Sunday, September 26, 2010

Iron refining begins on the Blackberry River in East Canaan, Connecticut

Although the Forbes family was the moving force in creating an iron industry along the Blackberry River in East Canaan and Norfolk they weren’t the ones who began refining iron along the Blackberry River. The credit for that was Richard Seymour who built a bloomery on the south bank of the Blackberry in East Canaan during 1736. Seymour’s operation attracted the attention of John Forbes, a blacksmith, who came from Simsbury, Connecticut to work at Seymour’s Forge. In turn he attracted his son Samuel Forbes who moved from Simsbury to first live in Sheffield, Massachusetts to join his father at Seymour’s forge in 1743. Samuel Forbes later became famous as an early industrialist, and was the iron master that cast the cannon during the Revolution for George Washington.

Although they were making iron from iron ore in East Canaan over two and a half centuries ago Mother Nature beat them to the punch by several hundred million years by producing native iron in the area. This is one of the few places where native iron exists on the face of the earth. The only other locality in the western hemisphere where it is found is in Greenland.

The Forbes family originally came from Taunton, Massachusetts an early iron center in the eastern part of the state where iron had been produced from bog iron in the early part of the 1600s. John Forbes had worked there in his youth and following the dictum, Go West young man, he did eventually finding himself in East Canaan. In 1746 he built his own forge alongside the Blackberry and by 1751 had bought half interest in Seymour’s forge.

By 1759, his son Samuel built his own forge on the Blackberry the second one that was located in East Canaan. By 1760 Samuel and his brother Elisha owned a one-eighth interest in the Iron Mine at Ore Hill in Salisbury, Connecticut. That marked the beginning of Salisbury Iron gaining a worldwide reputation.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Timeline for the Production of Iron in the Salisbury Area

This is a timeline produced by the University of Connecticut in conjunction with the “Iron Works” project.

1728 Surveyors from the Hartford Colony note evidence of iron in Salisbury and Sharon.
1731 Discovery of a large deposit of iron ore at Old Hill (later Ore Hill) in Salisbury by John Pell and Ezekiel Ashley.
1735 Thomas Lamb begins smelting iron at his forge in Lime Rock.
1740 Joseph Skinner begins operation of a forge alondg the stream running south from Mudge Pond in Sharon.
1744 Ebenezzer Barnum maks the first iron in Kent at a forge on the stream flowing south from North Spectacle Lake.
1770 Wilson's Forge begins operation in the Macedonia section of Kent.
1779 Hunt's Forge in Canaan begins operation.
1780 Sedgewick's Forge in Cornwall Hollow begins operation.
1810 The Mt. Riga Furnace begins iron production at the outlet of South Pond, under the leadrship of ironmaster Joseph Pettee.
1812 Production begins at Leman Bradley's furnace on the west bank of the Housatonic River below Great Falls (then Canaan Falls).
1825 The Sharon Valley Furnace is put into blast by Leman Bradley on the est bank of Webutuck Creek.
1826 The Kent Furnace is put into blast on the east bank of Webutuk Creek.
1830 John Milton Holley and John Churchill Coffing construct a blast furnace on the Salmon Kill in Lime Rock near the site of Lamb's Forge.
1832 - The Ames Iron Worksbegins production upstream of Canaan Falls.
- The Cornwall Iron Company begins production at blast furnace on Mill Brook, east of West Cornwall village.
1833 The Cornwall Bridge Iron Company furnace begins production on Furnace Brook.
1839 The first hot blast system in the Salisbury District is installed in the Lenox, MA Furnace.
1844 Dogtown Furnace in Huntsville, Falls Village, is put into blast by the Lyman Hunt Iron Company.
1845 Weed's Furnace is put into blast in Sharon.
1847 - Lee Canfield and Samuel Robbins purchase the Holley/Coffing furnace in Lime Rock (Lime Rock #1) from heirs of John Milton Holley.
- Scoville and Church's Furnace (later the Buena Vista Furnace) is put into blast on the Hollenbeck River in the Lower City section of Falls Village.
1856 - Canfield and Robbins' furnace (Lime Rock #1) in the Upper Hollow section of Lime Rock, goes out of blast.
- Mt. Riga Furnace closes.
1863 Sharon Valley Furnace (then the Landon Furnace) is rebuilt.
1892 Kent Furnace closes after 67 years of production.
1897 Cornwall Bridge Furnace closes after 64 years of production.
1923 - East Canaan Furnace #3 closes after 51 year.
- The Richmond Furnace closes after 94 years in blast.
Forbes & Adams
1739 Richard Seymour constructs bloomery forge on South bank of Blackberry River in East Canaan. John Forbes, a blacksmith, comes from Simsbury and works with Semour at the forge.
1943 Samuel Forbes of Simsbury, son of John Forbes, moves to Sheffield, MA and works at the Seymour Forge in East Canaan.
1746 John Forbes constructs a blacksmith shop on the Blackberry River.
1751 John Forbes purchases a one-half interest in the East Canaan forge.
1759 Samuel Forbes builds a second bloomery forge on the Blackberry River.
1760 Samuel Forbes and brother Elisha hold a one-eighth interest in the Ore Hill mine. At this time, the Forbeses own two East Canaan forges and a foundry.
1761 Samuel and Elisha Forbes acquire the rights to the Chatfield ore bed in Salisbury.
1762 Samuel and Elisha Forbes, Col.John Hazeltine,and Ethan Allen begin operation of northwestern Connecticut's first blast furnace near the exit of Lake Wonoscopomuc in the Lakeville section of Salisbury. Samuel Forbes is the first ironmaster.
1777 Samuel Forbes experiments with rolling and slitting at East Canaan. Forbes shortly returns to the Salisbury Furnace as ironmaster to produce cannon for the American REvolution.
1780 John Adam, Jr. moves to Canaan. John marries Abigail Forbes, the only child of Samuel and Lucy Pierce Forbes. Soon after, the partnership of Forbes and Adams is formd.
1785 Forbes and Adam begin the operation of a rolling ans slitting ill.
1794 Forbes and Adam introduce a finery process and make gun iron for the Springfield Armory.
1827 Samuel Forbes dies at age 98.
1832 Samuel Forbes Adam, grandson of Samuel Forbes, builds the first blast furnace in East Canaan (Forbes Furnace/East Canaan #1).
1847 John Adam Beckley, great-grandson of Samuel Forbes, builds the second furnace (Beckley Furnace; Furnace #2) in East Canaan.
1858 Beckley Furnace is sold to Barnum & Richardson.
1883 East Canaan Furnace #1 closes.
Barnum & Richardson
1820 Milo Barnum moves to Lime Rock and opens a store. Within a few years he is in the iron business with his son-in-law, Leonard Richardson.
1840 Milo Barnum's son, William Henry Barnum, joins the partnership of Barnum and Richardson.
1858 Beckley Furnace is acquired.
1865 The Lime Rock Furnace (Lime Rock #2) is put into blast in lower Furnace Hollow by the Lime Rock Iron Company. Later furnace is purchased by the Barnum & Richardson Company.
1872 East Canaan Furnace #3 ("Furnace in a Field") is built by the Barnum & Richardson Company.
1880 Beckley Furnace is updated.
1896 Fire almost completely destroys the structures of the Beckley Furnace. The furnace is rebuilt with the stack height increased to forty feet.
1898 Company operates only three of their eight blast furnaces.
1916 Lime Rock Furnace is closed.
1918 Construction of a new furnace (Furnace #4) begins but is abandoned the following year.
1918-1919 Beckley Furnace closes after 72 years of operation.
1925 Company goes into receivership.
Source: adapted from Kirby, E. (1998). Echoes of Iron. Sharon, CT: Sharon Historical Society.

Research funded in part by the Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, the Connecticut Humanities Council , Locally Grown History and the University of Connecticut. Supporters of Locally Grown History.