Rossville Community, Muirkirk District in Prince George's County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Iron Production: Maryland's Industrial Past - The Iron Making Process
Iron Production: Marylandís Industrial Past
Marylandís early economy and identity were based on slave-based agriculture. However, slaves were also employed in manufacturing iron, one of the first non-agricultural industries. Seeing how other colonies were successful in producing iron, the Maryland Legislature passed an “Act for the Encouragement of an Iron Manufacture within this Province” in 1719 to promote iron production both for local industry and for export to Great Britain.
One of the first producers of iron in colonial Maryland was Richard Snowden, who had emigrated from Wales in about 1658. In 1669 he and Thomas Linticum purchased “Iron Mine, a 500 acre plot of land located at the head of the South River,” in Anne Arundel County for 11,000 pounds of tobacco. After his death, his son Richard along with some partners formed the Patuxent Ironworks Company at New Birmingham Manor which began operation in the mid-1730s and was owned by Richard Snowden and his partners. Later, his son Richard (known as the “Ironmaster”) took over and built additional furnaces. Altogether, the Snowden family operated ironworks on their lands in Prince Georgeís and Anne Arundel Counties for two hundred years.
Enslaved workers were involved in almost all phases of iron production
Excerpt from manumission documents dated 1781 in which Samuel Snowden lists 35 adults and 36 children to be feed. Courtesy Maryland State Archives.
An 1802 Maryland Gazette advertisement for a runaway named Isaac, placed by Richard Snowden. The slave may have worked at the Patuxent Ironworks. Courtesy Maryland State Archives.
This fireback was cast at Patuxent Iron Works in 1737. Despite the rust, Richard Snowdenís mark is visible. Courtesy of Fort George G. Meade Museum.
Excerpt from “Act for the Encouragement of an Iron Manufacture within this Province.”
The Ironmaking Process.
A colonial era ironworks required a source of iron ore, forestlands to make charcoal to fuel the furnace, proximity to a river for transporting iron to market, and a large labor force. Charcoal was made from firewood
Iron ore was extracted from shallow surface mines and taken to a blast furnace by horse drawn carts. The furnace was a 30-40 feet high brick or stone stack with a long ramp for workers to carry ore and fuel (charcoal) to its top. Charcoal, roasted ore and limestone was placed in the top of the furnace and smelted. Slag, a by-product, was drawn off and the remaining metal was then cast into “pigs”, crude iron bars roughly two feet by four inches. The bar molds resembled a sow nursing her piglets, hence the term “pig iron.” Pig iron was used to manufacture items such as firebacks and cannon shot. Pig iron was further processed into wrought iron for a forge. Wrought iron was marketed to craftsmen such as blacksmiths and wheelwrights to make a variety of goods and tools.
Charcoal II,, illustrated by Denis Diderot, depicts a workman (figure 40) as he lights the furnace through the top and the combustion gets under way. (Fig. 5) As it proceeds more air is needed and vents are opened (Fig. 6). The fire must be tended constantly to regulate the rate (7, 8) until the process is complete, 1751.
The Blast Furnace
The Manufacture of Iron - Tapping the Furnace, by Tavernier and Frezeny, Harperís Weekly, November 1, 1873. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.
The Great Industry of Birmingham, Alabama. A Pig Iron Furnace, drawn by Charles Graham. Harperís Weekly, March 26, 1887.
The Manufacture of Iron - Carting Away the Scoriae, by Tavernier and Frezeny, Harperís Weekly, November 1, 1873. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.
The ore bank at Elizabeth Furnace. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.
A 1922 photo of the charcoal kiln at Muirkirk Ironworks. After the Civil War, brick kilns like this were used to make a charcoal from wood. Previously, charcoal was made in earthen mounds. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Furnace used at Muirkirk Ironworks. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Making the mounds for pig iron, blast furnace,
Carrying away and loading the pigs, blast furnace, Pittsburgh, Pa. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.
Erected 2008 by Department of Parks and Recreation, Prince George's County.
Location. 39° 3.55′ N, 76° 52.4′ W. Marker is in Rossville Community, Muirkirk District, Maryland, in Prince George's County. Marker can be reached from Old Muirkirk Road. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 7612 Old Muirkirk Road, Beltsville MD 20705, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. When the Iron was Hot: African America Ironworkers of Muirkirk (here, next to this marker); Abraham Hall: A Historic African American Benevolent Lodge (here, next to this marker); Three Sisters: Close Knit Communities of the Laurel Area. (here, next to this marker); Queenís Chapel Methodist Church, Established 1868 (approx. 0.2 miles away); Dinosaurs in Maryland! (approx. 0.8 miles away); Dinosaur Alley (approx. 0.8 miles away); Welcome to Dinosaur Park Dinosaur Park's Industrial Heritage (approx. 0.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Rossville Community, Muirkirk District.
More about this marker. Marker can be reached from Old Muirkirk Road, off the parking lot for the recently restored Abraham Hall community center, a block north of Muirkirk Road, across the street from Muirkirk West Neighborhood Park, and about half a mile east of Old Baltimore Pike. Note that Muirkirk Road is not directly accessible from U.S. 1 (the area's primary north-south thoroughfare). Travelers on U.S. 1 should turn east at Powder Mill Road (MD 201) in Beltsville, crossing the B&O RR tracks, to reach Old Baltimore Pike and then proceed north to Muirkirk Road.
Also see . . . Muirkirk, MD. (Submitted on May 17, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Categories. • African Americans • Antebellum South, US • Colonial Era • Industry & Commerce • Natural Resources • Notable Places • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 17, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,823 times since then and 156 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on May 17, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. submitted on August 9, 2013, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page.