Bloomery: Village and Furnace, Part 1
by Robert B. Wolford
This work would not have been possible without the assistance of many people who were kind, thoughtful, and generous with their time and expertise to an aspiring researcher.
The author is indebted to the help and assistance given him by Dr. Margaret Spratt and Dr. John F. Bauman in the genesis of this work and their guidance thereafter. He is also indebted to Dr. Ronald Michael for the professor's constructive criticism, tolerance, and late evening discussion on the creation, focus, and evolution of this study.
The author owes to Mr. Glenwood Johnson, present day owner of the Bloomery Iron Furnace, no small amount of gratitude for sharing his time, knowledge, and hospitality. Mr. Johnson should also be thanked by the residents of the state of West Virginia for the high state of maintenance and completeness of the extant furnace property.
The author is also a debtor to Dr. Wilmer Kerns, Hampshire County historian, for his assistance in defining the parameters of Bloomery village for this study and for his guidance in locating primary and secondary materials.
The author here thanks the highly professional staffs of the following institutions: Hampshire County Court House, Romney, West Virginia; Hampshire County Public Library, Romney, West Virginia; Handley Library, Winchester, Virginia; Virginia State Library, Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia; Colson Library, West Virginia Collection, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia; West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Charleston, West Virginia; Mineral County Court House, Keyser, West Virginia; Keyser Public Library, Keyser, West Virginia; Hopewell Village National Historic Site, Elverson, Pennsylvania; Cornwall Furnace State Historic Site, Cornwall, Pennsyvania; Manderino Library, California University of Pennsylvania, California, Pennsylvainia; Ruth Scarborough Library, Shepherd College, Shepherds town, West Virginia; and the National Parks C&O Canal Headquarters, Sharpsburg, Maryland.
The author also wishes to thank the residents of the community of Bloomery, West Virginia, for their time and hospitality, their indulgence in answering the authors' s questions and their tolerance in permitting him to cross through their yards and woods.
My Loving Wife And Family
for their emotional, logistical, and scholarly support
throughout this enterprise and my educational career.
In the fertile valley surrounding Enoch's Mill Run, Hampshire County, West Virginia, a 19th century rural industrial complex coexisted with the surrounding farms. Among the industries found in the valley was an iron furnace, the most capital and labor intensive of all the enterprises. The purpose of my research is to explore the socioeconomic influence that the Bloomery Iron Furnace had in the economy of the village and district (a West Virginian political subdivision that roughly equates to a township) of Bloomery between the years 1850 and 1880. Specifically, the study will determine from the extant data whether or not the furnace socioeconomically dominated the nearby community of Bloomery. It appears that the furnace in some ways had a dominate presence in the district but did not exert the same degree of control that other furnaces of the period did over their adjacent communities. This thesis will be tested by examining the appropriate records for Bloomery district to determine the extent and nature of the economic activity in the district.
List of Illustrations vii
List of Tables viiiHeadings
Bloomery Furnace of Hampshire County 6
Furnace Affluence 18
The Bloomery Industry, 1850 and 1880 23
Education and Women at Bloomery Furnace 24
1. Map of Hampshire County, West Virginia and its neighbors 2
2. Map of Hampshire County showing the location of Bloomery District (darkened) 3
3. Design of a Charcoal Blast Furnace 5
4. Map of Bloomery District 8
5. Twenty-Five Wealthiest Land Owners by Property Value, 1850 19
6. Twenty-Five Wealthiest Land Owners by Property Value, 1855 19
7. Twenty-Five Wealthiest Land Owners by Property Value, 1860 20
8. Twenty-Five Wealthiest Land Owners by Property Value, 1875 20
1. Owners of the Bloomery Furnace to 1914
2. Ethnic Percentages for Bloomery District
3. Ethnic Percentages for Bloomery Furnace
4. Slave Owners and Slaves in Bloomery District and Village
Situated along the banks of Enoch's Mill Run, in Hampshire County, West Virginia, the village of Bloomery is a picture of tranquil bliss. The community, a collection of farms and a few small businesses, is nestled among rugged mountains and rolling pastures. Present-day people can only imagine the sprawling rural industrial complex that once stood here since only ruins remain.
Hampshire County, located in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, borders the West Virginia counties of Mineral, Hardy, and Morgan. Hampshire shares interstate borders with Allegheny County, Maryland, to the north and Frederick County, Virginia, to the south (Figure 1). In this study, Mineral County is considered part of Hampshire since it was formed from the northwestern one-third of Hampshire County in 1866.1 Before the American Civil War, the state of West Virginia did not exist. Hampshire was formed in 1754 from the Virginia counties of Frederick and Augusta2 and is referred to as a Virginia county in this study until after 1863. This study defines the village of Bloomery as the settlement along West Virginia Route 127 that begins at the crest of Bear Garden Mountain and ends at the road's intersection with the Cacapon River. This definition of Bloomery may not be universally accepted, since no corporate boundaries exist for the community.
The district of Bloomery is better defined than the community for which it is named. The district is located in the northeastern "corner" of Hampshire County (Figure 2) and has had the same general boundaries from the period of this study to the present.3
Iron production began in Hampshire County while Virginia was still under British rule. Despite this early beginning, the industry never consisted of more than a few furnaces. By 1854, one hundred years after the1
Figure 1. Map of Hampshire County, West Virginia and nearby counties. A, Hampshire County, West Virginia; B, Bloomery District, West Virginia; C, Mineral County, West Virginia; D, Garret County, Maryland; E, Allegheny County, Maryland; F, Washington County, Maryland; G, Morgan County, West Virginia; H, Berkley County, West Virginia; I, Jefferson County, West Virginia; J, Frederick County, Virginia; K, Hardy County, West Virginia; L, Grant County, West Virginia.2
Figure 2. Map of Hampshire County showing location of Bloomery District (blackened).
formation of the county, the county could claim only four furnaces.4 Though few in number, these furnaces gave the operators the opportunity for success.
Hampshire furnaces resembled the first charcoal blast-furnaces developed in Europe in the 14th century.5 The structures, truncated, dressed stone pyramids, rose forty to fifty feet in height (Figure 3). Their fifteen to thirty feet square bases tapered to ten to twenty feet at the top of the stacks.6 Access arches, located at the base on at least two sides, allowed workers access to the furnace hearth on one side and the bellows on another. Firebrick lined the interior of the furnace cavity, providing the furnace with a replaceable (to facilitate repairs) area for smelting the raw materials. The cavity is best described as two cones joined at their bases7; the term "bosh" refers to the juncture of these cones. The upper cone was called the furnace stack; the lower cone was called the boshes.8 The furnace hearth was located below the boshes. The molten iron and slag collected here, and the bellows forced a blast of air through the molten material. Being lighter than the iron, the slag rose to the top of the hearth.9
Iron production required three ingredients: iron ore, flux, and charcoal, and all three were found in abundance in Appalachia. Ignition of the fuel for smelting iron occurs after placing these three ingredients (the charge) in the furnace stack.Furnace miners in the 19th century dug the ore by hand from surface, drift, or slope mines and hauled it by horse-drawn tram over wooden tracks to the furnace stack. Ore deposits exploited in Hampshire County, often hematite, had an iron content which varied from 40%-70%.10 Flux provided a material for the impurities in the iron to bond with and separate from the ore. Limestone, which was (and is today) abundant in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, was used as flux. It was ground to granular consistency before being used in the process.11 Charcoal, used as fuel for heat in producing iron, was manufactured from forests found in the immediate location of the furnace. Those who made charcoal were called colliers. 4
Figure 3. Design of a charcoal blast furnace. Adapted from Neil Cossons, Ironmaking, (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, Department of the Interior, 1979).5
Iron furnaces also required a nearby source of water power to operate the bellows. For this reason, all identifiable Hampshire County furnaces adjoined the foot of a mountain near a stream that provided sufficient fall for use as power.12
Ironmasters located their furnaces close to river access to facilitate transportation of their wares to market. All furnaces in Hampshire County were located within five miles of a year-around tributary of the Potomac River. Routes from furnaces to river outlets traversed level roads.Measured layers of charcoal, flux, and iron ore charged the furnace at the top of the stack. To make one ton of iron required 5,000 pounds of ore, 800 pounds of limestone, and 120 bushels of charcoal.13 As the charcoal burned, the ore and the flux were heated; they combined and then parted into iron and slag which were drawn off from separate ports from the hearth in the casting arch (Figure 3).14 After cracking a clay plug in the casting arch, molten iron flowed into a trough lined with sand. The main trough, known as the "sow, fed connecting, smaller troughs situated at right angles to the sow. This trough pattern resembled a sow feeding her pigs, thus, the term pig iron.15
The smaller troughs caused the iron to harden into shorter salable bars, pigs. The pigs narrowed at the end adjoining the sow to about 0.75 inches.16 This narrowed connection permitted the pig to be more easily broken from the sow. The pigs could then be shipped to and reheated at a forge and pounded into bar iron, which had greater value due to its uniform thickness.17
Bloomery Furnace of Hampshire County
The iron industry of Hampshire County during the early- to mid-19th century provided a viable livelihood for those investing their lives in the rural industries of the river valleys of western Virginia. Extant records of Bloomery Furnace form the basis for this brief history.
The earliest of Hampshire's iron production sites was the furnace complex at Enoch's Mill Run, located near present day Bloomery, West Virginia6
Robert Rutherford of Berkeley County, Virginia, built the Bloomery Furnace in 1770 (Table 1).18 He partially owned the "Bloomery Forge and Mills" located near Harpers Ferry, an interest he sold in 1775, presumably to concentrate his attention on his works in Hampshire County.19
Isaac ZaneRutherford sold the Hampshire County works (Bloomery Furnace) to Isaac Zane in 1779.
Zane, like Rutherford, had prior experience in iron production. His Marlboro Furnace near Winchester, Virginia, had received accolades from Thomas Jefferson for its products.20 Apparently the Bloomery works proved to be profitable enough to be considered competition by Zane, since he bought and removed them from production21 and thus eliminated them as competition.22 Zane retained ownership of the Bloomery Furnace until his death.
On 15 November 1805, Zane's heirs sold the Bloomery works to Joseph Tidball23, who sold the property two weeks later24 to William Heth of Henrico County, Virginia. Heth's son William McHeth, of New York, later inherited the properties and then sold them on 2 September 1818 to William Naylor of Romney, Virginia.25 Like Zane and Rutherford, Naylor had some grounding in iron production, but his experience was in Hampshire County.26Naylor razed the Rutherford furnace to accommodate a more technologically advanced one which Thomas Pastley of Baltimore constructed for him in 1833.27 Pastley then, with the help of John Kerns, Jr. of Hampshire County,28 purchased the furnace in 1837. Pastley borrowed money to buy the furnace from Kerns, who held the deed for the property as security by purchasing the property from Pastley for 0.1% of its purchase price. Pastley eventually defaulted on the loan, and John Kerns, Jr. sold the furnace at public auction29 back to William Naylor on 29 April 1839. Following Naylor's death, his executor sold the furnace in 1841 to Joseph Blackwood, a Philadelphia merchant30 who, the following year, sold the property to Lewis Passmore of Philadelphia.31 Five years later, Passmore sold the furnace property to Samuel A. Pancoast of New Jersey.32 Like Pastley before him, Pancoast found the 7
Figure 4. Map of Bloomery Area showing Furnace and Village. Click to enlarge map!8
Ownership of the Bloomery Iron Furnace Property to 1914
|William Heth and William McHeth||1805-1818|
|Samuel A. Pancoast and Pancoast and McGee||1847-1914|
furnace a financial burden. In 1856 and 1857, Pancoast signed deeds of trust to his neighbors, Robert B. Sherrard and George Keiter, as security on loans that totaled $20,000.00.33 Pancoast, unable to pay off his neighbors, auctioned off a large portion of his movable property on 31 March 1857.34 The census records after 1857 show that the furnace suffered a financial decline from this point until some time prior to 1880.35 In 1880, the furnace was again listed on the Products of Industry schedules (a.k.a. Census of Manufacturers), from which it had been absent in 1860 and 1870.36 Pancoast and McGee operated the furnace at this time. The Pancoast part of this merger was Joseph Pancoast.37 The partners abandoned the enterprise sometime after 1880,38 but the property remained in the Pancoast family until 1914, when it was sold to the Maryland Mining and Fruit Company.39
Clearly, Bloomery Furnace was a viable enterprise. The furnace enjoyed a long existence (1770's to 1880's) in a region where other furnaces were abandoned, evidencing its economic utility. The furnace owed its prosperous periods to its location on a transportation artery that facilitated westward migration of people. The furnace and the town of Bloomery engaged in the commerce that migration brought. The town and district of Bloomery provided the furnace a local consumer market, a source of credit, and a labor supply while the furnace provided a means of employment, a local source of ironware, and an incentive for traffic through the area. A symbiotic relationship existed between town and industry.
Ethnic composition influences the development of an area or region. Just as important as the geology, topography, and other resources, the background of inhabitants in a given region influence the economy of that region.
District EthnicityEuropean Caucasians dominated Bloomery District. Within the Caucasian
community, distinct ethnicities were present as indicated by national origins. Surnames from the census records provided clues to ethnicity which could be tabulated to determine the size of various ethnic groups. Surname guides and origin data on census records guided ethnic identification.40 These ethnicities were tabulated by counting the occurrences of surnames on census data.
The Caucasian community was primarily German and English; these two groups combined represented from sixty-nine percent in 1850 41 to seventy-nine percent in 1880 of the district population (Table 2).42 Germans were more numerous than English. They represented from thirty-five percent of the population in 1850 43 to forty-five percent in 1880.44 The English represented thirty-four percent of the population in both 1850 45 and 1880.46 The other Caucasian groups were of Irish, Dutch, Welsh, and Scottish origins, and they made up from thirteen percent in 1850 47 to nineteen percent of the population in 1880.48 The Irish were the most numerous of these groups, with six percent of the population in 185049 and eleven percent in 1880.50
The African-American population of Bloomery district for the study period ranged from seventeen percent in 1850 51 to seven percent in 1870.52 This loss of population resulted from the emancipation of slaves during the American Civil War and their migration from the district.53
Western Europeans dominated the Bloomery population in the 19th century. Today little overt evidence of this pattern exists (e.g., Oktoberfests). Only names on mailboxes belie the origins of those who have lived and are living in Bloomery District.
Dr. John F. Bauman of California University of Pennsylvania, stated that ethnic groups converge on certain occupations by virtue of their ethnicity.54 If this is true, in 1850 Bloomery Furnace beckoned several families of Irish, German, and English descent.
People of English descent numerically dominated the furnace area, followed by German, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, African American and Dutch.55 Out of the two hundred fifty people in the furnace area, 117 were English,11
Ethnic Percentages for Bloomery District
64 were German, 33 were Scottish, 27 were Irish, 4 were Welsh, 4 were African American, and 1 was Dutch.56 Percentage ratios in 1850 indicated the composition of the area was 47% English, 26% German, 13% Scottish, 1% African American and 13% of other European ethnicities.
The ethnic make up of Bloomery changed (Table 3) in 1880 from that of 1850.57 English prevailed as the largest ethnicity, followed by (in descending order) German, Irish, Welsh, African American, and Scottish.58 Of the 231 people of identifiable ethnicity in the furnace area, 89 were English, 87 were German, 22 were Irish, 15 were Welsh, 10 were African American, and 8 were Scottish.59 Bloomery possessed an ethnic mix of 39% English, 38% German, 10% Irish, 6% Welsh, 4% African American, and 3% Scottish.
Between 1850 and 1880 the ethnic percentages changed. The English segment declined by 8%.60 Also declining were the Scots (10%), Irish (1%), and Dutch, who disappeared in 1880.61 Germans experienced a 12% population gain, Welsh a 5% gain, and African American a 3% gain.62
Bloomery had a leveling between English and German elements between 1850 and 1880. Relatively minor (l%-5%) adjustments were experienced by most of the less dominant ethnicities in the furnace area. The Scottish element lost representation in the area at a rate greater than the English. A shift from British origin (English, Irish, and Scottish) to continental origin was experienced by the residents in the furnace area as the furnace business declined in its operation.
No ethnic group gravitated to the furnace with greater frequency than to another area of the district. No group dominated the district. Also German and English elements were balanced in members while the populations of the less dominate ethnicities remained fairly constant.
No clear data exist on what influence the furnace had on the ethnic make up of the socioeconomy of the Bloomery District. Bloomery Furnace undoubtedly harkened to the industrial backgrounds of the European immigrants, yet none responded purely on the basis of their ethnicity.13
Ethnic Percentages for Bloomery Furnace
Only 1850 and 1880 are here used as these are the census years that the furnace was in operation.14
1. Darrell E. Holmes, West Virginia Blue Book: 1995 (Charleston, W.Va.: West Virginia Department of Information, 1995), 749.
3. West Virginia, Department of Highways, Hampshire County, West Virginia, map (Romney, W.Va. : Hampshire County Chamber of Commerce, 1992).
4. Hu Maxwell and H.L. Swisher, History of Hampshire County We_st. Virginia: From Its Earliest Settlements to the Present (Morgantown, W.Va.: 1897), 533-534; Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 27-28, 8; James Comstock, ed. , The West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia (Richwood, W.Va.: 1974), vol. 10-11, 348.
5. Neil Cossons, Ironmaking, pamphlet, National Parks Service, United States Department of the Interior (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1979).
6. John L. Tilton, West Virginia Geological Survey: Hampshire and Hardy Counties (Morgantown, W.Va.: Morgantown Binding and Printing Company, 1927), 423-424. Measurements taken from photos of the furnaces; Physical examination of the furnaces at Bloomery and Ridgley, West Virginia.
7. Cossons; Katherine A. Harvey, "The Lonaconing Journals," Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 67 (March 1977), part 2, 35.
8. Harvey. Though appears to be a plural form of bosh, according to Harvey, is not.
9. Ibid.; Tilton, 423; G.P. Grimsley, West Virginia Geological Survey, vol. 4, Iron Ores and Sand Stone (Morgantown, W.Va.: The Acme Publishing Company, 1909), 77.
10. Kenneth L. Carvell, "Furnaces in the Forest," Wonderful West Virginia, Aug. 1995, 21; Grimsley, 140.
11. Seldon W. Brannon, ed., Historic Hampshire (Parsons, W.Va.: 1976) 183; John Cuthbert, Iron Furnace Ledgers Document Pioneer Regional Industry, West Virginia and Regional History Collection Newsletter, Spring 1993, 3.
12. West Virginia; Physical examination of sites.
13. Brannon, 23.
14. Edwin Tunis, Colonial Craftsman: And the Beginning of American Industry (Cleveland, Ohio: The World Publishing Company, 1965), 151.
15. Cossons; Tunis, 151.
16. This dimension was recorded from a pig cast at the Bloomery Furnace.
17. Arthur Cecil Bining, British Regulation of the Colonial Iron Trade (Clifton, N.J.: 1973), 28.
18. Cecil O'Dell, Pioneers of Old Frederick County, Virginia (Marceline, MO: Walsworth Publishing Company, 1995), 543. A reference by a surveyor in 1770 refers to Rutherford's land on Enoch's Run as "Rutherford's Bloomery Tract;" Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 3-4, 72-75; Isaac Zane, "To Be Sold or Rented, Marlboros' Ironworks," Zane Papers 1814-1815 (Winchester, VA: Handley Library), a broadside by Isaac Zane.
19. O'Dell, 114.
20. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. William Peden (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1955), 28.
21. Karen G. Cooper, "Isaac Zane's Marlboro Iron Works: A Colonial Iron Plantation. 1763-1795" (M.A. thesis, James Madison University, May 1991), 17-18; Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 5-6, 47-53. The purchase price was $1,800.00.
23. Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 13-14, 513-518. Though the deed was transferred 15 November 1805 it was not recorded until the following year after the furnace had been sold again. The purchase price was $1.00.
24. Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 13-14, 326-337. The purchase price was $4,313.00.
25. Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 21-22, 322. The purchase price was yet to be determined at the time of the deed's writing.
26. Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 27-28, 8. The purchase price was $1.00.
27. Brannon, 182; Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 31-32, 145-150. The purchase price was $10,000.00. No source explicitly states that the Rutherford furnace was torn down but given that the Naylor to Pastely deed states that Pastely built the furnace standing at that time it is probable that the Rutherford furnace was cannibalized for materials.
28. Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 31-32, 231-233. The purchase price was $10.00.
29. Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 33-34, 29-30. The purchase price was $5,001.00.
30. Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 35-36, 44-49.
31. Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 35-36, 467-473. The purchase price was $15,000.00.
32. Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 41-42, 304-313. The purchase price was $12,000.00.
33. Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 49-50, 46-48.
34. Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 13-14, 800; Hampshire County Circuit Clerk, Chancery Order Book 4, 27; Hampshire County Circuit Clerk, Chancery Order Book 3, 308.
35. U.S. Government. Department of Commerce. Bureau of Census, Census of Free Inhabitants, Hampshire County, Va., 1860, 58; Bureau of Census, Products of Industry, Hampshire County, 1860. The census records of 1860 records Pancoast as an ironmaster who was unable to produce iron in quantities worth more than $500.00.
36. Tate Thompson Brady Papers, series 1, Box 1, unpublished manuscript material, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Va.: 1980.
37. Hampshire County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 83-84, 11.
39. Deed Book 83-84, 11-25.
40. Samuel L. Brown, Surnames are the Fossil of Speech, Privately printed, 1965, s.v.; H. Amanda Robb and Andrew Chesler, Encyclopedia of American Family Names (New York: Harper-Collins, 1995), s.v.; Elsdon C. Smith, American Surnames (Philadelphia: Chilton Book Company, 1969), s.v.; Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges, A Dictionary of Surnames (Oxford, N.Y.: Oxford University Press. 1988), s.v.; U.S. Government, Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, Census of Free Inhabitants, Hampshire County, Va., 1850; U.S. Government, Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, Census
of Population, Hampshire County, W.Va., 1880; George F. Jones, German-American Names (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 1990), s.v.; Mary C. Kuykendall and William A. Kuykendall, One Man's Family, by the author, 1991, 19; Maude Pugh, Capon Valley: Its Pioneers and Descendants: 1698-1940 (Baltimore: Gateway Press, Inc., 1982); U.S. Government, Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, Census of Free Inhabitants, Hampshire County, Va., 1860; U.S. Government, Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, Census of Population, Hampshire County, W.Va., 1870.
41. Free Inhabitants, 1850, 262-275B.
42. Population, 1880, 422A-438B.
43. Free, 1850.
44. Population, 1880.
45. Free, 1850.
46. Population, 1880.
47. Free, 1850.
48. Population, 1880.
49. Free, 1850.
50. Population, 1880.
51. Free, 1850; Slave, 1850.
52. Population, 1870.
53. Slave, 1850.
54. John F. Bauman, PhD., Lecture given at California University Pennsylvania, 14 October 1996.
55. Free, 1850, 269-271B.
57. This was the only other census year that occurred while the furnace was in operation.
58. Population, 1880, 424B-426B.
60. Free, 1850, 269-271B; Population, 1880, 424B-426B.