Each furnace operation was normally a self-contained community, known as an iron plantation, under the direction of an iron master, usually the owner. Under his direction several types of skilled laborers took part in the overall operation. Miners dug the raw iron ore from the local sandstone formations, limestone was quarried from local outcrops, and charcoal was produced from the abundant nearby timber resources to complete the charge necessary to produce quality iron. While most of these activities took place away from the furnace, they were an integral part of the furnace operation. At the furnace itself, smelters were the skilled workmen who cased the iron, potters made the small castings after the molten iron had run out of the furnace, while guttermen had charge of the sand moulds.
Other laborers, often slaves, were the fillers who carried or wheeled the heavy baskets of ore, limestone, and charcoal to the furnace top.
When a furnace had been erected and was ready to be "blown in" or go into production, a large wood fire was built in the stack. This was replenished from time to time until the furnace was completely dried out. When the furnace had been thoroughly heated by the fire in the hearth, it was ready for the first charge. All the furnaces in this area were operated by steam being known as quarter
furnaces, and when in operation used a cold blast.
The iron in the form of pigs, was hauled by tramroad to the Kentucky River, where they were shipped on flatboats to iron manufacturing plants at Cincinnati and other places. Like the other iron furnaces in this area, most of the iron from this furnace was used in the production of railroad car wheels and rails as the railroads expanded across the country. However, over-speculation and the new ore beds in Alabama brought the iron industry in Kentucky to a standstill. After an investment of about one and a half million dollars in lands, furnaces, buildings, dwelling houses, tramways, roads, and other improvements, the property passed into other hands, leaving a clear loss of over one million dollars to the stockholders.