Rock Furnace

Between the mouth of Roaring Run where it empties into the Kiskiminetas River and its junction with the Rattling Run lies the remains of an iron furnace. Part of the stone walls are still clearly visible. It has been a point of interest to countless hunters, hikers, and nature lovers who visit the area.

This landmark has remained relatively undisturbed. Mother Nature may have been the greatest factor in its preservation. People have hesitated to climb about it for fear of snakes. For over a century it has been called Rock Furnace, taking its name from the giant rock overhanging the road across from it.

Rock Furnace was one of the first iron furnaces in western PA, established in 1825 by James W. Biddle on a tract of land owned by Christopher Hayes and John Henderson. In his advertisement dated October 5, 1825, James Biddle announced the furnace would be in blast on Christmas Day.

Described as a “tea-kettle” stone structure, it was a steam cold blast furnace, 8 feet across at the bosh and 30 feet high. The fuel was charcoal, readily available from the dense forest surrounding it. Limestone and iron ore were mined from the adjacent hills on either side of Roaring Run.

In Dr. T.J. Henry’s “History of Apollo” dated 1916, he stated that 50 to 75 wood choppers and laborers were employed at the furnace. They lived in a small village at the site. The furnace had a capacity of 20 tons of pig iron per week. It was not financially successful probably due to its crude methods and bad roads to the river landing.

Some think the iron may have been transported on the Pennsylvania Canal. Ruins of the canal locks are visible near the mouth of Roaring Run. The canal was completed in 1828, three years after the furnace was in operation. However, work had been done on the river to eliminate falls and rapids close to the mouth of Roaring Run. It is probable that the river was navigated by barges prior to the completion of the canal.

The furnace was in operation 30 years. Last owned by Sharp, Woodward, and Bro., it went out of blast in 1855 and was sold at Sheriff’s sale. It was the first and last furnace for the manufacture of pig iron in Kiski Township.

The image at the top of the page is a model of the Rock Furnace made by Gerald Burkett. It is on display at our museum and is on loan from the Alle-Kiski Historical Society.

 

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