to whom he taught the trade, as well as fair business ethics and the rewards of hard work.
Dick, like his father, worked 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week for well over half a century, Dick and wife Nancy enjoyed retirement in Florida until his death on April 1, 2014.
In 2006, Dick handed the reins over to Patrick who continues the family business tradition today. It's doubtful a day goes by that an old timer does not mention the integrity and work ethics of Murrel or Dick, for which grandson/son Patrick carries this torch and continues the legacy. He has grown Morningstar Welding into a six truck and twelve employee operation with wife Karri, as a full time office manager and son Kyle, as the project manager. Their 40 foot x 80 foot building houses all the latest and greatest metal fabricating equipment. "The Shop" today does a lot of in-house fabrication and site installation, but Patrick also caters to the walk-in locals. He has expanded the business and finds himself less behind the torch and more behind the desk. Patrick is the fifth generation in a line of those who have engaged in the business of iron and steel, whether blacksmithing or welding.
When asked how it feels to be part of a continuous 170 year family tradition he exclaims "Look how far we've come!"
17612 Elgin Road Poolesville MD 20837 US
Richard "Dick" Morningstar