Pig Iron Furnaces

Industrial / Kentucky, Ohio

Charcoal timber, iron ore, and limestone supplied material for numerous furnaces that produced pig iron, munitions, and tools in the Between Rivers, Green River, Hanging Rock, Red River, and Rolling Fork Iron Regions in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.


Charcoal timber, iron ore, and limestone supplied material for numerous furnaces that produced pig iron, munitions, and tools in the Between Rivers, Green River, Hanging Rock, Red River, and Rolling Fork Iron Regions in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.


Hanging Rock Iron Region

The Hanging Rock Iron Region in southern Ohio, northeastern Kentucky, and western West Virginia produced iron between 1818 and 1916. 20 The iron was noted for its rust and corrosion-resistant characteristics. By 1875, southeastern Ohio led the nation in pig iron production, and the iron was used to build armaments for the Civil War, hulls for the Monitor and Merrimac ships, kettles and pots, tools, and wagon wheels.

To fuel the furnaces, forests were repeatedly cut and the wood converted to charcoal. 20 Each ton of iron required 190 bushels of charcoal, three tons of iron ore, and 300 pounds of limestone. The ingredients were poured into the top of the furnace and the charcoal was then ignited. Air was blown into the firepot through openings (tuyeres) on two sides of the furnace. Once heated to the proper temperature, the iron ore and limestone melted, and impurities in the mixture floated to the top and formed slag, a glassy waste product. The molten iron flowed out of the hearth and into pig iron molds where it was then cooled and solidified.

In the early years, oxen hauled the iron by wagon from the furnaces to docks along the Ohio River. 20 Once loaded, the iron was taken to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. Demand during the Civil War was so great that charcoal was often loaded onto wagons before it had cooled and occasionally the hot coals would set the wagons on fire. The Iron Railway was constructed between 1849 and 1851 to serve furnaces along a 13-mile stretch north of Ironton, which later became a part of the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad.

It was predicted that iron ore in the Hanging Rock Iron Region would last for 2,700 years but most of the iron seams had been depleted by the 1900s. 20 The last furnace closed in 1916.

Buckeye Furnace

Buckeye Furnace, located near Keystone and Wellston, Ohio, was financed by the Newkirk, Daniels & Company and constructed by Thomas Price 3 in 1851. 1 It was finished prior to the railroad being completed in the county, and several hundred tons of iron had been hauled to Jackson to await the first freight train outbound. The furnace, with an 11-foot bosh, initially produced 7½ tons of iron per day, operating 42 weeks out of the year. 3 The stack was later raised to 34-feet in height to increase daily output to 12 tons of iron per day.

The furnace was sold to H.S. Bundy in 1862, the Perry Austin & Company in 1864, and the Buckeye Furnace Company in 1867 1 and was operated until 1894. 3

Buckhorn Furnace

Buckhorn Furnace, owned by William Naylor McGugin, president of the McGugin Coal & Iron Company, and managed by Boudinot Seeley, was constructed by the Seeley Willard & Company in 1833/1836. 13 It had a production capacity of 15 tons per day.

Between 1840 and 1843, the furnace was operated by John Peters, Sr. and J.O. Willard, who had leased Buckhorn from McGugin. 13 Buckhorn Furnace was closed by 1899.

Buffalo Furnace

Buffalo Furnace was constructed by H. Hollister and Ross in Greenup County, Kentucky in 1851. 21 It featured had a 36½-foot stack with a production capacity of 15 tons of iron per day. The furnace closed in 1875.

Cambria Furnace

Cambria Furnace was constructed by the D. Lewis & Company near Samsonville (Blackfork Station) in southern Jackson County, Ohio. 1 20 The furnace was organized on March 1, 1854, with an initial capital of $60,000, with shares at $120 with 60 stockholders, all of Welsh descent. Some farmers donated land to pay for their shares and were given $15 per acre of land. 4

Cambria Furnace featured a stack 30½-feet high and a bosh 10½-foot wide with a production capacity of eight tons of iron per day. 4 Operations were weakened by the economic Panic of 1856 and it closed in 1878. 1 20

Center Furnace

Center Furnace, along the Iron Railroad, was constructed in 1836 and had a daily production capacity of 16 tons of iron. 20 Nannie Kelly Wright acquired the furnace in 1898 and assumed managerial duties in 1903. Wright was the first and only woman Iron Furnace Master in the nation.

As the local pig iron industry began to decline, the surrounding landscape that provided raw materials for the furnace became increasingly used for its limestone for cement production, leading to the development of the Superior Portland Cement Company. 20

Clear Creek Furnace / Bath Furnace

Clear Creek Furnace was constructed by W.A. Lane and W.S. Allen near the town of Salt Lick, Kentucky in 1839. 12 The iron produced was mostly used to manufacture railway car wheels. Clear Creek Furnace operated until a financial depression sidelined the booming railroad industry in 1857.

The furnace was rebuilt in 1873 and renamed to Bath Furnace and by 1874, it produced more than 1,339 tons of iron. 12 Financial considerations forced the Bath Furnace to close in 1875.

Etna Furnace

Etna Furnace (Aetna Furnace) was constructed in 1832 by the Etna Iron Works and had a daily production capacity of 16 tons of iron. 20 The company owned several other furnaces, including Alice, Blance, Big Etna, and Vesuvius, and 16,000 acres of land around the Etna and Vesuvius furnaces.

Financial considerations forced the closure of Etna Furnace in 1887. 20

Fitchburg Furnace

Fitchburg Furnace, also known as the Red River Furnace, was designed by Fred Fitch and constructed by masons from Ravenna, Italy 18 at the cost of $160,000 17 19 along Millers Fork in Estill County, Kentucky. It opened under the supervision of Sam Worthley and the Red River Iron Manufacturing Company in 1869. 17 18 The pig-iron furnace, the largest of its type in the world, was built purely upon speculation by native businessmen during the western railroad construction boom.

Fitchburg Furnace featured two stacks: Blackstone and Chandler, each 60-feet high with a 12½ foot bosh. 19 It employed over 1,000 and had a daily tonnage output of 25 tons. 17 18 19

The economic Panic of 1873 and the discovery of rich iron ore in the Birmingham, Alabama region caused Fitchburg Furnace to close 19 after producing 16,000 tons of iron. 17 The former industrial site was donated by Joyce Russell Broaddus and Toska Russell Middleton to the United States Forest Service on April 6, 1973, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 17, 1974.

Franklin Furnace

Franklin Furnace, located in Green Township in Scioto County, Ohio, was built in 1826-27 by Daniel and John Young, Jesse Y. Whitcomb, Josiah Merrill, John Hurd, and Martin Ruter of New Hampshire. 2 Daniel Young had formed the Ohio Iron Company a few years earlier to operate an iron business, which was sold circa 1831 to John Young and Van Horn.

Franklin Furnace featured a 28-foot stack with a 9½-foot bosh, 5 with a daily production capacity of ten tons of iron. 2 The furnace was converted to hot blast in 1836. The furnace partly burned down shortly after the conversion but was rebuilt.

The furnace was later sold to the A.J. Rogers & Company, who then sold it to Jefferson W. Glidden and John Blair in 1841. 2 Glidden acquired Blair’s interest in the furnace in July 1842 and became its sole owner. Later, John Gould and Jesse and Jacob Hurd acquired Glidden’s interest. 2 Because of domestic relations, Gould purchased the furnace outright and later made a fortune because of the Mexican War. Gould sold his interest in the operations to his brother, Orin B. Gould Sr. in 1850.

At its peak, Franklin Furnace kept three steamboats along the Ohio River busy as they hauled pig iron from the Franklin Furnace to Portsmouth where it was used in local rolling mills and foundries. 2 Some were shipped by the Ohio & Erie Canal to other markets.

Franklin Furnace was in operation until 1860. 2 During its run, approximately 60,000 tons of pig iron worth $1.5 million were produced.

Sandstone blocks from the furnace were removed by Charles Goddard in 1888 to repair locks at Three Locks along the Ohio & Erie Canal. 2 Only a few stones were left remaining and used as the foundation for a schoolhouse that was later built on the furnace site.

Hunnewell Furnace

Hunnewell Furnace was built in 1845 by John Campbell, John Peters, and John Culbertson in Hunnewell, Kentucky. 23 The town was named after businessman Walter Hunnewell. 22

Early pig iron shipments were shipped to awaiting boats along the Ohio River in Greenupsburg via ox carts until the Eastern Kentucky Railway (EK) was opened. 23 The furnace was then acquired by the proprietors of the EK.

Hunnewell was rebuilt in 1870 to a height of 47 feet with a yearly production capacity of 6,000 tons of iron. 23 It operated until 1885/1889. 22 23

Iron Valley/Lincoln/Cornelia Furnace

Iron Valley Furnace, located along a natural crack on a stone cliff east of Jackson, Ohio, was constructed in 1853. 6 It featured a 38-foot stack with an 11-foot bosh with a daily production capacity of 12 tons of iron. The furnace was sold to the Iron Valley Furnace Company in 1858 and then leased to William McGhee and William Ratcliff in 1861. McGhee bought out Ratcliff in 1863 and renamed the furnace after Abraham Lincoln. It was later changed to Cornelia in honor of McGhee’s only daughter.

Cornelia Furnace closed in 1885. 6

Jackson Furnace

Jackson Furnace, located in Jackson County, Ohio, 1 was constructed by J. Hurd, Young and others in 1836. 7 It featured a 40-foot stack with a 9½-foot bosh, 7 and featured the first steam engine in the county. 1

Because of the economic Panic of 1837, the owners were forced to sell the complex to Ellison, Tewksberry & Company. 1 Jackson Furnace operated until 1874.

Keystone Furnace

Keystone Furnace, located along Little Raccoon Creek south of Jackson, Ohio, was funded by John Campbell and S. McConnel and constructed in 1848. 1 The furnace was named for a large riverboat along the Ohio River that was owned by the proprietors. 7 It featured a 33-foot stack with a 10-foot bosh and had a daily production capacity of 12 tons of iron.

Early attempts by A.F. and P.M. McCarley to float 55 tons of pig iron in boats down Raccoon Creek to the Ohio River were not successful. 7

The Green Benner & Company acquired Keystone Furnace in 1853, 1 and enlarged the stack to 36-feet in height to increase daily production to 24 tons of iron. 7 Operations were curtailed between 1861 and 1863 as the owners were elected to form the 27th Ohio Volunteer Infantry for the Civil War. 7 The furnace was purchased by Hezekiah Sanford Bundy in 1871 and operated until 1885.

Jefferson Furnace

Jefferson Furnace was located near Oak Hill, Ohio and had a daily production capacity of two tons of iron. 1

Latrobe Furnace

Latrobe Furnace, located along the never-finished Cincinnati & Hillsboro Railroad six miles east of Jackson, was built in 1854. 1

Limestone Furnace

Limestone Furnace, located along the Grassy Fork of Symmes Creek in Scioto County, Ohio, was built by the Evans, Walterhouse & Company in 1854. 1 Riley Corn, a wealthy farmer, bought out a number of the stockholders in 1856. The furnace was closed by the 1860s.

Madison Furnace

Madison Furnace, located along the Grassy Fork of Symmes Creek in Scioto County, Ohio, was built in 1854 by John P. Terry, John Peters and others. 1 The furnace later passed to the E.D. Ricker & Company, Peter Clare & Company, and Clare, Duduit & Company, all controlled by J.D. Clare.

Madison Furnace was served by the Portsmouth Branch of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad, with the first shipment of iron to Clay occurring in July 1854. 1 The furnace closed around the turn of the 20th century.

Monroe Furnace

Monroe Furnace was built by John Campbell and John and Isaac Peters in 1854. 1 The Peters brothers sold their interest in the furnace in 1866, with William M. Bolles and others becoming active in the management. The furnace closed in the 1880s.

Oak Ridge Furnace

Oak Ridge Furnace was constructed between 1856 and August 1857. 9 It used charcoal as the primary source of fuel and was converted to run on coal in May 1858.  The furnace had a 44-foot stack with an 11-foot bosh with a production capacity of 15 tons of iron per day.

Oak Ridge Furnace was closed by 1859.

Olive Furnace

Olive Furnace, built by John Campbell and John Peters in 1846, featured a 37-foot stack and nine-foot bosh. 10 It had a production capacity of 16 tons of iron per day.

Orange Furnace

Orange Furnace, proposed by Peter Pickrel, Lewis Davis, David D. Dungan and Alanson Robbins in 1853, was completed in 1864. 1

Pactolus Furnace

Pactolus Furnace was constructed by Joseph McMurtry and David L. Ward in 1824 on the site of an earlier bloomery forge in Greenup County, Kentucky. 24 Power was supplied by a low dam along the Little Sandy River. The furnace was abandoned prior to 1835.

Pioneer Furnace

Pioneer Furnace was constructed in 1856 and began operations in 1857. 20 It had a production capacity of 12 tons of iron per day and was the first furnace in the state to use coal instead of charcoal to produce pig iron.

Pioneer Furnace operated until the late 1870s. 20 The site was acquired by the United States Forest Service in 2007.

Raccoon Furnace

Raccoon Furnace was constructed by D. Trimble and J.T. Withrow six miles south of Greenup, Kentucky in 1833. 25 It featured a 35-foot stack. The furnace was closed circa 1884.

Salt Lick Furnace

Salt Lick Furnace, constructed by R.C. Hoffman, J.J. Hoffman, Alexander Gratton, Moses Sternberger, Patrick Murdock, and the Stewart brothers, was constructed by R.C. Hoffman, J.J. Hoffman, Alexander Gratton, Moses Sternberger, Patrick Murdock, and the Stewart brothers near Jackson, Ohio in 1854. 1 The furnace was later renamed to Gideon and then to Diamond. Smith, Tod & Company became owners in 1864.

The Salt Lick Furnace was notable for being the first in the region to use stone coal as fuel instead of wood. 1

Slate Furnace

Slate Furnace, constructed by Jaboc Myers near Owingsville, Kentucky, was the first charcoal pig-iron furnace west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Myers left Richmond, Virginia for the search of iron ore on October 3, 1782, and soon discovered it along Slate and Mill Creeks in Montgomery County. 15 Myers had 10,000 acres surveyed and patented and the land was conveyed to Myers under grants signed by Patrick Henry, the governor of Virginia.

Myers began the construction of Slate Furnace in March 1791 to smelt iron ore for ten-gallon kettles, then in great-demand by early settlers. 15 The kettles allowed water to evaporate from the salt springs for salt, and to boil the sap of maple trees for sugar. The blast machinery was initially driven by water power from Slate Creek but the waterway often ran dry in the summer months.

A fort was later built to protect Slate Furnace from Native Americans. 16 Iron Works Road was later constructed between Owingsville and the Kentucky River at Frankfort, which opened up the furnace to new delivery markets in Cincinnati and Louisville. 15 In 1807, the furnace was used to produce cannonballs for the United States Navy, which was distributed via the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. 15 16

Myers’ interest was later sold to John C. Owings, Robert Wickliffe in 1822, and Major Mason. 16 Slate Furnace made its last blast in August 1838 after 47 years of operation. 15

Vesuvius Furnace

Vesuvius Furnace was constructed in 1836 by William Firmstone and was the first hot blast furnace in the Hanging Rock Iron Region. 11 It featured a 31-foot stack with a 10½-foot bosh, with a production capacity of ten tons of iron per day.

Vesuvius Furnace closed in 1905. 11 A roof was added to the rock furnace to protect the massive stonework and firebrick from further water damage in 1991. 20

Young America Furnace

Young America Furnace, constructed by James H. Miller in Jackson County, Ohio in 1856, closed in 1860. 1 Some of the furnace’s machinery was used in the completion of the Orange Furnace nearby.


Sources

  1. “Jackson County: Railroad Era Commences.” A Standard History of the Hanging Rock Iron Region of Ohio. Ed. Eugene B. Willard et al. Vol. 1. 1916. Marceline, MO: Walsworth,, n.d. 453-456. Print.
  2. Rowe, Frank H. “Franklin Furnace.” History of the Iron and Steel Industry in Scioto County, Ohio. Columbus: F.J. Heer, 1938. 80-82. Print.
  3. Markiel, J. “Buckeye Furnace.” Old Industry 2006. Web. 29 Dec. 2012. Article.
  4. Markiel, J. “Cambria Furnace.” Old Industry 2006. Web. 29 Dec. 2012. Article.
  5. Markiel, J. “Franklin Furnace.” Old Industry 2006. Web. 29 Dec. 2012. Article.
  6. Markiel, J. “Lincoln Furnace.” Old Industry 2006. Web. 29 Dec. 2012. Article.
  7. Markiel, J. “Jackson Furnace.” Old Industry 2006. Web. 29 Dec. 2012. Article.
  8. Markiel, J. “Keystone Furnace.” Old Industry 2006. Web. 29 Dec. 2012. Article.
  9. Markiel, J. “Oak Ridge Furnace.” Old Industry 2006. Web. 29 Dec. 2012. Article.
  10. Markiel, J. “Olive Furnace.” Old Industry 2006. Web. 29 Dec. 2012. Article.
  11. Markiel, J. “Vesuvius Furnace.” Old Industry 2006. Web. 29 Dec. 2012. Article.
  12. Crawford-Lackey, Katie. “Clear Creek Furnace.” Kentucky Historical Society, 2018. Article.
  13. Markiel, J. “Buckhorn Furnace.” Old Industry 2006. Web. 1 Mar. 2015. Article.
  14. Markiel, J. “Fitchburg Furnace.” Old Industry 2006. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. Article.
  15. “The Early Iron Furnaces.” Forest History. N.p., 7 Apr. 2010. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. Article.
  16. Interpretative marker.
  17. Interpretative markers. United States Forest Service. December 17, 2006.
  18. “Fitchburg Furnace.” Kentucky Artisan Heritage Trails. 2006. July 18, 2007 Article.
  19. Markiel, J. “Fitchburg Furnace.” Old Industry 2006. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. Article.
  20. Iron Furnaces in the Wayne National Forest Area, United States Forest Service, 2015.
  21. Buffalo Furnace.” Kentucky Historical Society, 2019.
  22. “E.K. Railway – Hunnewell.” Kentucky Historical Society, 2019.
  23. “Hunnewell Furnace.” Kentucky Historical Society, 2019.
  24. “Pactolus Furnace.” Kentucky Historical Society, 2019.
  25. “Racoon Furnace.” Kentucky Historical Society, 2019.