Green Spring Furnace History Daily Mail 12 Oct 1974
DM Daily Mod, Hagwtfewn Md , Su Saturday, Octet* 12,1974' Family Section Jesse Hull, barber and historian of Clear Spring, furnished the rare picture to the left of the old Green Spring Furnace complex of years gone by. The furnace is in the upper left of the photo, partly hidden by trees. Mary Charles, pictured above, of Charles' Mill, is shown with the ledger she owns that paints a picture of the operation of Green Spring Furnace in 1848-1851. Nothing But Memories Remain At Green Spring Furnace Â·y ORA ANN ERNST When the 1970s came around, not much was left of the old Green Spring Furnace except memories. Time had made ravages on the historic structure but it was mostly people who destroyed the iron smelter that was built before the American Revolution. Revolution. According to a plaque at the furnace site along the road from Clear Spring to Port Frederick, "Lancelot Jacques, a French H u g u e n o t , in partnership with Thomas Johnson Johnson in 1768 built Greenspring Furnace." A 1768 deed conveyed from Lord Baltimore to Jacques and Johnson "one hundred acres of land lying on a run of water called Green Sp'ring Run, otherwise called Lick Run, ... about two miles below Fort Frederick, as might be convenient convenient for setting up a Forge Mill and other conveniences as might be necessary for carrying carrying on an Iron Work for running of Pigg Iron ..." Busy Complex Through the Revolutionary War period and the following century, a large, busy complex grew up around the huge stone stack There appeared a cluster of frame buildings, including a casting house, bellows house, bridge house and a coal house besides residences and a store. These, remembers J. W. Murray of Big Spring, all stood "in perfect condition" at the beginning of this century when he "was a kid." "My mother used to send me to the store," he says, "and there was a tremendous business all the time. There were lots of people working in the furnace and in the mountains mountains and they all bought their things at the store." The iron-smelting business was in full operation at Green Spring, Murray believes, until after the Civil War. But, as steel factories began to grow in the cities and transportation improved, there was less and less need for the country furnaces furnaces of colonial days. As the wooden buildings became idle, Murray recalls, residents of Clear Spring bought them, tore them down and hauled them in wagons to their town, reconstructing them for machinery and storage sheds. The stone stacks remained in place longer but, Murray regretfully remembers, in the 1920s they too were torn down, crushed and used to make the bed of the road from Green- Spring to Shanktown. And the site turned into a quarry which made obliteration complete. Oldtimers, like Murray, regret that precautions weren't taken years ago to save the furnace furnace complex. Daniel Boyd One of the concerned folks was a Clear S p r i n g octogenarian, octogenarian, the late Daniel Boyd. With sadness, he had viewed man's erosion of the site, watching shale-hauling trucks bite farther and farther back into the hill. With a "too- little, too-late" feeling, he nonetheless nonetheless dreamed up a one-man project to save what little remained of the old furnace, stones stones from the wall that had supported the huge water wheel Quietly and over several years, Boyd salvaged the huge stones and hauled them to his nearby farm. In August of this year, the venerable lover-of-history announced announced to a friend that he had "saved the last of the old furnace." furnace." Then he enlisted a young neighbor, Lawrence Harnish, to help build a dam and crib up a pond on the Boyd farm with the rescued stones Just as the job was finished. Daniel Boyd died. A nephew, John Kreigh, said that his uncle referred occasionally, occasionally, but not too explicitly, explicitly, to his self-assigned stone- moving job and he always seemed "real proud" of trying to do his bit to preserve history. Smelting Process The site at Green Spring had been excellently chosen lor an iron furnace. The smelting process basically basically required iron ore. limestone and charcoal The hills at Green Spring were full of ore. the land toward the river yielded limestone and the surrounding woods produced timber that could be burned to charcoal. All three factors required many laborers. In the woods where charcoal was produced by burning in pits, "raggy men" had to constantly constantly keep watch that the fire was just sufficient to render charcoal but not so strong as to burst into a consuming flame. The ore had to be dug and hauled to the furnace. And the limestone, which served as the fusing flux that removed im- purities likewise had to be delivered by man-labor to the stacks. The three had to be combined with intense heat so a bellows was kept in operation. And this required water power. Green Spring Run was the abundant answer. The water wheel has been described by Murray as an "over-drop" wheel, one of the largest ever seen. Jesse Hull, barber and historian of Clear Spring, has been told that the bellows were more like huge pistons of wooden cylinders. Terrain Ready-Made The terrain of the area was ready-made for the feeding of the furnace and for removing the ore and the slag. The stone stack was flush against a hill, providing a natural ramp for wheelbarrows to drop the ore, charcoal and limestone into the top. And there was the right amount of slope to let the stream flow with enough force to turn the water wheel. Pig iron was the product that was s h i p p e d f r o m Green Spring It went to steel mills to be refined or was turned into wrought iron or ingot iron to be resmelted and cast into special shapes for machinery, stoves, tools, n a i l s a n d other necessities or war, industry and agriculture. Most of the pig iron went by boat or barge down the C 4 0 Canal which was easily accessible accessible at McCoy's Ferry. And supplies came up the same route. Furnace Ledger A ledger of Green Spring Furnace Furnace for the years from 1848 to 1851 is in the possession of Mary Charles, widow of Fred Charles, one-time operator of Charles' Mill near Big Spring. In big beautiful script it gives financial records that mirror the operation of the furnace and the store, and the daily life of the people involved. Jeremiah B. Haines was owner at the time; it is Murray's understanding that the Haines family took the business over from Lancelot Jacques or his descendants. Joseph Charles, an ancestor of Fred Charles, is mentioned in the accounts; at one place it is indicated that his land produced some of the iron ore: "W. 8. Hull to Green Spring Furnace, Dr. tor Two Tons of Pig Iron made from the Charles Ore ... 150.00" References are made to shipping the pig iron to Georgetown via the canal. Other items indicate that furnace furnace and house supplies came up the canal from the same Georgetown: "G. S. furnace *o Mork Hainei Dr., for cash paid Copt. Slake, freight on hot blait pipes from Georgetown to McCoy's ferry per bill November 27, 7948 ... $45.00" Other entries in the account book are expenses for labor on the hearth, for cutting wood on the ridge, fixing and blowing the furnace, keeping the horse, dressing the hearthstones, shoemaking, hauling oak pine, blacksmithing. cutting wood, keeping and filling furnaces, making two "setts" of cart harness and for turning the arch in a lime kiln. Furnaces were said to be temperamental and needed ad- j u s t i n g a n d r e p a i r . O n December 21, an item read: "To Wp/liom Philips Jr., for Building Furnafes Stock ond Hot Blast Chamber ... $520.00" House Expenses contain an interesting variety of entries, including 6 flour barrels for $1.50: 1 and 3/4 bus. corn * 50Â», 82 l/2t; cotton flannel and bed blankets, $40.68; molasses, 1/2 gal, 25t; coffee, 5 Ibs, S0(; flour, 50 Ibs, $1.50; bacon, 15 Ibs, $1.20; 1 hind quarter of beef, 88 Ibs. Â» ft, $4.40; quills and ink, $1.15; 33 bus. apples, $10.25; and 1 cow, $17.46. And there were many, many entries for wages to many, many different laborers. A day's pay was between one and two dollars. But the cost of living living index was favorable because boarding was listed at $1.75 a week. The yellowing pages of the ledger give a haunting picture of forefathers in the 1850s and their fascinating life at the furnace. furnace. George T. Prather, late historian of the county, also has Igiven an appealing portrait of the first century at Green Spring Spring Furnace when he wrote that John Forsythe, ironmaster at the furnace stood on the lawn of the Jacques estate in the company company of General Braddock, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Lancelot Jacques watching a Pennsylvania contingent contingent march by to join Braddock's Braddock's army at Katy Long's spring at the nearby Shanktown Church.