Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Greenwood Furnace – The Village

View of the 1800s blast furnace  in the
Greenwood Furnace State Park Museum
Imagine again going up Big Valley through Belleville over the mountain down into the valley but this time in a horse and wagon. On entering Greenwood Furnace State Park area instead of nicely printed signs, a museum, and campsites, you see rows of wooden houses, a company store, and a huge building with the top belching smoke and heat. The year? 1880.

You enter the company store which looks like the social center of the operation and talk to some residents. You find out that the town Read More
contains almost 90 houses where 250 people live. All the men work in some way for the blast furnace built in 1834. Most men work as furnace hands, colliers (those who make the charcoal), laborers, wood choppers, and ore miners. One very important man called the ironmaster runs the entire operation.

Sign at Greenwood Furnace State Park
The store keeper chimes in that most things these people need can be found within the town. He points to the sign on the store wall. You read about boots for $3.75, coffee for 30 cents a pound, sugar for 6-7 cents a pound, slab bacon for 6 cents a pound, turkey at 8 cents a pound, and flannel for only 35 cents a yard. He proudly tells you about the wagon shop which makes the wagons and the blacksmith shop which pounds out metal needs.

Leaving the store and walking around, you notice the large amount of animals which live here. You see more than 100 animals including 16 six-mule and horse teams plus numerous farm stock. The stables and barns add to the amount of buildings in the town. 

Nearby is a schoolhouse built in 1869 and composed of two stories with grade one to four on the first floor and five to eight on the second floor. The school teacher tells you that having education available for the children has greatly increased the literacy rate for the village.

Inside the remaining church
On the hill above the town lies the church. The preacher shares that the iron master encouraged religion because it made his workers easier to deal with. The preacher is pleased with the Methodist Episcopal Church building built in 1865 and tells about conducting services, along with organizing Sunday School picnics, camp meetings, and revival services.

You say good-bye and head back over the mountain through Belleville and plod down Big Valley in your horse and wagon. 

The entire village of Greenwood Furnace developed solely for the operation of the iron industry. When the blast furnace closed in 1904, the town disappeared. The houses, all owned by the company, sold for $1 apiece. A few people stayed on for a while and a state nursery occupied the space until 1993, but the rest became a ghost town.  


Fagley, Paul T. “Greenwood Furnace, Huntingdon County, PA.: The Rise and Fall of a Juniata Valley Iron Industry. Canal History and Technology Proceedings, Vol. XII, March 20, 1993. Easton, Pa: Canal History and Technology Press.

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, “A Pennsylvania Recreational Guide for Greenwood Furnace State Park,” 2009

Signs located at Greenwood Furnace State Park.

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