Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Greenwood Furnace: Iron Master

Greenwood Furnace Visitor's Center Mural
of the Original Furnace Operation
One person stood at the head of the hierarchy that made up the system of workers at Greenwood Furnace—the iron master. In the early days of the furnace, the iron master owned and oversaw all of the operation of the business. Later, Read More
owners of Greenwood Furnace hired managers to run the business. Only two people ruled as actual iron masters at Greenwood Furnace, James Hall and John A. Wright.

Iron Master's Mansion
Of the two, only Mr. Hall who planned the building of the Iron Master's Mansion, actually lived there. Mr.Wright lived in what is now Burnham. The subsequent owners resided in their own homes, while managers stayed at the Greenwood Furnace mansion.

Mr. Hall and four other men provided the money for building Greenwood Furnace’s iron making operation, opening it in 1834. They struggled with keeping the business profitable because of the high expense of hauling ore over the mountain to the furnace and because of fluctuations in the price they could get for their finished iron product.

With the ups and downs that they experienced, they still managed to instigate the building of a state road between Reedsville and Belleville and construct a grist mill with its concurrent lake on the furnace property. Unfortunately, these improvements did not help. They lost the business to sheriff sale on November 8, 1847.

No iron master served for the next two years as the property changed hands several times and did not resume operation until 1849, when John A. Wright took charge. The times favored Mr. Wright because he could sell iron for the booming railroad industry. Under his handling, the business flourished. During his term as iron master, a post office, a church, and a school all began functioning on Greenwood grounds. Mr. Wright remained in charge until 1856.

Being an iron master took skill in many areas. The present day sign in front of the Greenwood Furnace Iron Master’s Mansion states that an iron master had to be, “a capitalist, technician, market analyst, personnel director, bill collector, purchasing agent, and transportation expert.”


Fagley, Paul T. A Teacher’s Guide to Greenwood Furnace, Draft Version 3.01,  Harrisburg, Pa: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, July 2001.

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, Easton, Pa: Canal History and Technology Press, 1993.

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