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Red River Iron Industry

Thursday: October 19, 2017

So you may recall that I had hinted on working with Matt on a project involving historic iron furnaces. He and I talked about the possibility of me applying for grants that could pay me to do work with the Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF) so that I could be paid more than what the volunteer program allows. Wayna, the forest archaeologist, was also part of this discussion and suggested we attempt something for the furnaces. We have a larger project in mind, but it starts with applying for the Local History Trust Fund through the Kentucky Historical Society.

Briefly, early entrepreneurs ventured into the Red River region of Kentucky before it was even a state. Some of these business ran into quite unhappy locals, and all of them were working in conditions without modern (at the time) amenities. Their purpose was to collect iron ore, melt it down in massive stone furnaces, cool it off into blocks of iron, send these away to forges to be transformed into products, and distribute the items widely.

Wayna took Rachel and I to see a few, and Matt showed me a couple more when I was back down for LAW. Their presence on the landscape is unmistakable. Not only does their size tower over you, but they are built intentionally into hillsides, not far from water sources. It is quite easy to imagine the larger complex of buildings. And I did find it fascinating that whole towns would spring up, called iron plantations, to support the venture – from barbershops for the employees to schools for their children.

The intention of this first smaller project is to send me on a journey, collecting information that is housed in places outside of the DBNF libraries such as at the Red River Museum in Clay City. After reading through all that’s available, I’d develop a driving tour pamphlet to help get the sites more widely recognized by the public. Once this first step is achieved, I can then work on the next step of the larger project.

The application was submitted Friday, so wish us luck!

I also found a few more photos that reminded me of some interesting tidbits. Like that time I got stung twice by a yellow jacket. Fun! Or having to watch out for copperheads every time we went over to take showers at Koomer Ridge Campground. Or when, in one of our STPs, my shovel did not damage this fine projectile point! I got skillz.

Matt took me on a small trip that included an old fire tower! (Did I mention on this blog that FireWatch is one of my favorite games? And that loving fire towers must run in my blood as I recently discovered my great-grampa was a watchmen once upon a time!) Some idiots lit a campfire inside it – on a wooden floor – so you can imagine the reason why only the metal frame stands today. But the view was serene!

And on the way back home, I decided to stop by where I grew up and walk across the Ohio River on this bridge. It was hot, but I needed a small break from driving so I thought I’d check out how the Louisville Waterfront Park was coming along. Plus, I had been listening to GRRM’s Fevre Dream during the long drives, and wouldn’t you know it? New Albany made an appearance, so it was kind of fun just to sit and think about how this area was such a big center for the early steamboat industry. I knew that, of course, from my Floyd County Archaeological Survey research – but having a great literary master mention my “hometown” was kinda killer, I gotta say!

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One remark!

  1. […] draft version for the historic iron furnace tour guide as part of the Daniel Boone National Forest project I mentioned earlier. Shutdown notwithstanding, I think it will be publicly available sometime […]

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