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Cultivating the art, heritage, and recreation of the river towns of Columbia, Marietta, Wrightsville and surrounding areas

Musselman-Vesta Iron Furnace Center

26 Furnace Road

Marietta, PA 

Open Seasonally on Sundays 1 PM - 3 PM

Rivertownes Meetings: First Wednesday, 6:30 PM

Henry Clay Furnace

This furnace was built in 1845 by Peter Haldeman of Columbia, a brother of Henry, of Bainbridge. Financial difficulties forced Peter Haldeman to sell Henry Clay Furnace at sheriff sale in 1856 to Eagle who sold it within a week to several businessmen from Lancaster. It was located south of Chickies Creek and about 1 mile north of Columbia along the canal. The furnace, originally 35' high with a 9' bosh, went into blast in 1846. In 1875, it was purchased by Clement Brooke Grubb, great grandson of Peter Grubb. The Grubb family was prominent in the history of iron making in Pennsylvania. Grubb also owned the St. Charles furnace to the south, and he re-named the Henry Clay furnace St. Charles No.2. Under his ownership the furnace was successively remodeled. The stack was raised to 57' and the bosh widened to 12'. Grubb's furnaces produced grades 1 and 2 pig-iron, well known as exceptional for boiler plate, bars, nails, and foundry work. The furnace operated until 1889.

The furnace stack, casting house, engine house and other ancillary buildings were situated on the north side of Jones Creek; workers housing, stock house and ore roasters were on the south side. An inclined mechanical hoist connected the furnace buildings across the creek. Of the buildings shown on the 1886 Sanborn map north of the creek, archeological structural remains of the engine house, the lining of the stack, a pump house foundation, some retaining walls and one section of the north wall of the casting house are visible above ground. On the south side of the creek, stone foundations of the workers' tenement building, the office and retaining walls along the base of the steep hill which forms the eastern boundary of the site are visible. Foundations of the dwelling between the office and the tenements have been located archeologically. Many of the remains are buried under more than four feet of flood deposits and fill associated with construction of the adjacent railroad beds. Archaeological excavations for the Henry Clay Furnace were conducted by Millersville University during five summer field school during the period from 1988-1994 by Millersville University. These excavations lead by Dr. June Evans, documented buried structural remains and recovered numerous artifacts associated with the furnace period. Artifact analysis and historical research at this site are ongoing and have so far yielded much information about the lifeways and social context in an anthracite iron furnace community (Evans 1990; Millersville University records).