Chapter XLIV - Industrial Affairs

History of Hampshire County West Virginia From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present
By Hu Maxwell and H. L. Swisher
Morgantown, West Virginia; A. Brown Boughner Printer; 1897

PART 2 County History
Pages 533-536

The manufacture of iron was among the first industries carried on in this county. Working in this metal engaged the attention of the people of this state and Virginia for many years until richer ores, discovered on the shores of Lake Michigan, displaced our own and the furnaces in this section then fell into ruins. At the present time little attention is given to manufactures of any kind within this county's limits, the energies of the people being devoted almost exclusively to agriculture. Brief notice will be taken of some of the industries that have had a more or less permanent foothold in the county.

Hampshire Furnace. — When the Baptist church at Three Churches was torn down a few years ago some one was curious enough to examine the old stove to see where it was made. It bore the mark of The Hampshire Furnace Company. This company's employes, who delved in the most useful metal, are long since dead but they have left monuments in the useful work of their hands which serve to call them to mind. Early in this century or late in the last century Edward McCarty built the Hampshire furnace on Middle ridge, about twelve miles south of Romney. The forge for the furnace was near Keyser. The business carried on by this furnace must have been quite extensive. In the circuit clerk's office at Romney there are several ponderous ledgers filled with accounts of business transactions of the company. These account books cover the years 1816-1817, which goes to show that at that time the establishment was nourishing*. The time came, however, when too fierce competition compelled the Hampshire furnace to close down and now its former site is marked only by a few ruins.

Bloomery Furnace. — The ruins of this furnace together with the houses in which the employes lived, are yet to be seen and are in a fair state of preservation. The land on which the furnace stands was formerly the property of a man named Naylor. The first furnace was built and operated about 1833 by a Mr. Pastly. A few years later it passed into the hands of Passmoor. He put a man named Cornwell in charge and he ran the furnace until 1846. Large quantities of iron manufactured at this furnace, were transported to market over the Capon river ©n rafts and flat boats. S. A. Pancost purchased the property in 1846 and operated it until 1857, when upon his death his heirs continued to run it in company with others under the firm name of Pancost and McGee. John Withers was superintendent for several years up to 1875. About this time the furnace closed down and has never been in operation since. The furnace and land are still the property of the heirs of Pancost and McGee, of Philadelphia.

Old Mills and Woolen Factories. — Robert Sherrard built a stone mill at Bloomery in 1800. A woolen factory was built about the same time by him at Bloomery. Both are still in operation. The mill at Forks of Capon was built early in this century by Major John Largent. It is still in operation. There was a merchant mill built in Fox's Hollow by William Fox, father of Colonel Vause Fox, about the year 1818. This mill had the reputation of making the best flour made in the county, I Timothy Starkey was the first miller, Jacob Doman next and then Barton Smoot, who was succeeded by Mahlon Lewis. Large quantities of flour were shipped from this mill to Georgetown by boat. Boats for this purpose were built in a yard near where Franklin Herriott now lives. This mill is still in operation. The Abernathy mill, one mile from Springfield, now owned by Charles Milleson, was built by James Abernathy during the first quarter of the present century. It is still in operation. The Parker mill, further up the river, was built even earlier. Barnes' mills on Capon were built about 1813. Hammack's mills stood on North river about five miles above Blue's Hanging Rocks. There was a woolen factory and two flouring mills. The woolen mill is vet in operation. These mills were erected at a very early date. The Painter mill stood on North river about five miles above Hammack's mills. It was built more than seventy years ago.

North River mills are among the oldest in the county. The lower one owned by Robert Kid well, and formerly known as Snapp's mill, is still running. Other old mills are the Manx mill, near Rio; the Poston mill, on North, river, on the land of Mrs. Stuckey, and the Ginevan mill, near the mouth of Little Capon.

Tanneries. — There is an old tanyard in Fox's Hollow, not now used, which was established in 1816 by Colonel Vause Fox. Colonel Fox was an expert tanner, having learned the trade under William Jenkins of Baltimore. The yard never changed hands while he lived, though it was leased for a short time. Upon his death, his son, David Fox, took up the business and followed it until the Civil war. Since that time it has not been in operation. There was another tanyard on Dillon's run at a very early date. Archibald Linthicum was proprietor. Samuel Gard had a tannery at Capon Bridge before 1820. The work of tanning in these old yards was very tedious, but the quality of leather was much better than that produced by modern processes.

Distilleries. — The work of making spirituous liquors was at one time carried on much more extensively in Hampshire than it now is. Almost every neighborhood had a distillery to which the farmers could take their grain and have it converted into whiskey, or their fruits and get brandy in exchange.

Near the present site of Springfield there stood an old stone still before the beginning of the present century. There was another on the land owned by James Burkett, built at an early day. It was operated by Thomas Burkett. Near the Rouzee property, on Town hill, James Mekans operated a still before 1835. Besides these there were many others m different parts of the county, but nearly all have now fallen into disuse.

Sundry Enterprises. — There was a pottery on North river, near the Hardy line, at an early date. A very superior grade of ware is said to have been manufactured there. During the first quarter of this century and up to 1840 there were numerous up-and-down saw mills in the county. The lumber turned out by them was very rough, yet it was a marked step in advance in the preparation of building material. At the Tar-kiln spring, near Hammack's mills, on North river, large quantities of tar were formerly burned for the market. From an old advertisement we learn that J. W. NcNell had a tin, stove, copper and sheet-iron manufactory in Romney in 1850.

Thus we see, while the people of this county have never engaged extensively in manufacture, various industries have nevertheless flourished from time to time.

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