The Furnaces of Rivertownes

Sarah Ann Furnace

The History

The first of the Furnaces of Rivertownes was also the most remote. Located along Big Chickies Creek two miles northwest of Silver Spring, Sarah Ann Furnace was erected in 1839 by John Gamber as a charcoal furnace. Following the custom of the day, Gamber named the furnace in honor of his wife. Apparently Gamber ran into trouble immediately, as he was force to make assignment to his father Jacob H. Gamber and Abraham Peters shortly after the furnace was completed. The senior Gamber later leased the property to Governor David R. Porter who had scattered interests in iron furnaces. The terms of the lease provided for a payment of $400 for the first two years, and $500 annually thereafter. Porter was permitted to rebuild the engine and machinery to make use of anthracite fuel. John B. Hertzler bought the property from the Gamber assignees in 1847, and reaffirmed the agreement with Porter. At the time of its conversion to anthracite coal in 1854, the furnace was thirty feet high with an eight-foot bosh. Although its rated capacity was 2,000 tons of iron annually, it never reached that level of output. Only 200 tons were produced in 1849, and the following year the furnace was out of blast. The Sarah Ann Furnace was not successful as a charcoal furnace; its remoteness from rail and canal facilities made it less promising as an anthracite furnace. The property did carry with it the right to mine ore without payment of ore leases on a 131-acre tract on Chestnut Hill. John B. Hertzler owned the ore deposit in the 1860s; later the ore was used in the Chickies furnaces near Marietta.

Today's Remnants

Sarah Ann SiteThere are few extant remains of the furnace outside the well preserved ironmaster's mansion. The site is on private property northwest of Silver Spring on Garfield Road. Current owners of the mansion have said that much of the casting house was torn down some years ago and the stones used to build the retaining wall along Garfield Road. The image at left shows what remains of the casting house walls, now crumbling and tended only by chickens (center).





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