Karl Orndorff

Karl Orndorff was born and raised in Bonneauville, PA. His great-great grandparents on his father’s side (Vincent Orndorff) and his great-grandparents on his mother’s side (Louise Myers Orndorff) had made the town their home many years earlier. It was in Bonneauville that Karl attended grade school. Neighboring New Oxford was his high school town. At the age of seventeen, anxious to see more of the world than the ten mile radius of the tiny town of Bonneauville, he quickly joined the military.

Above: Karl Orndorff stands beside the flag that the Bonneauville men of the Civil War served under.


Karl served nearly four years of voluntary service in the United States Marine Corps (1966-1970). During his enlistment he served three consecutive voluntary tours of duty in Vietnam (1967–1969). His military occupation was battlefield fuel dump operator. An apparent breakdown of command in charge of his unit (7th Separate Bulk Fuel Co.) led to experiences very untypical of U.S. Marines at war. Those experiences eventually resulted in a truthful, well-received book regarding the sometimes humorous, sometimes morbidly sad subject of teenagers at war. His post-war assignment consisted of six months of sea duty aboard the USS Suffolk County. The sea cruise brought Orndorff’s military career to an honorable close. The transition back into civilian life was a slow but wonderful one in which faith in society was gradually restored. Before beginning a career and raising a family, none of which was a certainty at the time, a few summer months were spent hitchhiking. A zigzag path took the war-stressed traveler from his home in Bonneauville, PA to the California coast, down into Mexico and on a circuitous route back to Pennsylvania. Without exception, all along the route the experience was punctuated by a cultural cross-section of Americans who generously and in both tangible and transcendent ways, offered their profound thanks for service to their Country.


In 1970, Karl accepted a factory laborer job. Within a year he was on his career path as a drafter, and later, an industrial designer. His employers were Westinghouse Elevator Co. and Schindler Elevator Co., both of Gettysburg, PA. The companies manufactured elevators, escalators, and moving walkways. His career spanned thirty-seven years. Over that time, as an inventor or co-inventor, Mr. Orndorff has been awarded nineteen patents from US and Foreign Patent Offices for his inventions.

Right: Pine Knob Iron Works. Photo by famed National Geographic photographer James Stamfield.

Family Man

In 1970, after four plus years away from his hometown, Karl re-met Julie Seymore Orndorff. She too grew up in Bonneauville. The two were soon married. Their children are Amy Orndorff Noel and the late Cory Orndorff.


Blacksmithing began in earnest as a hobby for Karl in the 1980’s. Now seeing a resurgence, the fascinating trade was nearly lost a few decades ago. Over the years, Boy Scouts, inner-city youth groups, reenactors and interested individuals have enjoyed the unique experience of forging hot iron in his shop, (Pine Knob Iron Works) in Bonneauville, PA. A love of old tools and the need to repair iron antiques was the initial motivation for his blacksmithing labors. Since those early days, when a twelve inch piece of railroad track served as an anvil, and a wood stove was his forge, a myriad of utilitarian, decorative, functional, and art projects have been produced in the smithy. His 2011 Book; “Blacksmith’s Traveling Forge History and Specifications,” originated; in part, through Mr. Orndorff’s experiences demonstrating at Civil War reenactments. The book is further described elsewhere in this web-site.


“Bonneauville History and Lore” (2003) and “The First Casualty, A Vietnam Memoir” (2012) are two additional books penned by Karl Orndorff. Click “The Books” tab for more information.

The Man Behind the Museum

As a youngster with an innate interest in history (and perhaps a dash of the hoarding instinct,) I began collecting a few pieces of Bonneauville memorabilia. While working the fields for local farmers, I scanned the earth for Native American artifacts. Barn interiors became sources for some long-forgotten signature, graffiti, or perhaps an ancient blacksmith made tool of unknown purpose. While one eye was focused on hunting small game in the fall the other was always scanning the ground for Indian arrowheads or unusual rocks and minerals. Whether harvesting wild strawberries, hickory nuts or mullein leaf as the seasons provided, I always seemed to search with equal intensity for anything old, unusual, and interesting.

My great-great-grandparents on my father’s side and great-grandparents on mother’s side (Myers,) resided in Bonneauville and it is here that I live. It is to here that I magnetically gravitated after a four year stint with the US Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. It was here that Julie and I raised our beautiful family.

Bonneauvillemuseum.com web site represents nearly a lifetime of interest in Bonneauville’s history. The site offers a view of a collection of over 700 cataloged items. It is with pleasure that Karl and Julie Orndorff offer this web site free to the public. Their wish is that in some small way, it will enrich the lives of those who view it.