The First Iron Furnace

William Louderback’s Recollection of Union Furnace

Ironton Register, November 10, 1892

Of the old men of our town, no one holds his age better than William Louderback, who is nearly 82 years of age. He has worked nearly all his life about the furnaces of the Hanging Rock region, and his fund of recollections of early iron making is rich. The following is the substance of a conversation with him.

“My father was Peter Louderback who moved from Pennsylvania at an early day and settled in Scioto county about three miles from where Sciotoville now stands. I was born April 11, 1811. When I was four years old, I was placed with Jesse Wolf who lived in Lawrence county about three miles from where Center furnace stands. Wolf was a prosperous pioneer. In addition to his farm, he ran a small still and made enough runs each year to supply the neighborhood. He brewed some beer also. During the hunting season, he would kill many deer and would sometimes have from 60 to 70 deer skins to sell in the spring. When I was about 13 years old, I went to live with Joshua Horner at Kelley’s Mills on Pine Creek.”

“While living there, Union furnace was built. It was the first iron furnace in southern Ohio, and they began building it when I was 14 years old. It was only about a mile and a half from where I lived and I hauled charcoal to it when it began running. Charcoal was then hauled in 150 bushel beds. We used oxen altogether for there was no mules in the country then. James Rogers, who was the manager of the furnace, was the first man who counted five pecks of charcoal, a bushel. The furnace was on a primitive order. It made only about three tons a day. The output on Sunday was run into pigs, but the output during the week was made into hollow-ware, stoves, &c. The molten metal was ladled out from the hearth and poured into the various molds. A man was employed to skim the metal in the hearth and I have done the work many a time.”

“John Sparks was the name of one of the owners. David Sinton his nephew was a boy of all work about the store and office. I have heard that Sinton died a millionaire in Cincinnati. Thos. W. Means was about the furnace also.” [Union furnace was built in 1826, by John Means, a South Carolinian, who settled with his slaves in Lawrence county in 1819. He was an abolitionist and came to Ohio that his slaves might be free. – Ed.]

“Slaves used to run away from Kentucky quite often in those days. I remember of many who went through. There were so many passing, that one man made a living by catching them and taking them back to Greenup, Ky. Once, a slave stopped at the home of a man named John BRUCE and begged a breakfast. He was invited in, and while eating, he saw Bruce’s rifle hanging over the door. Something happened to scare the runaway, and he jumped up and grabbed the rifle, and shot Bruce dead. He then escaped.”

“I have worked at Franklin, Junior, Buckhorn, Olive, Vernon and other furances and came to Jackson from Buckhorn. When I was at Olive I enlisted in the 4th Ohio Cavalry and served seven months. My son Jacob served in the war also.”

“The pioneers believed that the Indians had a lead mine on Raccoon Run, which flows into Pine creek. Many a search was made for it, but only little pellets of lead were found.” Jackson Standard