Vignettes of Southern Ohio
1825 and Later

Table of Contents

The Bewitched Mule

The following record has nothing to do with the furnaces except that it shows the way of thinking of some of the people in the early 1800's. This is a true story as recorded in the Lawrence County Court Records of 1825.

A man who I will call Bill sold a mule to a man I will call Joe for a certain amount of money. When Joe got the mule home and tried to work it, he discovered that the mule couldn't work because it was sick. He let Bill know that he had sold him a sick mule. Bill insisted that there was nothing wrong with the mule except that it had a witch in it. The two argued over this until Joe took Bill to court.

On the witness stand, Bill testified that the witch had been in a person and then in his cow which he burned alive to get the witch out of it. He even went into great detail about how he had burned the cow. Now it, of course, was in the mule. I did not follow the case to see the outcome for it shows that some of the people of the time still believed in witches.

Everett's Log Cabin

Everett Rose, who was 96 at the time I first interviewed him, lived in Pine Grove, Lawrence County, Ohio in a cabin built for the furnace workers in 1828. Everett stated that there was a huge bathtub taken from the Iron Master's home when it was torn down. The tub was nine feet long and four feet wide. It was made of wood and copper.

Everett's land included the trestle that went across the road and Sperry's Fork. It had carried the trains that hauled the cast items and pig iron from the furnace to New Castle where it was off loaded and reloaded on cars going to Union Landing. Everett had the trestle torn down as the furnace had closed long before. He said that the trestle fill was mostly of the slag from the furnace which he sold to the county for roads.

The Railroad tracks for the train cars to run on were made of wood with Iron straps nailed to the top of the wood. Later the tracks were made of iron.

The Railroad from the furnace went through a tunnel on its way to New Castle, Ohio. Because of this, mules had to be used to haul the cars as oxen would not go underground. After the mules had worked pulling the cars all day, their underbellies had to be washed to remove the sulphur and coal dust to retard chafing. Two of the pots used for this washing are still in Pine Grove. They were cast at the Pine Grove Furnace.

The old roadbed that this Railroad traveled is still mostly present. The tunnel it went through has been sealed shut for safety's sake.

The log cabins in Pine Grove, at least, were very sturdy. Everett, who died in 1999 at the age of 100, bought a two story log cabin in Pine Grove in the ‘20's. He said that one log at the front of the cabin next to the ground began to deteriorate and he discovered it when he was going to enlarge and cement in his front porch. To replace it, He dug around both ends of the log and then put a chain around one end of the log. He fastened the replacement log to the other end of the rotted log and as he pulled the rotted log out, the replacement log was pulled into its place. The rest of the log cabin is sound and he had siding put on it.

Everett told that the way to the loft of a one story cabin or to the second story of a two story cabin was by way of a ladder fastened to the back wall of the cabin.

All the cabins that were built for the workers had a dirt floor. Some people who lived in them put in a wooden floor when they could afford it.

Shooting the Burglar

In later years, the store in Pine Grove, Lawrence County, Ohio was owned and operated by a Mr. McClelland. He and his family lived on the second floor of the store. He had two sons who would slip out of the store at night and smoke. One evening Mr. McClelland was working late and heard a noise like someone breaking into the store. He called out requesting identification. He did not know that it was his sons returning from their smoking. Hearing no response, he took his gun and shot through the door and killed one of his own sons! A tragedy for certain!


A candle maker would come through ever so often and make candles for the people. He furnished the molds and they furnished the tallow.

An itinerant cobbler came through and made shoes for the people. He made the shoes and the people furnished the leather.

Doctors of the time were poorly trained, but they generally charged according to the following scale:

These fees were usually paid in the form of produce from the garden or the farm. Any surgery that needed to be done was done on the kitchen table with kitchen knives.

In the years 1826 and 1827, wages were low.

Furnace Life

Each furnace area was a small city unto itself. There was the furnace which was the source of income, even though workers were paid by script. Script was a note saying how much money was accumulated on the records of the store for an individual. There were cabins for the workers to live in and a space for a garden. The garden had to be fenced in with a five foot high wooden fence. Ohio had a free range law at that time which allowed milk cows and hogs to roam free. They could really work havoc on a garden that wasn't fenced in!

There was the company store where workers could buy their needs - if they had enough script accumulated. They could go there in their off hours and discuss the condition of the country and politics. All this was done over a checker board usually and the checkerboard showed the marks of emphasis. One fellow was the checker champion for his furnace and one day one of his friends brought a champion checker player in without telling anyone and you never saw such a ruckus raised over that!!

There was a church for the use of the people in the area and a cemetery in its dooryard for those in the community whether they worked at the furnace or not.

There was also a schoolhouse that was used for school and other meetings that might be held. Sometimes square dances were held. Usually there was an end of the harvest dance.

There was an explosion in either Lawrence Furnace or Etna Furnace that killed two men and put out one eye of another man. Mrs. Vencil who told this to me was old and unsure of which furnace as her father who lost one eye worked in both of them.

Mrs. Curt Dalton from Lawrence Furnace tells me that when she was a child her mother would send her with her father's lunch to his office at the furnace . There were steps up to the door of his office and she would trip and fall on those steps.

During the Civil War, a sixteen year old girl drove wagons loaded with charcoal and pulled by oxen to the furnaces in and around Jackson, Ohio.

Mr. John Dempsey was the Iron Master at Vesuvius Furnace and was working on a scaffolding by the furnace. The scaffold broke and he fell to his death.

The life of a furnace man was sometimes short. One time at Jefferson Furnace in Jackson County a man was burned to death. Sometimes the molten iron coming from the furnace as it is being poured will boil and as the bubble bursts it will shoot hot iron up ten feet in the air. It is very dangerous working around the pour when that happens. This happened one day and the iron hit a man and burned him. He ran and before the man working with him could catch him, he had run about 1/4 of a mile and was practically burned up. He died right away.
Another time a young man, James Venters was cleaning the furnace boilers at Belfount Furnace. He was scalded so badly that he died the next day.

This information from the Sally Andrews Neely Collection.

Carl Malone's grandfather, Dan Malone was a wood chopper working on his own. I was told that he could cut and "rick" (stack) five chords of wood a day. When he took the charcoal to Vesuvius, Vernon or Etna furnaces, they wanted to pay him in script in their store. He refused to sell the charcoal to them under those terms and took the case to court and won. From then on the furnaces had to pay him in official U.S. legal tender. The reason for his objection was that he did not live on the grounds of any furnace and therefore would have little or no use for script.

John Campbell and the Underground Railroad

John Campbell, founder of Ironton, Lawrence County, Ohio, was to deliver a speech to a group gathered for some occasion. They all ate a hardy meal and then John was to speak. He hadn't paid close enough attention to his tucking his napkin in his belt, so when he rose to speak, the table cloth, dishes and all began to move. John was understandably embarrassed.

John Campbell ran slaves on the Underground Railroad. He would take them from his house to one of his furnaces further inland and then transport them on to the next station of the underground.

According to a paper written by John Campbell and signed by his wife and he, Andrew Ellison, one of the pioneer furnace men, requested that at death his body be placed in an iron casket above ground with a wooden vault over the casket at Hanging Rock. His wishes were fulfilled. Because curious people were coming to see it from all over and desecrating the grave by removing small portions of the wooden vault, his descendants had the casket buried underground and the wooden vault destroyed.

After the Furnace

Some of the people in Pine Grove wanted the capstone for the Pine Grove Furnace of 1844 to be used as a marker at the junction of Route 650 and County Road 26. There was some disagreement over that and for some reason it wound up on private property at the Ironton Country Club.

A man who used to own the property at Vernon Furnace informed me that he had the stack at Vernon taken down. The sandstone blocks were used for various things that people took them for - fences, barn footers and other things.

Morgan's Raiders

During the Civil War, raiders would occasionally cross the Ohio River and rob store owners of things they needed. Morgan's Raiders were probably the most famous of all. They crossed the river in Indiana and made their way to Ohio with 4000 men and artillery pieces. They skirted Cincinnati burning bridges and looting as they went generally terrifying the public. Upon arriving in Adams county, they made an acquaintance of a well known "Copperhead" who told Morgan where all the good places to loot in the county were. When they were ready to move on, they took all the "Copperhead" had, including his clothes.

While Morgan was in Ohio, he was within a few miles of some of the iron furnaces, but he never destroyed one of them.

Morgan's Raiders went to Jackson because they did not want to come in contact with the Militia in Portsmouth. He sent a detachment of men to Hamden to tear up the railroad and bridges. While he was in Jackson he discovered that there were two papers in Jackson. One was a pro - union paper and the other was a pro - rebel paper. The raiders didn't like the pro - union paper so they went in and destroyed that office and all its printing plates. When the militia arrived in town and heard that story, they destroyed the offices of the other paper!

Morgan sent a small group of men to see if they could find a way across the Ohio River for their escape. Following Symmes Creek the group crossed Symmes Creek and came into Lawrence County and stopped at Null's place near Waterloo and had breakfast. They left there and went to Bradshaw's Mill (Arabia). They hung around for a while and then moved on to greasy ridge. As they were traveling along, a group of militia spotted them and began following them as they traveled. One of the militia group was the only doctor on Greasy Ridge. He would ride up close enough to the raiders where he could hear the plans they were making. He would then go back and tell the others in the group the plans that had been made. The doctor did this several times. The last time the rebels had a man follow him. When the doctor was on another trip to the rebels, the rebel who had followed him waited for him to pass and then came up to him and shot the good doctor.

The rebels went into a store on Greasy Ridge and either forced some men or they went willingly as "Butternuts" and showed the group the way to the Ohio River. The militia had caught up with them and forced them to surrender. Some of them swam the river with some of them drowning from the incident.

While all of this was going on, the main body of the rebels moved toward Gallipolis. The militia was too strong for the group and so they headed farther north into Meigs County and the river.

The militia caught up with them there and forced them toward the river. The gunboats on the river kept them from crossing the river. The militia then forced them into battle and the rebels were sent an offer of surrender. They accepted and Morgan was to be in the group, but he had abandoned his command. About six hundred of the rebels made a battle against the militia and ran through their lines with every man doing his own thing. These men were soon caught and taken to prison. A few of them along with Morgan went into Athens County seeking a way across the Ohio. They were finally caught and Morgan was sent to the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus.

Morgan was only in prison a short time as a "Copperhead" helped him escape. He went back to the south and was given another command in Tennessee. In this command he was killed.

Note: Copperheads were Northern Democrats: Butternuts were Southern sympathizers

Other Raiders

Another group of raiders came across the Ohio River and raided a store in Greasy Ridge. Some of them were killed and others captured while a few of them scurried back across the river. At the very time of their raid there was over two million dollars in the banks in Ironton!

Indian Weather Sayings

Some of the Indian beliefs concerning the weather are very interesting. Here are a few:

The Dog's Treasure

There was a man who came into Lawrence County, Ohio from someplace in the west. He came for the purpose of buying cattle and taking them west. He stayed in a certain house on Elkin's Creek. He did this year after year. Each year he would go back in the woods behind the house and work on the carving he had begun years before of a dog lying on a pedestal of a rock. Under this statue of a dog it was said that he kept his gold. The Irish lady winked her eye at me as she finished the story and told me that she had never wanted to go back there and move the statue to look under it!

Be the story true or not, there is a carving of the dog and the pedestal still there!

Copyright 2006 by Amos Hawkins