Thursday, January 15, 2015

Catherine Furnace and the Library.....

Took a ride over to the Shenandoah Library, which is only open 3 days out of the week and have missed it several times, to do some research on the Shenandoah River and Iron production during the 1800's. Was not able to locate a book that was listed in the online catalog and which only this branch of the library system has a copy. The librarian said "oh we have that but it's not kept on the shelf it's in a special place". She then proceeded over to her desk where the desired book is kept in a cardboard box under the desk (High security).

The book was well worth the wait and was full of some great information concerning the Catherine Furnace that I just visited a few weeks back and history of transporting Pig Iron down the Shenandoah River to Harpers Ferry.

One of the more interesting things found was when it came time to leave the Librarian asked if I had seen the model of the Catherine Furnace that was in the library. It turns out several years back a relative of somebody who actually worked the furnace back in the 1800's made this model and it shows the layout of the site in detail.

All that remains now is the actual furnace structure as well as several stone walls that supported the roadways and other foundations. Above is a photo that includes Red lines that I drew in to show the span between the top of the furnace to the Wall\roadway nearby. The Iron ore would be dumped into the top of the furnace along with the charcoal and limestone. Along the nearby water stream would be a large water wheel that powered a large air-bellow that fed forced air into the furnace to get the heat needed to melt down the ore. This Iron would run out the bottom of the furnace into troughs and into individual bars called "Pig Iron". 

This photo of the model shows in detail what the ramp would have looked like and puts the whole project in perspective. There are many foundations and stone walls in the area and a return trip is planned for some looking around time.....

*There is a local legend that the handprint that can be seen in one of the iron support arches above one of the furnace openings (you must look up while standing under it) is Noah Foltz's handprint; he having been forced to put his hand, along with a rat's tail to show his betrayal to the Confederacy, before the iron cooled.


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