Elkridge Furnace

Elkridge Furnace

The site of the Elkridge Furnace and forge (located in the US state of Maryland), known today as Avalon, was a tract of land patented as "Taylor’s Forest" purchased in 1761 by Caleb Dorsey, an ironmaster. The land was located on the Patapsco river near Elkridge Landing, today being part of the [http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/patapscovalley.html Patapsco Valley State Park] . The site first produced pig iron for export to England and after the addition of a forge produced crowbars, some of the earliest tools produced in America. The manufacture of tools in America had been banned for years by England. In 1771, after the death of Caleb Dorsey, the forge was operated by Caleb's sons, Edward Dorsey "Iron Head Ned" and Samuel Dorsey. In 1775 and during the American Revolution (1775-1783), the forge manufactured cast-iron parts for muskets by William Whetcroft. During the time of Mr. Whetcroft, the height of the dam [http://external.bcpl.lib.md.us/hcdo/cfdocs/photolistd.cfm (Avalon pictured here)] , was increased to allow for constructing a millrace to feed a slitting mill on the property. In 1783, operations at the site were closed due to tax problems and the site was auctioned off in 1815. Benjamin and James Ellicott became the owners and incorporated the site as the Avalon Iron Works in 1822 and manufactured nails. [http://www.msa.md.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000627/html/am627--123.html]

The Avalon Furnace at Elkridge was the "brain child" of Dr. James Walker, a surgeon from Scotland, residing on Bodys "Boddeys" Adventure, Curtis Creek Area, AAC, Maryland, near Ferry Point, land located a few miles north of "Barker's Furnace" on Furnace Creek, AAC, Maryland.

Dr. Walker purchased much land in the Elkridge Furnace area, no doubt land considered to be iron ore bearing; one of his tracts was named "Iron Hills". At his death his family became the financiers and partners in the Elkridge Furnace. In the 22 March 1759, Anne Arundel Co. Will of James Walker he ordered the transfer of a couple thousand acres (8 km²) of land to Thomas Harrison a prominent AAC Merchant to build the Elkridge Furnace in return for half the profits from the furnace to be paid to his wife and children.

On an 1860 map there was another Iron Furnace in Elkridge Landing "Jansen-Town" near the Elkridge Furnace Inn owned by the Great Falls Iron Company. The history of this furnace is not known nor any connection to Avalon found. In 1868 a historic flood of the Patapsco destroyed Avalon, most of the old town of Elkridge Landing and most of the industry along the Patapsco including the Williams Flour Mill.

English law

THE ENGLISH NAVIGATION ACTS — In 1750 the English Parliament enacted a law declaring that "no mill or other engine for rolling or slitting iron," "nor any furnace for making steel shall be erected in the colonies". After this only pig and bar iron could be made. [http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/colonial/book/chap10_6.html]


Extreme environmental damage to the Patapsco was recorded in the [http://www.msa.md.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000141/html/am141--101.html Maryland Act of 1753 Chap. 27.] entitled 'AN ACT to prevent injuring the navigation to Baltimore-town, and to the inspecting house at Elk-Ridge landing, on Patapsco river'.

Extract: WHEREAS it is represented to this general assembly, that by opening and digging into the banks of Patapsco river for iron stone, large quantities of earth and sand are thrown and washed into the said river, and navigable branches thereof, by which practice (if continued,) the channel of the said river, and navigable branches aforesaid, will, in a short time, be so filled up, that vessels of any burthen must be prevented from coming into the best and most secure harbours in the said river, and the navigation thereof greatly obstructed.

The Patapsco to Elkridge Landing did silt up and become un-navigable, because of mining and ballast from the ships being thrown overboard to make room for cargo.

First Elkridge Furnace

The existence of iron was known from the time John Smith sailed up the Patapsco in 1608 and the settlement of Elkridge Landing is given as 1690, Likely many attempts at iron production took place after 1690.

Caleb Dorsey built his home "Belmont" on a tract of land patented in 1695. The "Save Belmont Coalition" credits Caleb Dorsey and his brother as building several iron forges on the creeks that ran into the nearby Patapsco River. This seems likely, considering the effort that would be required to move the iron ore some distance to one furnace. A Journal in the Maryland Archives by Caleb Dorsey & Co. operator of Elk Ridge Furnace has dates of 1758/10/01-1761/08/31.

The existence of more than one forge was recorded in the following extraction.Extract: Elkridge Landing description by Louis-Alexandre Berthier of the French Army during the March to Yorktown, Va. in 1781 — "The detour that must be taken to cross by the ford is not great and I estimate the difference as about three-fourths of a mile, or a mile. The road leading to the ford is bad and filled with stones and foot-high stumps. As it approaches the ford the road is dangerous along the bank of the river, which is very deep in those places where the waters are dammed up to operate the forges. This ford is very good if you pass between the big stones as marked here; if you stray from this line, you find large rocks and holes."

The Maryland 1753 Navigational Damage Act - definitely proves the iron industry had been in existence before 1753, and had grown to the point of damaging the Patapsco.

James McCubbin, MacCubbin patented a tract of land named "Cupola Hill" 220 acres (0.9 km²) in 1743 and built the Elkridge Furnace Inn in 1744. The definition of "Cupola" is a vertical furnace for melting iron to be cast, "Foundry" . Although the term is also used in architecture, "Cupola Hill" was one of the tracts of land purchased by Dr. Walker for the establishment of a new furnace specified in his Will. The word Cupola seems to indicate that a small furnace was in operation at one time prior to 1744.


Patent Record LG E, p. 256, 1743, Cupola Hill, 220 Acres; Certificate, Maccublin, James
1758/10/01-1761/08/31, ( Caleb Dorsey & Co., Elk Ridge Furnace, Journal ), Accession No.: 1493, MSA No.: S528-1
Random House College Dictionary - Cupola
[http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/colonial/book/chap10_6.html History of the United States of America, by Henry William Elson, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1904. Chapter X p. 216-219]
[http://diglib.princeton.edu/ead/eadGetDoc.xq?id=/ead/mss/C0022.EAD.xml Louis-Alexandre Berthier Collection 1780-1783, Pg.21]
[http://www.msa.md.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000075/html/am75--419.html Maryland Archives - 1733, Vol. 75, Page 419, Lib., B.L.C., fol. 70.- Jansen-Town]
[http://www.msa.md.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000075/html/am75--681.html Maryland Archives - Volume 75, Page 681 - Bacon's Laws of Maryland - Iron-Works]
[http://www.msa.md.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000075/html/am75--315.html Maryland Archives - 1719, Lib. LL. #4. fol. 445.- Iron Works Establishment]
[http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/stagser/s500/s538/html/s538-30.html Maryland Archives: Will of Dr. James Walker - Liber 30, folio 761]
[http://external.bcpl.lib.md.us/hcdo/cfdocs/photolistd.cfm Baltimore County Legacy Web - Avalon]
[http://archive1.mdarchives.state.md.us/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000698/html/am698--195.html Maryland Archives - Bodys Adventure]
[http://www.djs.state.md.us/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000078/html/am78--85.html Maryland Archives - Slitting Mill]
[http://www.djs.state.md.us/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000645/html/am645--26.html Maryland Archives - Dorsey-Whetcroft]
[http://www.msa.md.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000627/html/am627--123.html Maryland Archives - Avalon Incorporated - Session Laws, 1822, CHAPTER 199., Passed Feb.18, 1823., Volume 627, Page 123]
[http://www.msa.md.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000141/html/am141--101.html Maryland Archives - Earth thrown in Patapsco, LAWS OF MARYLAND. 1753 CHAPTER 27., Volume 141, Page 101]
[http://www.mdslavery.net/html/mapped_images/elkridgelanding.html Elkridge Landing 1860 Map]
[http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22Iron+Head+Ned%22&btnG=Google+Search Various Sites - Iron Head Ned]
[http://www.ironfurnaces.com/wiki/index.php?title=Elkridge_Furnace_%28MD%29 ironfurnaces.com]
[http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=1868+patapsco+flood 1860 Patapsco Flood]

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