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FIRST - Iron Furnace West of the Allegheny Mountains - Weirton, West Virginia
Posted by: Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
N 40° 26.241 W 080° 34.369
17T E 536230 N 4476388
Quick Description: Historic former iron furnace near Weirton, West Virginia.
Location: West Virginia, United States
Date Posted: 2/19/2014 6:42:00 PM
Waymark Code: WMK6C1
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member lumbricus
Views: 0

Long Description:

The Peter Tarr Furnace on Kings Creek near the present Weirton, West Virginia, was first built and operated during the decade of the 1790s by an obscure man named Grant. Improved by Tarr's company, the structure--with its unusual frustum-shaped stack--was quite possibly the first iron furnace in operation west of the Alleghenies and helped influence settlement and commercial patterns. During its thirty or so years of service, the furnace was the focal point of the making and sale of skillets, kettles, grates and other household utensils. In time of need, the operation also produced cannon balls of small diameter, some of which were said to have been used by Commodore Perry's fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.

As settlers pushed over the mountains in ever increasing numbers after the Revolutionary War, a need arose for some fundamental industries to supply what otherwise had to be transported from the east or roughly manufactured at home. Iron products of all types were in greater demand than the supply could fulfill. Not too far from the Ohio River near what is now Weirton, West Virginia, an attempt was made to help alleviate the shortage. A man named Grant made an agreement to build an iron furnace sometime between 1790 and 1794, and the land on which it was constructed was deeded by James Campbell and his wife to Peter Tarr and James Rankin in 1801. Indications are that Grant's furnace was the first built west of the Allegheny mountains; Tarr and company made it a going and growing concern.

Using timber from the surrounding hills, the small group of workers could produce no more than about 2 tons of iron per day. Much of the metal was formed into household'utensils and sold on the premises or sent to Wellsburg or Pittsburgh. Such production helped spur commerce and settlement in the area, and it is only fitting that it is today still a center of the iron and steel industry.

The Tarr furnace has an unusual design. Although the area in which fire and ore mixed to form the molten material from which articles were made was similar to others, its oval salamander is interesting. Of greater interest is the fact that the chimney, or stack, is circular in dimension. Most other furnaces of the period and area had square or rectangular chimneys.

Before ending its production of iron materials sometime after 1815, the furnace helped the infant United States' war effort during the War of 1812 by producing small-diameter cannon balls for use by the navy. It is believed that some of these were delivered to Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's fleet at Lake Erie and were used during his famous battle on that inland body of water.

The uniquely constructed Peter Tarr Furnace, then, played an important role in early industrial and commercial development of the upper Ohio valley region and helped spur settlement west of the Allegheny mountains. In its own small way, it I also contributed to the continuing defense of American independence. Continued archeological work at the furnace site is possible, for the original foundation and salamander are basically intact below ground level. In addition, much of the stone used in the 1968 reconstruction of the furnace was from the site.

-National Register Nomination

The furnace is now preserved and is in a good reconstructed state.  A two markers have been added to site at different times over the years.

Type of documentation of superlative status: National Register nomination

Location of coordinates: At base of furnace

Web Site: [Web Link]

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