Clear Creek Furnace

Historical Marker #1050 near the town of Salt Lick in Bath County remembers the prodigious output of Clear Creek Furnace. Built in 1839 by W. A. Lane and W. S. Allen, the furnace operated until its last blast in 1875. Production of iron at the location ceased from 1857 until 1873, when the furnace was rebuilt and renamed Bath Furnace. In 1874 alone, the reconstructed furnace produced more than 1,339 tons of iron.

Clear Creek, like numerous other Kentucky furnaces, used charcoal for fuel and was purposefully constructed on a stream to take advantage of steam power. Limonite, an abundant iron ore found in Kentucky, was frequently mined and used at this location. This specific ore was ideal as it produced an extremely durable iron. The furnace primarily produced iron that was used to manufacture wheels for railway cars.

After the financial Panic of 1873, many of the iron furnaces were forced to close their doors. The once-booming railroad industry also took a hit, affecting iron production throughout the nation. In addition to the financial crisis, sites in Kentucky lost business to large corporations located in states like Pennsylvania and New York. Two years after the furnace was reconstructed, Clear Creek fired its last blast. Located in what is now the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Clear Creek or Bath Furnace still stands today and is one of the best preserved nineteenth century Kentucky iron furnaces.

Images

Clear Creek Furnace

Clear Creek Furnace

Every furnace was constructed with a distinctive arrangement of stonework and arches that reflected the industrial and architectural skills of the area. The Clear Creek Furnace, pictured here, was built with a flat topped arch, while this style was considered less attractive; it was functional and easier to work than some other styles. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Clear Creek Furnace

Clear Creek Furnace

The Clear Creek Furnace near Salt Lick is shown again here from another side. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Panic of 1873

Panic of 1873

The Panic of 1873 was caused by a decrease in the demand for silver combined with the backlash from the railroad boom after the Civil War. Railroad construction increased after the 1860s, investors poured money into the endeavor but received no immediate return on their investment. The iron industry had benefited from the growth of railroads and subsequently took a financial loss. Smaller companies, such as those located in Kentucky, were forced to close while lager corporations were able to survive. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Katie Crawford-Lackey, “Clear Creek Furnace,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed July 24, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/470.

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