Can you imagine a bustling community here made up of hundreds of people, all with livelihoods centered around this old stone furnace? The Henry Clay Iron Furnace was the fiery heart fueling this small community, and reminds us of our historic connection to this landscape.
Furnaces like this were built near the resources needed to produce iron: trees, iron ore, limestone, and water. This furnace was literally a hotbed of activity - it operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, producing about 4 tons of iron every day of the year during its short lifespan (from about 1834 - 1847). Intense heat would have radiated out, charcoal smoke would have lingered throughout the community, and the glow from the furnace would have been visible at night for some distance. Few large trees would be visible, having been cut down to fuel the furnace. Everyone - men, women, even older children - would have worked to keep the furnace and community alive.
The Fire Goes Out
This iron producing region boomed in the early 1800s, but by 1849 was declining rapidly. Transportation was difficult and costly because iron had to be shipped down rivers. Competition had also increased from other iron producing regions in the U.S. About 100 homes, a school, store, church, and more were here - but can you see any evidence of them? Over time
the forest has reclaimed this place, leaving only the old stone furnace to mark its fiery past.