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Backwoods Smelter of the Past

Pete Spaco

New member
A few days ago, a friend and I examined an 1800's iron smelter that was built into a hillside 'way up in the woods.

Here's the video:
https://youtu.be/0zTf4WdYXc0

It takes about the first 3 minutes to locate it due to my poor sense of direction, so feel free to skip ahead.

Pete Stanaitis
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Merv C

Member
Is that really an iron smelter. It has the same features as the lime kilns that are near where I live. Lime kilns were used to make burnt lime for lime based mortar for the building industry in the years gone by The video makes mention of lime nearby. Having said that I don't know what a smelter looks like and also there would have to be a supply of ore close to it'

Merv.
 
A few days ago, a friend and I examined an 1800's iron smelter that was built into a hillside 'way up in the woods.

Here's the video:
https://youtu.be/0zTf4WdYXc0

It takes about the first 3 minutes to locate it due to my poor sense of direction, so feel free to skip ahead.

Pete Stanaitis
---------------
Pete,

I'm in agreement with Merv in that it is a lime kiln, not an iron furnace. We have dozens of lime kilns here in the county. Some are farm kilns, some are larger commercial kilns. The larger ones are constructed identical to what you have found. We also have a couple of iron furnaces in the region; they are of a different structure.

Kirk
 

LCJudge

Subscriber
Here's what the iron furnace's built in Kentucky looked like. They were dotted all over the state, several hundred of them. A few still exist but most have been disassembled for new construction or to use the stones for construction purposes.

When I-65 was rebuilt south of Louisville about 20 years ago the clearing of the ROW allowed a furnace to be seen about 100 yards off the edge of the interstate. It was complete structure and it wasn't unusual to see folks pulled off the shoulder of the road taking a photo of it. Over the years the overgrowth has hidden it again and you can't see it any more. It was identical to the one in the photo. I don't think the photo is of the particular one I mention, but it could be.

The stones, especially the ones on the base, are large. Its probably 22 to 25 ft from the ground to the top of the furnace.

A neat article telling about how the furnaces were set up and worked can be found at this location:

https://trekohio.com/2012/12/10/nineteenth-century-ohio-iron-furnaces/
 

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Merv C

Member
Thanks for the link LC I have always been interested in Backwoods USA But even though I have been in the US a few times I have only passed through some of that type country once and that was in PA.

I guess that the iron and steel industry must have started as almost a cottage industry with all the necessary materials handy and easily accessible That was not the case here in NZ. Our iron and steel industry come from the black sands on the west coast of the North Island

I had another look at Pete's Video and after studying the link I can see how it would be an iron furnace. I did not realize they they could be so small and so numerous.

There is an old lime kiln only ten minutes from my home I will get some photos and post them so that similarity can be seen that made me raise the question.

What I love about the "Stak" is that I can learn about all sorts of things.

Merv
 

Merv C

Member
Here are the photos of the kiln I took today.

This photo taken from the road shows the whole thing. It has looked like this ever since I can remember It is only ten minutes from home. the country behind is all limestone. The lime was taken from directly behind the kiln

[/url]DSCF5303 by Merv Cloake, on Flickr[/IMG]

The brick arch and the fireplace

[/url]DSCF5304 by Merv Cloake, on Flickr[/IMG]

This photo shows the blue stone facings

[/url]DSCF5305 by Merv Cloake, on Flickr[/IMG]

The remains of a bluestone foundation that indicates a building was in front of the kiln.
Where I am standing is on the edge of the limestone country Directly behind me and across the river there an volcanic escarpment that rises to 1200 feet that is the edge of a two million year old larva flow. The basalt is a heavy hard rock, known as bluestone, that has been used for building, and is still used for facings and paving stones. Back in the 1850 when this kiln was built, the stone would have come across the river from the basalt that had fallen from the escarpment.

This is a bit of trivia for those that are interested

Merv.

[/url]DSCF5306 by Merv Cloake, on Flickr[/IMG]
 

mihit

New member
Smelter? Perhaps a bloomery? I'm not well researched in it, especially in the states.
What's the nearest railway link?

---------- Post added at 10:50:44 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:41:19 PM ----------

This is a bit of trivia for those that are interested
Quite.
No snow yet eh? Looks very civilised.
I saw -1° on the news tonight. Not that I'm going to make it down there snowboarding this year.

I understood that a lot of our "iron industry" came from our low-coking coal - we shipped it to Japan, and they made quality iron, that we bought back.

My kingdom for a horse! That I can get around these places. (An Iron horse... of 600cc or more :) )
 

Pete Spaco

New member
Not sure which post mihit is asking about, but from me, the OP, the nearest rail line is about 1/4 mile north of the smelter. Probably the Chicago and Northwestern, but not positive.
It's definitely not a bloomery.

Pete Stanaitis
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Grape

Subscriber
I'd have to believe Pete is right about it being for iron because my Great Grandfather grew up near Spring Valley WI. (same general area as this video) He always told stories of the iron industry in that area.
 

Andy Williams

New member
there are a few left in north carolina like the one lcjudge posted. i'm interested in local stoneware and the potters would use the iron slag for part of the glaze instead of glass. it made a better dark green glaze.
 

mcostello

New member
We had coke ovens that looked somewhat similar, but I don't remember exactly as it has been 50 (?) years ago. Did not know there would be a test. The sky would be red at night.
 

Pete Spaco

New member
Re:
the potters would use the iron slag for part of the glaze instead of glass. it made a better dark green glaze.
Well, we sure have made a lot of slag over the years. Some of it was really slag, but some was simply us turning one kind of iron compound into another kind of iron compound (ie: a "Mistake").
I have about 350 pounds of it buried somewhere around our place and a couple of tons of the good and the bad at a friend's place. We never thought it had any value.
But, in reality, those old processes left about 50% iron IN the slag. So much so that, at least in Great Britain, I'm pretty sure they still mine the old Roman slag heaps for iron production.

Pete Stanaitis
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Andy Williams

New member
Pete, i have a book that said they would go a good distance in a horse drawn wagon to haul slag for making glaze. it is about all gone here now so it does or did have a use.
 
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