Ohio Hanging Rock’s Cultural History

 

Not Always Wilderness

Up until the Civil War, the Hanging Rock region of Ohio was the nation’s leading producer of iron. It took an average of 400 acres of forest each year to produce the necessary charcoal to keep just one furnace operating. When, in 1828, a smelting and iron furnace was built in the nearby village of Scioto Furnace, the 600 acre property would have been completely cleared of its timber, probably more than once.

Over sixty furnaces were built in the Ohio Hanging Rock region, and, not surprisingly before the end of the century, both forest and iron ore resources were depleted. At that time, the iron industry transitioned from charcoal fuel to coal and moved to other locales. The great stone furnaces of the region flickered out, giving the forests a chance to partially recover.

From Iron to Clay

Associated with iron ore are often clay deposits, and the Ohio Hanging Rock region had both. The last quarter of the 19th century, into the early 1900’s, was the peak of clay-derived manufacturing in the Hanging Rock region – producing fire-bricks, tile, pavers, and pottery. The 600-acre Ohio Hanging Rock Preserve had at least two underground clay mines we know of, maybe more. Most of America’s major urban streets became paved between 1870 and 1900, and the Hanging Rock Iron region was a leading manufacturer of those bricks, leaning on the region’s rich clay deposits.

The Ohio Hanging Rock region of Ohio was the nation's leading producer of iron up until the Civil War.
New Cumberland, West Virginia clay mine, circa. 1907
The last quarter of the 19th Century, into the early 1900s was the peak of clay-derived maufacturing in the Hanging Rock Region. This photo illustrates what work was like underground in a clay mine.
Craig Deatley has been a relentless advocate and volunteer for this project. He is shown by a fern-covered boulder at the proposed acquisition site.