Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

. (page 52 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 52 of 193)
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mie. They claimed to have purchased the site of
Fort Pitt, and started a mercantile establishment on
the " Point" at Pittsburgh. Marmie managed the busi-
ness in the West, and Turnbull remained most of the
time in Philadelphia. The extract from the court
records, as given above, shows that the furnace on
Jacob's Creek was built or in process of erection be-
fore Turnbull received the patent for the land on
which it stood.

The Alliance Furnace was blown in in November,
1789, but nothing is known of the business done at
that time. On the 6th of January, 1792, Gen. Knox,
Secretary of War, wrote to Maj. Isaac Craig, com-
mandant of the post at Pittsburgh, making this in-
quiry : "Is it not possible that you could obtain shot
for the six-pounders from Turnbull & Marmie's fur-
nace?" In another letter, addressed to the same
officer fifteen days later, he says, " Although I have
forwarded the shot for the six-pounders (from Car-
lisle), I am not sorry that you ordered those from
Turnbull & Marmie. Let them send their propo-
sals at what rates they will cast shot, shell, cannon,
and howitzers, etc." And it is stated on good au-
thority that shot and shell for Gen. Anthony Wayne's
expedition against the Indians were furnished by
Turnbull, Marmie & Co. from their works on Jacob's

In December, 1797, certain viewers appointed by

Roll's Office Patent Book No,



the court reported on a road " from Turnbull's Iron-
Works by the Little Falls." In March, 1799, a re-
port was made to the court by viewers as follows :
" Pursuant to an order of the Quarter Sessions for
September, 1797, for Fayette County, we, the sub-
scribers therein named, met and viewed the ground

It will be noticed that the establishment was vari-
ously designated as "Jacob's Creek Furnace," "Alli-
ance Furnace," "Alliance Iron- Works," "Turnbull's
Iron-Works," and " Col. Holker's Iron- Works." The
last name was used when the works were carried on
by Holker (as principal partner) with Marmie, after

between Jacob's Creek furnace and the road leading the retirement of Turnbull.


to Feterstown ; and we do agree to return a public I The title to the real estate was in Turnbull, who
road two perches wide, beginning at the county line, | on the 10th of February, 1797, conveyed to John
on the bridge across Jacob'.s Creek at Alliance Fur- j Holker, in consideration of £2000, " all that mes-
nace," etc. In September, 1799, there was presented suage, forge, furnace, and tract of land called Rox-

to the court "a petition for vacating a road from Col. bury," and also the other tracts designated as
Holker's Iron- Works to near Laurel Hill meeting- j " Frankford" and "Sprini:sbury."

Sprini:sbury." The works were
carried on by Holker & Marmie until 1802, when


their operations ceased, and the fires of the old fur-
nace were finally extinguished.'

The Alliance Iron-Works with contiguous lands
were offered for sale by Samuel Hughes in an adver-
■tisement dated March 27, 1807, but it does not ap-
pear that any purchaser was found, and the property
was afterwards assigned by Col. Holker in trust to
Paca Smith, who conveyed it to Henry Sweitzer, in
pursuance of an agreement made Jan. 20, 1817.

The cut correctly represents the appearance of
the ruins of the old Jacob's Creek furnace-stack
at the present time. Parts of the ancient walls of the
furnace are still standing, though greatly dilapidated,
and the walls of the charcoal-house in the rear of the
furnace remain nearly entire, but gray and moss-
covered. The site of the old iron-works is on low
ground, on the south side of Jacob's Creek, in the
present township of Perry. The land is now owned
by the Jacob's Creek Oil Company.


The old Union Furnace in Dunbar township was

built by Isaac Meason at about the same time that

Turnbull & Marmie erected their furnace on Jacob's

I Creek, but it is conceded by all who have any knowl-

I edge of the facts that the last named was first blown

! in. Mr. Edmund C. Pechin, who has carefully

gathered all obtainable information in reference to

I the old Union Furnace, says it was first blown in

in March, 1791, which gives a precedence of about

sixteen months to the furnace of Turnbull & Marmie.

The first mention which has been found of the Union

Furnace is in the records of the court of Fayette

County for the June term of 1791, when there was

presented " a petition for a road from Union Furnace

to Dickinson's Mill."

The original furnace was a small establishment, but
in 1793 Mr. Meason associated with him John Gibson
and Moses Dillon, and this firm (styled Meason, Dil-
lon & Co.) erected a much larger furnace and foundry
on the site of the first one. On the formation of the
partnership, July 16, 1793, Meason transferred to
Dillon and Gibson one-sixth of six hundred acres of
land on both sides of Dunbar Creek, " which includes
the furnace which is now erecting," with the houses
and appurtenances, and also one-half of two thousand
seven hundred acres adjoining, and between it and
the Youghiogheny River.

The establishment of Meason, Dillon & Co. pro-
duced large quantities of castings, stoves, pots, dog-
irons, sugar-kettles, salt-kettles, and other articles.
The following advertisement of their business appears
in the Pittsburgh Gazette of 1794 :


" Have for Sale at their furnace on Dunbar's Run,
Fayette county, three miles from Stewart's Crossings,

1 An interesting account of some of the operations at the old furnace
on .Jacob's Creek will he found embodied in a letter written by Peter
Marmie, which is given in the history of Perry township.

on Youghiogheny

supply of well assorted

castings, which they will sell for cash at the reduced
price of £35 per ton {$93.33).
{ " Union Furnace, April 10, 1794."

In 1804 an extensive order was filled at the Union
! Furnace for large sugar-kettles, to be used on the
plantations of Louisiana. After that time the works
were continued by different parties for more than
! fifty years, and finally suspended operations. About
the year 1868 the property passed into possession of
I the Youghiogheny Iron and Coal Company, of which
Edmund C. Pechin was .president. Under his man-
agement extensive improvements were made, and the
subsequent success of the works has been largely due
to his energy. In 1871 the company was reorganized
as the Dunbar Iron Company, and later as the Dun-
bar Furnace Company, which now owns and operates
the works.


This old furnace, situated in Spring Hill township,
j was built by Robert and Benjamin Jones, who were
Welshmen by birth, and had been interested in the
development of mineral lands in their native country.
Emigrating to America, they became owners of the
lands on which they built this furnace, as stated.
The precise date of its erection is not known, but its
commencement is placed in 1794 with a good deal of
certainty, for the reason that the assessment-roll of
Spring Hill township for 1793 shows that Robert
Jones was then assessed on four hundred acres of
"unseated lands," and that the roll of the same town-
ship for 1795 shows, under the head of " Fulling Mills
and Furnaces," the name of Robert Jones asse.ssed
on " One Furnace, valued at $300." That the works
' were in operation at least as early as the autumn of
the latter year is proved by the following advertise-
j ment, found in the Western T'e^pyrryjAc (then published
I at Washington, Pa.), bearing date Oct. 13, 1795, viz. :
I " Springhill Furnace, Ruble's Run, Fayette County,
Pennsylvania, within three miles of the river Cheat,
I near its confluence with the Monongahela.

" For Sale, at said Furnace, a good assortment of
beautiful Castings, allowed by real judges to be some
j of the very best ever cast in America, amongst which
; are Stoves and Salt kettles of the finest quality.

" By R. & B. Jones, Wells & Co."
James Tucker, of Washington County, had a one-
eighth interest in the firm, and assumed the manage-
ment of the works, being a practical iron-worker.
On the 8th of November, 1799, the firm leased the
property to Jesse Evans (a son-in-law of Robert
Jones) for three years, for the consideration of
twenty tons of assorted iron castings.

In 1803 (March 29th), Robert and Benjamin Jones,
"of Whitely Creek, Greene Co.," entered into an
agreement with Jesse Evans to convey to him, for
the consideration of £4000, "the seven-eighths part
of Springhill furnace and everything thereunto be-


longing, flasks, teams, patterns, and land, containing
eight hundred acres ; also a piece of land joining,
formerly part of Isaac Deal's plantation, containing
seven acres, with the remainder of the pigs and stock
now on the premises ; also three hundred acres for-
merly belonging to William Wells." On the 9th of |
August of the following year Evans purchased the '
one-eighth interest owned by James Tucker, of Wash-
ington County, for six tons of assorted castings and
two hundred dollars' worth of bar iron, at sis cents
per pound.

Jesse Evans operated the iron-works until April,
1831, when he removed to Spring Grove farm, where
his son, Col. Samuel Evans, now resides. He died
in Uniontown, Aug. 15, 1842.

When Mr. Evans retired from the business of the
furnace, in 1831, it was sold to J. Kennedy Duncan, j
and two years later, after several changes, it was pur-
chased by F. H. Oliphant, who kept it in successful
operation till 1870, when it was sold to the Fairchance
Company, the present owners.

During Mr. Oliphant's occupancy he carried into
effect the idea (which had been conceived by him in
1825) of utilizing the furnace gases. He had impar-
ted his discovery to an Alabama company, who used
the hint received from him to some advantage in the
construction of their furnace. Wlien he reconstructed
the Spring Hill Furnace, he made practical his idea by
placing the boiler-house upon the top of the stack ; this
in a crude manner carried out his idea with consider-
able advantage.


On the 6th of March, 1792, Robert Peoples, of
Georges township, a miller by trade, conveyed to John
Hayden, iron-master, in partnership with John Nich-
olson, of Philadelphia, a tract of land in the said
township of Georges, containing fifty-one acres and \
twenty-four perches, with all buildings, iron-works,
houses, cabins, etc., the consideration being .£119.
The tract was the .same which Peoples had purchased
a few days before from Jonathan Reese, who had pur-
chased it Feb. 5, 1790, from Philip Jenkins, who pat-
ented it from the State May 31, 1787.

As to tlie " iron-works" which were mentioned as
being then located on the land conveyed by Reese to
Haydeu, it cannot be stated with any certainty by I
•whom they were built. It is not probable they were
built by Reese, for he had owned the jimperty only a
few days. The previous owner of the land, Philip
Jenkins, might have erected them, but the probability
is that they were commenced by John Hayden before
the property came into possession of himself and
Nicholson, and that Reese had been employed to pur-
chase the land from Jenkins, and then convey it to
them, as he did. 1

In the assessment-rolls of Georges township for
that year (1792) John Hayden was assessed on fifty-
one acres of land (evidently the same purchased from

Reese) and a " bloomery" or forge. No assessment
on any such establishment is found in the rolls of
that township in any preceding year.

On the 3lst of March, 1792, John Nicholson, of
Philadelphia (State comptroller), and John Hayden,
of Fayette County, entered into articles of agreement,
from which the following is an extract : " Whereas
the said Hayden represents that there is on the head-
waters of Georges Creek, within said county, a valu-
able iron-mine of sufficient quantity, that there are
also streams and seats suitable for u forge and fur-
nace, and whereas it is agreed to have erected for
their joint benefit, a forge and furnace on a tract of
land which contains four hundred and thirty-six
acres, having from seventy to eighty acres cleared,
and about four hundred fruit-trees," etc. It appears
that this tract had already been bargained for with
its owner, Joseph Huston (then sheriff of Fayette'
County), at three hundred pounds, and by the terms
of the agreement between Hayden and Nicholson
the latter was to send that amount of money by hand
of Albert Gallatin to Huston to pay for the land.

On the same day Hayden and Nicholson entered
into a further agreement, by the terms of which Hay-
den was to finish the forge or bloomery (which, as it
thus appears, was not then completed) on the Reese
land, and to build a furnace at such place as might
be thought best for the purpose on the larger (Huston)
tract, and to complete the same on or before Sept. 1,
1794. And Nicholson, on his part, agreed to lease
and did lease to Hayden his interest in the forge and
furnace at eight hundred pounds per year for the
term of seven years, commencing April 1, 1792, the
payments to be made semi-annually, and not to begin
until Sept. 1, 1794, and if the furnace and forge were
completed sooner than that time, then John Hayden
was to have the use thereof until Sept. 1, 1794, gra-
tuitously, as well as all the timber and ore he could
use up to that date. On the 16th day of JIarch,
1793, they entered into another agreement, in which
it is stated that owing to a want of funds the work
was lagging, and in order that the work might be
prosecuted "with newness of vigor," and that a forge
might be built, Nicholson agreed to advance to Hay-
den twelve hundred pounds, Pennsylvania money, in
addition to what had already been advanced and ex-
pended, and Nicholson's agent, Jesse Evans, was to
take this sum of money to Hayden. But their finan-
cial difficulties still continued, the work was not
prosecuted, Nicholson became a defaulter, and the
partnership between him and Hayden failed. On
the 30th of May, 1796, John Hayden, "iron-master,"
conveyed to Jonathan Hayden, of Georges township,
the fifty-one-acre tract purchased from Robert Peo-
ples in the spring of 1793, including the bloomery,
cabins, and other buildings.

The agreement between Nicholson and Hayden,
made March 31, 1792, was not carried out as to the
building of the furnace at the time specified, and in-



deed none was built at any time under this partner- ance April 5, 1797. Soon after the purchase Pears
.ship. In 1795, Hayden was still assessed on the ' erected upon it the furnace known as Old Redstone,
blooniery. On the 18th of March, 1797, William I which was operated by him for a year or two after its
Nixon and wife conveyed to John Hayden for the ' starting, and then rented by Mayberry & Stevens.
consideration of £118 8s. 9d. thirty-eight and one- ' On the 26th of December, 1803, Pears sold the land
fourth acres of land in Georges township, " for the pur- and furnace for $3000 to Joseph Huston, who operated
pose and convenience of erecting a furnace thereon," ! it for some years, but he was finally overtaken by finan-
this land being a part of a -tract named " Fairfield," cial difficulties, and then the furnace passed to the
which was patented to Nixon Sept. 7, 1790. < possession of his nephew and clerk, John Huston, who

On the land which he purchased of Nixon, Hayden ! continued to operate it for many years. AfterlSSGitwas
built the Fairfield Furnace. The date of its erection I carried on by John Snyder and John Worthington for
is placed at 1797, because in that year he was assessed a period of about fifteen years, since which time it has
for " Ready place Forge," "Old Place," " mountain ' been out of blast. The stack remains standing, but
land," and " furnace land," but no furnace ; but in I ranch dilapidated,
the following year " Fairfield Furnace" was included I fairciiance.

in his assessment at $4000. At the same time the old In 1803, Thomas Wynn disposed of his property,
ibrge was assessed to him at $250. ' near where Fairchance Furnace now stands, to John

Hayden conveyed an undivided one-fourth part of j Hayden for £3000, payable in three years, £1000 an-
the Furnace tract, " with an equal part of the furnace i nually. This tract consisted of two hundred and
and all other buildings thereon erected," to Stephen ! eighty acres of mineral lands, and on this tract there
Hayden, Jr., by deed dated Dec. 25, 1797, and on the ' was then a flax-seed oil-mill. The payments as they
16th of January following he conveyed another un- ' became due were payable in castings at $100 per ton,
divided one-fourth part of the same property to John [ delivered either at Fairfield Furnace or at Richard
Oliphant, Andrew Oliphant, and Nathaniel Breading | Lewis', "Mary Ann Furnace," near Haydentown.
for £2000. These three gentlemen, on the 8th of I On the property sold by Wynn to Hayden was erected
March, 1805, purchased another one-fourth interest | the " Fairchance" Furnace.
in the property from Neil Gillespie, and at the same I On the 1st of January, 1805, John Hayden, Sr.,

time purchased still another one-fourth from John Gil-
lespie, who had bought it at sherift's sale in 1803, at
which time it was sold by Sheriff Allen on a judg-
ment against John Hayden. Finally, John and An-
drew Oliphant came into possession of the entire
property, and the furnace was operated by them until

sold to James Gillespie one-half of his real and per-
sonal estate, consisting in furnaces, forges, bloomery,
mills, lands, and tenements, tii^'riln'i- with nil their

appurtenances, for the sum of
metal then made and at Fai
taken at $25 i:>er ton. Not

of all
to be

January, 1817, when their partnership was dissolved | chance was purchased by John and Andrew Oli-
by mutual consent, John Oliphant purchasing the in- \ phant, who carried on the furnace in connection with

terest of Andrew in the Fairfield and Fairchance Fur-
naces and Sylvan Forge at $4000. The Fairfield
Furnace was rented by him to John St. Clair and
Isaiah Marshall, who were succeeded by William
Paull, Sr., and he in turn by John Martin, whose oc-
cupancy continued until the furnace was finally blown
out and abandoned.

It is said by old people that during the Oliphants'

the Sylvan Forge, under

l-'i-'iiii Hint liiiu' it was
>liri < Miphuiit, anil passed
■>'i\tri\ for ;i iew years to
: w:i> ..|,orated by F. H.
ty viai>. Soon after his
•e, F. H. Olipliant began
Bottom" ores in place of
operation of Fairfield Furnace they furnished from it ; tlie " Blue Lump," wliicli had been previously used.
a quantity of solid shot, which were shipped on small | In 1836 he used coke as fuel in the Fairchance Fur-
craft down the Monongahela, Ohio, and Mississippi I nace. and a sample of the iron so produced is on
Rivers, and were used by Gen. Jackson's artillery in exhibition at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia.

Oliphant, until about Is 1 7
operated for some time liv .
to F. H. Oliphant. It w';i~
J. K. Duncan, and after Is
Oliphant for more than I'l
commencement at Fairchai
using the " Flag" and " Bii

the battle of New Orlean;
Fairfield are still visible.

Some of the ruins of old


The builder and first proprietor of this old iron-
works was Jeremiah Pears, who purchased the parcel
of land including its site from Moses Hopwood. It
was a tract containing twenty acres and thirteen
perches, situated on the waters of Redstone Creek,
in Union (now South Union) township, and a part of
the original survey named "Suttonia." The consider-
ation paid was £276 lOs., and the date of the convey-

During the same year he introduced the warm blast,
which had previously been used in Europe, but Mr.
Oliphant knew nothing of its having been used any-
where previous to his introducing it. It requires
from 700° to 900° of heat for the blast, and his fur-
nace was not arranged so as to generate such a great
heat, consequently his efforts were not entirely sat-
isfactory. The hot air for his blast was driven
through about one hundred and fifty feet of pipe,
leading from the rolling-mill to the stack. In 1826,
F. H. Oliphant bought Fairchance Furn.ace from
his father, who was comiielled to sell it on account



of his indebtedness. About 1834, F. H. Oliphant
liad erected a rolling-mill at Fairchance. This
mill had three puddling-furnaces and complete ma-
chinery for making bar and boiler iron. It remained
in operation until about 1870, at which time Mr. Oli-
phant sold out to a Kew York company, under the
style and title of Fairchance Iron Company, who own
it at the present time. The capacity of the furnace
had been increased to ten tons per day by Oliphant,
and that capacity has been doubled by the Fairchance


The land emlir.acing the site of this furnace, located
on Shute's Run, in North Union township, was pat-
ented to Thompson McKean, John Smart, and Wil-
liam Paull, Jan. 13, 1816. The furnace was built soon
afterwards by Mr. McKean, and by him kept in opera-
tion for many years. About 1842 it passed into posses-
sion of Joseph Wiley. Some three years later, Eleazer
Robin.son became a partner in the business. In 1854,
Mr. Wiley removed to the West, and the business of
the iron-works was continued by Robinson for a year
or two and then closed. The property afterwards
passed to the possession of Levi Springer, and is now
owned by his heirs. The furnace was a small one,
with a blast driven by water-power. The ores used
were of the Umbral group, and obtained by benching.
Excavations from which the ore was obtained are
found, extending along the outcrop for miles from the
furnace. The procuring of ore in this manner was
necessarily e.xpensive, and the cost of its reduction
must have been correspondingly light to justifj- it.


The location of this old furnace was on Laurel Run,
in Dunbar township, nearly opposite the eastern base
of the Chestnut Ridge.- It was built by Joshua Gib-
son and Samuel Paxson, about 1797, and two or three
years later (before 1800) it passed to the possession
of Reuben Mochabee and Samuel Wurtz. In 1800,
John Ferrel, the manager of the furnace under these
proprietors, advertised for sale "assorted castings,
neat, light, and tough," at $100 per ton, also bar iron.
The " Hampton Forge" was built by Mochabee &
Wurtz, for the purpose of working the product of the


Col. James Paull and his sons erected the New
Laurel Furnace, a short distance below the site of the
Old Laurel, on the same run. It was kept in blast by
them until 1834, when it passed to Kaine, Vance &
Miller, under whom it was operated till 1838, when it
was finally blown out.


The site of this furnace was on Break-Neck Run,
in Lullskin township. It wusliuilt in IMS, by Messrs.
]Miller, Janirs KDLins, ami .Tames raull, and was
managed by MilKr. David ISarnes alterwards be-
came a jiartnei-. About 1.S24 it passed to Boyd &

Davidson, who operated it until 1831, after which
Miller ran it for a year or two. It was then carried
on by David B. Long & Co. until 1838, when its
operation was abandoned.


In the records of the Court of Quarter Sessions for
June term, 1837, mention is made of a petition for a
road in Wharton township, to pass " where A. Stewart
is building a furnace." The person referred to was
the Hon. Andrew Stewart, who built this furnace in
the year named. Its site was a short distance from
the National ,road. The furnace was managed by
Alfred Stewart for a number of years from its com-
pletion. Afterwards it was successively operated by
Edward Hughes and J. Kennedy Duncan. In 18.52,
D. S. Stewart assumed the management, and ran it
about four years. It was blown out in 1856, and re-
mained in disuse until 1858, when it was leased by
Worthington & Snyder, who were succeeded by D.
W. Woods & Lukens, of McKeesport. After a few
years it was blown out, and remained idle till 1870,
when it was leased by E. C. Pechin, C. E. Swear-
ingen, Maurice Healey, and others. After being in
blast for about one year under this proprietorship it
was leased to George W. Paull. Two years later it

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 52 of 193)