Old Hanging Rock Furnace Now Only a Relic of Distant Past
Ironton Sunday Tribune, February 27, 1927
One of the land marks of this section of the country, especially the Hanging Rock neighborhood, is being slowly dismantled and will soon be a memory. The old Hanging Rock blast furnace, operated until November 1923 continuously from the time of its construction in 1883 by Means, Kyle and Company, has outlived its usefulness and is being junked. Salvage work to date has removed all possibility of the furnace ever being placed in operation again, it has been announced by Wm. Jefferys, president of the Hanging Rock Iron Company, owners.
The furnace at Hanging Rock has fast crumbled away since it was put out of operation in 1923. Recently the heavy steel smoke stacks were pulled down because of their menace to travelers on the A. P. Highway through the village. There was always the danger of their being blown over the road and officials of the concern took the necessary safety steps. The wooden ore trams have fallen down, the casing “shed” wrecked and other equipment removed. The blast furnaces remain intact with other buildings but indications are that these too will soon be razed and the site cleared.
In passing from operation the Hanging Rock furnace joins other furnace skeletons which remain in Lawrence county as bleak reminders of those turbulent days when this the heart of the nationally known Hanging Rock Region, was in its prime. The Pine Grove, Vesuvius, Hecla, Oak Ridge, Union and other of the older furnaces have passed, but only a few of these were of the modern blast type at Hecla, Pine Grove and other points the heavy stone stoves remain as reminders of active days when charcoal furnaces were in vogue and before the new hot blast era in 1837. A hot blast experiment was conducted at old Vesuvius Furnace in 1837 by William Firmstone, the first in the United States, and it revolutionized the industry.
The Hanging Rock Furnace story brings to light other interesting features. In the years of charcoal business all iron was brought to Hanging Rock as a river shipping point, there being no railroads. The Hanging Rock Railroad, the narrow gauge line familiar to all residents of this section of the country, was built for the transportation of coal and iron from Pine Grove to Hanging Rock and the river. That was when the New Castle mines were in full operation and the road was successful from its start, in the 40’s. Two by four inch rails of oak were first used, being nailed to under supports. Later flat, wide steel rails raised on one side were used and some of these may still be found along the mine entrances of the company’s right of way. Later 60-pound charcoal iron rails were installed and the railroad is still in shape for operation. The small 50-ton engine has been seen by all Hanging Rock residents and is even now put in operation when occasion demands, for transportation of forest products from the Pine Grove neighborhood. The property is controlled by the New Castle and Ohio River Railway Company and that concern recently filed application with the Interstate Commerce Commission for permission to abandon the line.
The Hanging Rock Iron Co., 8000 acres of land between Hanging Rock and Pine Grove, all rich in timber, mineral products. Property is being liquidated and capital stock retired. Soon the concern will be dissolved and another interesting chapter in the history of Ironton, and this section of the country concluded.
View of Hamilton Furnace, date unknown
View of Hamilton Furnace remnants in 2012