On-line Book




Chapter 1

Chapter 2
Urban Development

Chapter 3
Maritime Activity

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Appendix 1
Patterned Brick Houses

Appendix 2
Stack Houses

Appendix 3
Existing Documentation


Historic Themes and Resources within the
New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route
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INDUSTRY (continued)

Bog Iron/Iron Foundries

The predecessor to post-industrial revolution-era iron making is found locally in the bog iron industry that was significant in Ocean, Burlington, Camden, Atlantic, and Gloucester counties. Several ironworks were historically located in Cumberland and Salem counties, as well. As early as 1719, Britain feared the potential competition that would rise from a viable iron industry in the New World. Laws were subsequently passed that prohibited the establishment of foundries or the manufacture of such iron wares as sows, pigs, or cast-iron, which could be converted into bars or rod irons and then into objects. The laws were later repealed, but future efforts to regulate the industry came in the form of taxes on the ore produced. In 1750, the duty on American iron was repealed, but owners of slitting or rolling mills, plating forges, and steel furnaces built before that year had to submit an inventory of its buildings and equipment to the county sheriff and the secretary's office in Burlington. [34]

Associated with iron manufacture was charcoal burning. Charcoal created the intense heat that iron forges and glass furnaces required. Thus, iron foundries were best located along forests for a consistent supply of wood, and close to the bogs or swamps that might contain ore. One furnace required approximately four square miles of woodland to fuel the ironworks during its lifetime—and all early ironworks were situated along rivers or creeks in unsettled and heavily wooded territory. [35]

Bog, or meadow, ore is found throughout New Jersey and is most prominent in the southern counties. Charles Boyer, in New Jersey Forges and Furnaces best describes the process by which decaying vegetation and soluble iron salts interact:

Bog ore is a variety of limonite ore and is present in low lands and meadows where there are beds of marl and strata of a distinctly ferruginous nature. The waters, highly tinged with vegetable matter, percolating through these deposits take into solution a considerable quantity of iron in the form of oxide. As these waters emerge from the ground and become exposed to the air, the iron solution decomposes and deposits a reddish muddy "sludge" along the banks, in the coves of the water courses, or in the beds of the swamps or wet meadows. . . . The deposit in time soon becomes of sufficient thickness to be classed as a bog-ore bed. [36]

As long as sufficient vegetation exists to act with the soluble iron salts, bog iron beds will continue to replenish themselves, a process that takes about twenty years from the time ore is removed until the new bed is thick enough for ore to be mined. [37]

Because many early ironworks were remotely situated, each sustained its own community or village, the most important feature of which was the furnace stack. This was a four-sided stone or brick block, "20' or more in height and 20-24' square at the base, tapering toward the top to about 16-20'." The high-roofed casting, or molding, house was in front of the furnace. Also nearby were the charcoal sheds, or coal houses, and the carpenter shop where molds and patterns for plowshares, pots, pans, stoves, fire backs, and water pipes were made. The workers' housing was a short distance from the furnace, near the iron master's house. Most communities had a school, church, and company store. Outside the community was often found the local tavern. [38]

The R.D. Wood and Company foundry, established in 1814, began as a complex like this on Columbia Avenue in Millville. Originally founded by David Wood and Edward Smith, it was first called Smith and Wood. Under the leadership of Wood, the foundry produced cast stove plates. In 1840 when Richard Wood purchased the company, he constructed two larger foundries that were capable of smelting 40 tons of iron per day. As R.D. Wood and Company, the foundry discontinued the practice of manufacturing iron itself, in favor of the specific task of casting gas and water pipes. The foundry, along with the Millville Manufacturing Company—also owned by Wood, across from the Wood Mansion and the company store—obtained its power from the Union Lake Dam. By the end of the nineteenth century, R.D. Wood and Company employed 125 people and earned approximately $350,000 annually. [39]

A year after the establishment of the Smith and Wood Foundry in Millville, Benjamin and David Reeves started the Cumberland Nail and Iron Company in Bridgeton. Located on the west side of the Cohansey River, this ironworks obtained its power from the nearby Tumbling Dam. Here the Reeves brothers manufactured nails. In 1824 part of the works was burned but the brothers rebuilt on a larger scale; by 1847 business had prospered to allow the company to build a rolling mill on the opposite side of the river. This mill operated a steam engine, which in turn heated the iron. Six years later the company moved to a site just north of the rolling mill where a large pipe mill had been erected. At this new site the company made wrought-iron, gas and water pipes, and nails. In 1856, after the death of Benjamin Reeves and the incorporation of Robert S. Buck into the company, the foundry became the Cumberland Nail and Iron Company. At the end of the nineteenth century, the company employed 400 men and produced 40,000 kegs of nails and 4 million feet of pipes yearly. [40]

Foundries in the NJCHT area, particularly Cumberland County, were numerous in the eighteenth century in remote areas. The earliest-known foundry was on Cedar Creek outside Cedarville. Local historians believe it existed before 1753, when an sale notice appeared in the newspaper:

The Iron-Works at Cohansie, in Cumberland County, with 1,000 acres of land, well timber'd; the forge house is 40' long and 30' wide with one fireplace already built, and a good head of water. Any person inclining to purchase the same, may apply to Samuel Barnes, living on the premises. [41]

In addition to being located on Cedar Creek, which was dammed to create several ponds for power, the foundry was located near a forest and a swamp. By 1789 it no longer existed and the ponds were used to run Ogden's Mill. Again, local historians believe the foundry folded due to the depletion of bog iron. [42]

Eli Budd built Budd's Iron Works in 1785 on the Manumuskin Creek. In 1810 his son, Wesley, and some Philadelphia associates erected a blast furnace where the old Cape May Road crossed the Manumuskin; together they became the Cumberland Furnace when Benjamin Jones purchased the site in 1812. After several changes in ownership, the furnace was sold to R.D. Wood in the middle of the nineteenth century. [43]

The ore used by Budd's Iron Works/Cumberland Furnace came from Downe Township until that supply was consumed. Then ore was brought in from Delaware and Burlington counties via ships that went up the Menantico Creek to Schooner Landing; from there the ore was taken to the furnaces by cart. According to an 1831 survey, two furnaces were associated with this property: One across from a dam located where the Big Canute branch joined the Manumuskin Creek, and the other a mile north of here. Stove plates may have been produced at Cumberland Furnace around 1812. [44]

The Ferracute Machine-Works, Cox and Sons' Machine-Works, and Laning's Iron Foundry in Bridgeton, as well as Hall's Foundry in Salem, all followed Wood's example and turned to only making and casting molds. The Ferracute Machine-Works was founded in 1863 by Oberlin Smith, an inventor who experimented with new metal presses and molds. Ferracute made foot and power presses, dies, and tools for cutting, embossing and drawing; as well as sheet-metal goods such as tinware, lanterns, lamps, and fruit cans. The bulk of its early business not surprisingly came from fruit-can presses, since the area was dominated by canneries that made their own cans. At that time the company employed approximately sixty men. By the twentieth century, Ferracute had turned to making presses and molds to meet the needs of heavier industries, including automobile and airplane parts. [45] In 1909 it employed 125 people. [46]

The 1904 Ferracute complex is extant and vacant today, adjacent to East Lake and the railroad tracks, though all or most of the machinery has been removed and all structures are in good-to-poor condition (Figs. 69-70). Smaller gabled brick buildings are adjacent. At the fore of the industrial site atop a slight hill is the elegant-but-deteriorating headquarters building. The eclectic composition combines Victorian elements of the Stick Style, Queen Anne and Tudor Revival in its irregular plan. The decorative brick structure includes a round tower with conical roof and flared eaves; various gable-roofed dormers and porches, decorative chimneys, gable trusses and Craftsman-like supports contribute to a romantic flavor that is a sharp contrast to the utilitarian industrial buildings behind it.

building interior
Figure 69. Inventor Oberlin Smith started the Ferracute Machine-Works in 1863. In 1904 Ferracute moved to its present site after a fire destroyed the first complex of buildings.

Figure 70. This largest of the Ferracute buildings is structurally sound, but the presses and other equipment have been removed.

Laning's Iron Foundry (Fig. 71), established in 1869 under the control of David W. Laning, manufactured blacksmith's drills, iron verandas and fences, vessel wind lasses, plow-castings, and other castings (Fig. 72). This brick factory, adjoining the West Jersey Railroad Depot, employed twenty men at the end of the nineteenth century. Cox and Son's Machine-Works, also established in the 1860s, made steam-heating apparatus, steam engines and boilers, pipe-screwing and lapping machinery, stocks, dies, and cast and wrought-iron fillings. Originally located on the corner of Broad and Water streets, the factory moved to a new site on Water Street with a frontage of 250' on the Cohansey River. Proximity to the water allowed them to utilize steam power. [47] The foundry continued its operations well into the twentieth century employing approximately 160 men. [48]

iron foundry
Figure 71. David W. Laning started this iron foundry in Bridgeton in 1869, and he operated it until his death in 1883. Atlas, 1876.

Figure 72. Intricate cast-iron architectural elements—porches, fencing railings—were produced at South Jersey foundries.

In 1848 Bennett and Acton established a foundry on the corner of Fourth and Griffith streets. Much of the business consisted of making agricultural machinery. In 1862, the business passed to Acton after Bennett's death. Sixteen years later he sold the firm to Henry D. Hall who turned it into Hall's Foundry, which produced plumbers' castings, and drain and smoke pipes. [49]

Today little evidence remains of the iron industry in Salem and Cumberland counties, but for the exquisite ironwork found in the fences, cresting, and other architectural features that highlight church yards and older residential areas—Salem, in particular. The key to the success of many of these nineteenth-century foundries was their ability to take advantage of the economic possibilities made available by South Jersey's unique geographic location and combination of natural resources. Eventually, depleted woodlands and changing technologies contributed to their decline.

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Last Modified: Mon, Mar 14 2005 10:00:00 pm PDT

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