Taken from History of North Eastern Ohio, Vol. I, Book III, Chapter IV;
written by John Struthers Stewart; Historical Publishing Co., 1935
THE BEGINNINGS OF IRON MANUFACTURE
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The fact that the curving stream enclosed the little plain offered opportunity for an unusual type of air-blast apparatus. A dam was built at the upper end of the curve, less than a hundred feet from the present great dam. From this dam a race crossed the plain close to the edge f the hill. This race remains in good condition. At the end of the race the air-blast apparatus was constructed, the dam and the fall of the stream together making a difference in elevation of fully ten feet, possibly more. We quote the description of the apparatus from the statement of Mr. David Loveland in the Mahoning Valley Historical Collection (P. 513).
“The blast was produced by an apparatus of rather peculiar construction, and was similar in principle to that produced by the column of water of the early furnaces. It consisted of a square wooden box set in a cistern, with an opening at the top for the ingress of water, and one in the side to conduct the air or “blast” to the furnace. The surplus was escaped underneath. The water, flowing in through a pipe at the op of the box, was accompanied by air, which being compressed by the continual flow, was forced through the side opening and conducted from thence by a pipe to the furnace stack.”
This blast apparatus and the fact that the furnace was built into the hillside combined to cause a tendency to shill, which created a serious difficulty in operation It is likely that an alteration in the plan was made after the furnace had operated for a few years. Eaton sued James Douglas in 1808, claiming damages for the imperfect construction of a “furnace bellows.” This would seem to indicate that a water wheel and bellows was constructed to take the place of the original pit. Some features of the present remaining structure would seem to bear this out. Just below the above-mentioned recess in the side of the stack is the remnant of a rectangular structure of squared stone, which might well be the ruin of the original blast pit, while up the race some fifty feet is the opening of a passage or tunnel nearly two feet in diameter, leading in the direction of the furnace stack, which cannot be accounted for unless it was used as an air passage. As there is no vestige of pit near this opening, it seems likely that it was connected to a bellows the power for which was furnished by a water-wheel. As such a wheel and bellows would be made of perishable materials easily removed, wood and leather, their disappearance is a century and a quarter is not surprising. Adventurous boys have at times crept into the tunnel entrance, but no have ventured far, so that its course is matter of conjecture only.
The furnace had a capacity of some two to three tons of pig iron per day. (the daily output of a Twentieth Century blast furnace is from five to eight hundred tons.) The iron which was made was cast on the premises into pots, pans kettles, farm tools, stove pates and other implements for local needs. When the writer’s grandmother, Mary Walker, started to school at Poland Center in 1819 there stood in the middle of the floor of the log schoolhouse a “ten-plate stove, inscribed on each of the side-plates, ‘Dan Eaton, Hopewell Furnace.’” Of these various vessels and implements a search lasting for years has resulted in the discovery of none. Some ancient pots and kettles may exist bearing the Hopewell Furnace name, but none have as yet come into the open.
On March 2, 1806, Thurhand Kirtland wrote to Henry Champion as follows:
“I have been obliged to pay Dan Heaton the $400, for the bounty voted by the Company for the Furnace, as he made the sufficient quantity of wears to entitle him to the bounty; and what is more consequence to the public, he has made is of the first rate, but he has experienced a great many accidents and losses. He lately lost his hearth and his furnace stopt for three weeks, but he has put in a new one and it is going on with good success. We shall (have) another furnace on the Same Stream next season and expect a forge soon on the Mahoning. I think Heaton fully deserving his money and flatter myself, you will approve it, although I had no express orders to pay it, but his necessity induced me to do it.”
This is sufficient evidence that the Hopewell Furnace had been in full operation during 1805, and it is a practical certainty that the construction of it at east was begun in 1803.
The other furnace Judge Kirtland mentions was built in 1806 on the Struthers farm by Robert Montgomery and David Clendenin in partnership with the owner, John Struthers. This furnace was also built on the hillside, but seems to have been free from the bank on all sides. Little of it now remains except a pile of stones, although recent excavations in connection with the construction of a district sewer main in the bed of Yellow Creek have laid bare certain portions of the wall and the lining. This furnace had a blast operated “by water wheel, walking beams, and two wooden cylinders.” One of these cylinders of course, was at each end of the waling beam, so that one blew air into the furnace as the other refilled. This Struthers Furnace (not to be confused with the modern Anna Furnace built in Struthers in 1869) operated more efficiently than the Hopewell Furnace, on account of superior equipment and location.
James Heaton built a furnace in Mill Creek in 1806. A year or two later both James and Dan extended their operations to Mosquito Creek, near Niles, where at least two stone furnaces were built. Dan soon got into financial and legal troubles. He seems to have spent a large part of his later years in the Trumbull County court in some lawsuit or other. Robert Montgomery seems to have owned the Hopewell Furnace for a few years of the first decade of the century, but the abstract of title to the property in possession of the Ohio Water Service Company shows that it was deeded to Dan Eaton by Titus and Amarillis Street through their agent, Turhand Kirtland, May 9, 1812. The next entry in the abstract is the melancholy record of a sheriff’s deed to William Bell, the result of one or two of the long list of Dan Eaton’s lawsuits. This was nearly the end of his career, as he died sometime in the ‘40’s.
All these furnaces used the native ore, a low grade, conglomerate hematite. This ore was mined and refined in the valley until the opening of the Lake Superior mines in the ‘70‘s. The quality of ore was poor according to modern standards, and the output was so small as to seem negligible, but the fact remains that these small beginnings made the valley what may perhaps be called “iron minded,” and are the reason for the present great development of the industry. Dan Eaton is one of those individuals whose pioneering, though it might be called in a way a failure, laid the foundations for the other men’s success.