Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Greenwood Furnace: The Collier

Ben Ranney, Park Naturalist
  at Little Buffalo State Park
 dressed as a collier
What is a collier?

A man who made charcoal to fuel the furnaces that produced iron in the 1800s and early 1900s.

How was he taught?

A collier was trained by working under a master collier.

Where did he live?

The collier’s families lived in the company’s town, but the collier lived in a hut or cabin near where he built the pits to make charcoal from April through November.

How much did he get paid? Read More

Two cents a bushel for good charcoal, about $1.50 a day, $500 a year. This was very good pay at that time.

What did the other townspeople think of him?

Colliers considered washing to be taboo during charcoal making season. When they came back to town, they were covered with charcoal dust. Most fathers didn't want their daughter to marry a collier unless the father himself worked at that occupation. Parents threatened their children to get them to behave by telling them that the collier would get them, calling him the bogeyman.

How dangerous was the work?

Any occupation dealing with fire is dangerous. For a collier, not watching the stack close enough when it started to smolder could end up with a blazing fire. Not cooling the charcoal adequately before putting it on the wagon could end up with a blazing wagon. Sparks from the stack could ignite a whole forest. Besides all of those dangers, sometimes the collier had to walk on top of the stack to check for open places. He could and sometimes did fall in!

See my blog from February 10, 2014
about charcoal making 

Reference:Fagley, Paul T. “From Forest to Fuel: The Craft of the Collier,” Greenwood Furnace History Series No. 4 Course. PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, November, 2002.

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