The Furnaces of Rivertownes

Henry Clay Furnace

Henry Clay Furnace
Original artwork by Klaus Grutzka. Courtesy of Marietta Restoration Associates.

The History

The Henry Clay furnace, one of the first of the anthracite furnaces along the Susquehanna between Columbia and Marietta, was built in 1845 by Peter Haldeman, a prominent Columbia merchant. Haldeman purchased the land, consisting of nine acres with a “two story tavern house and a stable and other improvements” (Sheriffs Deed Book, 1841), at a sheriff’s sale of the estate of John Kelley. The tavern house, which dated to 1819 according to the extant tavern petitions, was apparently kept and utilized by Haldeman as the furnace manager’s house. The furnace changed hands several times after 1855, producing only sporadically until 1865 when, after a long period of idleness it was blown in again under the proprietorship of the firm Denney and Hess. Documentary evidence indicates that the former tavern house was then the residence for the furnace’s manager, John Q. Denney. In 1875 Clement Brooke Grubb purchased and renamed it St. Charles Furnace No. 2 (Grubb had built St. Charles Furnace No. 1, one and a quarter miles south along the river in 1854). In 1879 and 1880 he remodeled the furnace. Although the furnace was remodeled again in 1887, its production declined and it was abandoned in 1889.

The location of the furnace made early use of the canal for import of anthracite coal from northeastern Pennsylvania, and the road up Jones Hollow gave access to the local Chestnut Hill iron ore mines some six miles distant. Jones Creek furnished water for steam power, and local limestone quarries provided that material for flux. By the 1850’s the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Mount Joy and Lancaster line paralleling the canal linked the furnace to a larger transportation network.

The six-tenement house adjacent to the furnace was probably built by Haldeman around 1847. After the furnace shut down, the tenement was variously occupied in the early 20 th century by railroad workers, employees at the stone crusher just north of the furnace, and other tenants until the early 1920’s when a fire made the structure uninhabitable. View map of furnace during this era.

Today's Remnants - Archaeological Studies

Henry Clay Tenement Wall Archaeological investigations have been conducted at the tenement house and office/furnace manager’s house/tavern sites during three seasons of Millersville University field schools. These have revealed nineteenth century artifacts, buried deeply under fill and flood deposits, which give interesting insights into the life at an anthracite iron furnace community. Ruins of the tenement building are pictured at left.



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