Caney Furnace

Historical Marker #1226 in Bath County includes a history of the furnace built on Caney Fork, a branch of the Licking River.

Harrison Connor and Joshua Ewing, Sr., began constructing the Caney Furnace in 1837. Ewing operated the Bourbon Iron Works furnace located nearby until it closed in 1838. Caney Furnace was equipped with a hot-blast oven, one of the earliest furnaces of its kind west of the Appalachian Mountains. It was fueled with charcoal and powered by steam. Iron production at the site was successful for a little over a decade until production stopped in 1849. The furnace was briefly revived from 1857 to 1858.

Caney Furnace is a reminder of the era of great iron production in Kentucky. From 1790 to 1900, eighty iron furnaces were constructed in Kentucky. Many of these furnaces were fueled with local charcoal and were powered by the streams and rivers of the area. In the 1830s, the state of Kentucky was the third largest producer of iron in the country, only behind Pennsylvania and New York.

Iron was in high demand as it was used to build railroads and for parts in steam engines. As the demand for iron increased, Kentucky furnaces struggled to produce large enough quantities to keep up with demand. Ultimately the small furnaces could not compete with the corporate companies located in other more industrialized states. In addition, the state exhausted many of its natural resources such as timber and iron ore deposits.