The Hanging Rock region of southern Ohio and Kentucky produced a significant amount of iron in the United States for mills in the manufacture of steel. Skip to: Hanging Rock – Southern Ohio and Kentucky.

Hanging Rock – Southern Ohio

Between the 1830’s and the early 1900’s, the Hanging Rock region of southern Ohio produced a significant amount of iron in the United States. Most of the furnaces were generally east of Portsmouth, south of Jackson, and north of Ironton, and employed several hundred at each site. Most of the iron extracted were generally high in sulfur content and the furnaces were not that profitable.

Buckeye Furnace

The Buckeye Furnace is located several miles north of Keystone and east of Wellston and was constructed in 1851. 1 The furnace was financed by Newkirk, Daniels & Company and constructed by Thomas Price 3 shortly before the railroad was completed into Jackson County. When it was finished, several hundred tons of iron had been hauled to Jackson to await the first train. The furnace was sold to H.S. Bundy in 1862, the Perry Austin & Company in 1864, and to the Buckeye Furnace Company in 1867. The Buckeye Furnace Company was operated by Eben Jones, John D. Davis, L.T. Hughes and Dr. S. Williams.

The furnace initially produced 7½ tons of iron per day and operated 42 weeks out of the year. 3 The stack was later raised to 34-feet with a 11-foot bosh which increased the output to 12 tons of iron per day.

The Buckeye Furnace operated until 1894. 3

Buckhorn Furnace

The Buckhorn Furnace was constructed by the Seeley Willard & Company in 1833/1836. 13 The hot blast, charcoal furnace was owned by William Naylor McGugin, president of the McGugin Coal and Iron Company, and managed by Boudinot Seeley. From 1840 until 1843, the furnace was operated by John Peters, Sr. and J.O. Willard, who had leased Buckhorn from McGugin.

The furnace had a capacity of 15 tons per day. 13 By 1899, the furnace was reported as being closed with the possibility of being restarted.

Cambria Furnace

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

The furnace, with a stack 30½-feet high with a 10½-foot bosh, produced seven to eight tons of iron per day. 4

Cambria was weakened by the economic Panic of 1856 and the operator did not capitalize on the high iron prices of the Civil War. The last blast was in 1878. 1

Franklin Furnace

Franklin Furnace is located on Lot 21 of the French Grant in Green Township of Scioto County and was built in 1826 and 1827 by Daniel and John Young, Jesse Y. Whitcomb, Josiah Merrill, John Hurd, and Martin Ruter, all from New Hampshire. 2 Daniel Young had formed the Ohio Iron Company a few years earlier to operate their iron business, and about four years after beginning operations, it was sold to John Young and Van Horn.

A community of 350 developed around Franklin Furnace. Most homes were log cabins, and the town included stores, a blacksmith shop, church, and school. 2

Franklin included a 28-foot-high stack with a 9½-foot bosh. 5 By 1832, the furnace was producing ten tons of iron daily, and was converted to hot blast in 1836. 2 The furnace buildings burned down shortly after the conversion but were rebuilt. Franklin was then sold to A.J. Rogers & Company, who then sold it to Jefferson W. Glidden and John Blair in 1841. Glidden had purchased John 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 in Franklin. 2 Because of domestic relations, Gould purchased the furnace outright. His brother, Orin B. Gould, Sr., had a minor interest in the furnace. During the Mexican War, John Gould made a fortune from the furnace and turned over his interest in the property to Orin in 1850 who operated it until 1860 when the furnace was blown out.

During Franklin’s run, approximately 50,000 to 60,000 tons of pig iron, worth $1.5 million, was produced. 2 At its peak, three steamboats were kept busy hauling the pig iron from the Franklin and Junior Furnaces to Portsmouth where most of it was used in the rolling mill and foundries. Some were shipped by the Ohio and Erie Canal to northern and eastern markets.

Sandstone blocks from the furnace were removed by Charles Goddard in 1888. Goddard, superintendent of Ohio’s public works, used the rocks to repair the Ohio and Erie Canal Locks at Three Locks. 2 Only a few stones were left remaining and used as foundation for a schoolhouse that was later built on the furnace site.

Iron Valley/Lincoln/Cornelia Furnace

The Iron Valley Furnace is located along a natural crack on a stone cliff east of Jackson along the Vinton County border. 6 Built in 1853, the furnace, with a 38-foot-high stack with a 11-foot bosh, had a capacity of 12 tons per day.

In 1858, Iron Valley was sold to the Iron Valley Furnace Company and then leased to William McGhee and William Ratcliff in 1861. 6 McGhee bought out Ratcliff in 1863 and changed the name of the furnace to Lincoln. It was later changed to Cornelia in honor of McGhee’s only daughter.

Cornelia Furnace closed in 1885. 6

Jackson Furnace

Jackson Furnace is located near the southern border of Jackson County 1 and was constructed in 1836 by J. Hurd, Young and others. 7 The furnace featured a 40-foot-tall stack with a 9½-foot bosh, 7 and featured the first steam engine in the county. 1 Due to the Panic of 1837, the owners were forced to sell out to Ellison, Tewksberry & Company who operated Jackson until 1874.

Keystone Furnace

Keystone Furnace is located south of Jackson along Little Raccoon Creek and was constructed in 1848 with funding from several Scioto and Lawrence capitalists, 1 including John Campbell and S. McConnel. Keystone was named for a large riverboat on the Ohio River that was owned by the proprietors. 7 The furnace, built by John McConnell & Company, 1 featured a 33-foot stack with a 10-foot bosh, and produced 12 tons of iron per day. 7

Early on, A.F. and P.M. McCarley made attempts to float finished product down the Raccoon Creek to the Ohio River with boats that measured 60- to 85-feet by 16- to 20-feet, each hauling 55 tons with a crew of four. 7

Keystone furnace was succeeded by the Green Benner & Company in 1853, 1 who enlarged the stack to 36-feet and increased its daily production to 24 tons. 7 The furnace was closed between 1861 and 1863 as the owners elected to form the 27th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and participated in the Civil War. Keystone was purchased Hezekiah Sanford Bundy in 1871. The furnace closed in 1885.

Jefferson Furnace

Formed with $60,000 in capital, the Jefferson Furnace had a two ton capacity. 1 Iron was hauled to Oak Hill.

Latrobe Furnace

Latrobe Furnace is located six miles east of Jackson along the never completed Cincinnati and Hillsboro Railroad and was built in in 1854 with $60,000 in stock. 1 It was the sixth furnace constructed in the Hanging Rock region. Latrobe for a Frenchman and constructed by Welshmen.

Limestone Furnace

Limestone Furnace is located a few miles north of Madison on the Grassy Fork of Symmes Creek and was built by Evans, Walterhouse & Company in 1854. 1 A few of the stockholders were Welshmen. Riley Corn, a wealthy farmer, bought out a number of the stockholders in 1856, but Limestone closed within a few years.

Madison Furnace

Madison Furnace is located along the Grassy Fork of Symmes Creek in Madison Township and 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. The mine was served by a branch of the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad, and hauled its iron to Clay on the Portsmouth Branch when it made its first shipment in July 1854.

The Madison Furnace operated for 50 years, closing around the turn of the 20th century.

Monroe Furnace

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

Oak Ridge Furnace

The Oak Ridge Furnace was constructed from 1856 to August 1857 and originally used charcoal as the primary source of fuel. 9 It was converted to run on coal in May 1858 but closed soon after. It had a 44-foot stack with a 11-foot bosh, and produced 15 tons of iron per day.

Olive Furnace

Olive Furnace was constructed by John Campbell and John Peters in 1846, and had a 37-foot stack with a 9-foot bosh. 10 It produced 16 tons of iron per day at its peak.

Orange Furnace

Orange Furnace was proposed by Peter Pickrel, Lewis Davis, David D. Dungan and Alanson Robbins in 1853 but was not completed until 1864. 1

Salt Lick Furnace

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

Salt Lick was the first furnace to use stone coal for fuel. 1

Vesuvius Furnace

Vesuvius Furnace was constructed in 1836 by William Firmstone and was the first hot blast furnace in the southern Ohio region. Vesuvius featured a 31-foot stack with a 10½-foot bosh, and produced 10 tons of iron per day before closing in 1905. 11

Young America Furnace

Young America Furnace, constructed in Lick Township in 1856, was headed by James H. Miller. 1 The furnace closed in 1860 and some of its machinery was used in the completion of Orange Furnace in Jackson.


Clear Creek Iron Furnace

Clear Creek Iron Furnace is located in near the town of Salt Lick in Bath County, Kentucky and was built in 1839 by W.A. Lane and W.S. Allen. 12 It used charcoal for fuel and limonite, an abundant iron ore found in the region, to produce an extremely durable iron. The iron that was produced was mostly used to manufacture wheels for railway cars.

The furnace operated until 1857, when the once booming railroad industry waned in a financial panic. 12

In 1873, the furnace was rebuilt and renamed Bath Furnace. 12 In 1874 alone, the furnace produced more than 1,339 tons of iron, most of which went to the railroad industry. A financial panic of 1873 eventually forced Bath Furnace to close in 1875.

Fitchburg Furnace

Fitchburg Furnace, also known as the Red River Furnace, was constructed in 1869 by Fred Fitch and Sam Worthley for $160,000, 62% of which went into the furnace alone. 14 The massive facility was built purely upon speculation by native businessmen during the western railroad construction boom, although it was built with charcoal, not coal, as a fuel source.

The two-stack furnace, Blackstone on the south and Chandler on the north, was built of sandstone 60 feet high with a furnace interior 50 feet high with a 12½ foot bosh. 14 It employed over 1,000 and had a daily tonnage output of 25 tons, utilizing limonite ore, charcoal, and limestone flux for its raw materials.

The economic Panic of 1873 and the discovery of rich iron ore in the Birmingham, Alabama region caused the furnace to close. 14

Slate Furnace

Slate Furnace, constructed in 1791 along Slate Creek near present-day Owingsville, smelted iron ore from local deposits for ten gallon kettles, which were in great demand by the early pioneers. The kettles allowed water to evaporate from the salt springs for salt, and to boil the sap of maple trees for sugar.War production proved to be more lucrative.

In 1807, Colonel Thomas Deye Owings contracted to supply cannon balls to the American Navy. Ammunition was brought to Maysville via oxcart and then floated down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. During the War of 1812, the Bourbon Iron Furnace supplied the Army Corps of Artillery with cannonballs, grapeshot and canisters. Much of the product was floated down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans.

After 47 years of operation, the Slate Furnace made its last blast in August 1838.