Bennington Furnace, Blair County, Pennsylvania
Harriet Furnace, Hentietta Furnace
Bennington (see also Henrietta, Harriet) - is on Sugar Run in Allegheny Township. It was built in 1846 (1849 [wes]) at Bennington, one of the richest iron areas in the county.(wil). It was owned and operated by the Blair Iron & Coal Co.(ren). It was refurbished in 1853 and in 1870 it was purchased by the Cambria Iron Co., and was soon thereafter abandoned(wes). It was probably a coke or coal fired furnace(whe/ren). In 1880 about 100 bee-hive coke ovens were built near the furnace(wil).
This furnace has been confused with "Henrietta" and/or "Harriet". According to the s&t account, Blair County histories state that another furnace called Harriet was built in the same township at an earlier date. It may or may not have been originally called by one of the other names, but there are the remains of another furnace in the area which we will call Harriet. Of Bennington(?), only one outer wall remained, with the other three collapsed in 1960(s&t). May be lesser remains today.
A book belonging to W. R. Metz of Williamsburg, oldest member of the Blair County Historical Society, states that the Bennington Furnace originally was called the Henrietta Furnace, and s&t believe that the "Henrietta" became the "Harriet" through an error in transcription, and that they are one and the same furnace. Searching for the Bennington (coke) Furnace, s&t found the remains of an earlier charcoal furnace a short distance below the Bennington Furnace. This, no doubt, was the Henrietta or the Harriet.(s&t) (P)(V)(rp,ph-2004, rp,is,km-2005).
From the Junction of US22 and PA53 south of Cresson, go east and northeast about 2-1/2 miles on US22 to the next interchange which is SR2014. Go right (east) on SR2014 about 0.8 miles to County Line Road (Cambria-Blair County Line). Turn left and follow this road 1.5 miles to SR4002. Sugar Run Road.
From this location we will provide two possible routes to Bennington Furnace,and another to a, so called, Harriet Furnace none of which we have recently found.
(1) The first is a derivative from the old s&t directions postulated in the 1960's. Turn right on Sr4002 and go downhill about 0.3 miles. (s&t said 0.4 miles). Here you will see a gated entrance to an old path on the left. Park here (40º 28.362'N - 78º 32.222W). Walk the old road about 0.1 miles. Continue on a path into the woods along a hillside to the left and to the right. In 2004, we did not find the wall of Bennington furnace, but we did find what appeared to be some inner lining brick and loose furnace stones at 40º 28.434'N - 78º 32.168W. In 2005 we found stones at a possible site 40º 28.453'N - 78º 32.158W, and a path going down the hillside to the right at 40º 28.465'N - 78º 32.164W which looked like a promising area with what appeared to be a stone well, and possible foundations. We are not at all sure that these were the remains but the area could stand further exploration..(rp,ph-2004, is,km,rp-2005).
(The old s&t account says "Go up the hill at the back end of the slag pile. Just above this spot and below the railroad track which runs along the hillside are the ruins of Bennington Furnace. Some retaining walls are on the hillside above the furnace. The upper side of the furnace had several rows of stone intact, but the other three sides had collapsed. There are several very large slag piles running from near the base of the furnace out into the valley") It is possible that s&t did enter the valley to the east and closer to the creek than we did and were on the lower side of the hill to the right mentioned above.
(2) The second route, perhaps to a different furnace, was discovered by reviewing a copy of an old Alleghany Township map of 1873. On this map is displayed the location of the "Bennington Furnace PO" where, it appears, there was a community and also a location titled "furnace". This may be the general location of the Bennington Furnace remains. To reach this location from the gated entrance, discussed above, continue on SR4002 a short distance to a gravel road on the left (see also Harriet Furnace). Take this road (4wd recommended) across Sugar Run and up the hill to where the road splits. The left split takes you up to the tunnels under Tunnel Hill and Gallitzin, and the right split takes you up to Bennington Curve on the N&S Railroad (formerly Pennsylvania Railroad and then Penn-Central and Conrail). Follow this right split up to Bennington Curve and park, Sugar Run is now to your right and down a steep hillside. We found some slag and small rocks near the hillside at 40º 28.962'N - 78º 31.018'W. Whether this was mear the furnace slag is not known but it is supposed that the furnace remains, if any, would be below the hill toward the creek, and somewhere along Bennington Curve. Plotting the probable location of the Bennington Furnace PO and village on a Pendot Blair County map revealed the following probable location of the village 40º 28.862'N - 78º 31.105W. Plotting the possible location of the furnace remains on the USGS Cresson Topo map revealed the following as a possible furnace site.40º 29.293'N - 78º 30.908'W. We are fairly certain these locations will lead us to a furnace remains at Bennington Furnace PO and an accurate GPS reading.
We encourage examination of this new route by any of our furnace friends to get a fix on Bennington.
This early map of a porion of Allegheny Township from the tunnels at Gallitzen and Tunnell Hill east around Bennington Curve on the old Pennsylvania Railroad (modified by a newer cartographer as Penn Central). It shows the village of Bennington Furnace PO. It clearly shows a furnace location just below the eastbound peak of the curve south of the railroad and north of Sugar Run.
This is a closeup of the previous map showing in larher detail the furnace location.
This topographical map shows the area of Bennington Curve and the sharp drop to the level of Sugar Run. These maos suggest that the location of Bennington Furnace is down near Sugar Run below Bennington Gurve. We visited the area of Bennington Curve at track level in 2005 but were unable, att that time, to explore the north bank of Sugar Run below Bennington Curve to look for furnace remains. We would appreciate it if a furnace hunting friend would complete this explaration to determine if remains are visible and obtain a GPS reading and pictures.
Bennington Furnace Special Sources:
A Guide to the Old Stone Blast Furnaces of Western Pennsylvania, Myron B. Sharp and William H. Thomas (s&t)
Francis (Frank) Maruska. Gallitzin, PA
Pat & Michael Hom, San Diego, California (ph)
Karl Mouck, Sandy Lake, PA (km)
Ian Straffin, Meadville, PA (is)
Westsylvania Stories - Early Iron Works Blair & Cambria Counties (wes)
Renner's Bennington Furnace Directory 1878-79(ren) (Rootsweb Search-Cambria Co)
Bio. & Portrait Encyclopedia of Blair Co. PA. Samuel T. Wiley, Phila. 1893 p91-120(wil)
Copyright © Richard Parks, January 26, 2009