Center Furnace

Center Furnace / Superior

38.674889, -82.694233

Ironton Register THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27, 1881 – (under Elizabeth Notes)

  • Henry Jones, who lived with his uncle, Mr. Warneke, died Friday evening and was buried Sunday near Mt. Vernon Furnace, on the Warneke homestead. Cause of death: typhoid fever.

  • The stonework for the iron bridge is about done and the fills (?) commenced.

  • The fever here is getting better. No deaths have occurred.

  • Senator Kelly’s house has received two coats of red paint, roof and all. It makes quite a show.

  • The old bridge below here across Big Pine is very unsafe.

  • Thos. Kilpatrick drives one of the nicest six-mule teams we see. It belongs to the Howard Furnace Co. Thomas knows how to take care of it. He is an old Lawrence county boy.





Center Furnace Cemetery restoration project….Click Here

How the furnace operated and never-before-seen pictures:


The issues of The Iron Trade Review for Aug 5 and 19, 1909 contain references to some ancient charcoal furnaces of the Hanging Rock region in Ohio and we are now able to present some particulars of a still more ancient furnace than either of those hitherto described and still active as late as 1907. In the Directory to the Iron and Steel Works of the United States for 1908, published by the American Iron and Steel Association, appears the following:
Center Furnace, The Superior Portland Cement Co, Superior PO, Lawrence County.
One stack 40 x l0 ft, built in 1837, open top, ore native limestone, chiefly mined by the company,  pig iron especially adapted for cylinders, pulleys and all kinds of machinery where strength is required; annual capacity of 4,500 tons. Brand: Center; Charcoal pits with an annual capacity of 200,000 bushels are connected with the furnace; also a plant for the manufacture of cement from rock with a daily capacity of 2,000 barrels; Justus Collins, President and JA Latham, Secretary and Treasurer, Charlestown W Va; ML Sternberger, Vice President, Jackson, Ohio; JB John, manager, Superior, Ohio. Formerly operated by Mrs. Nannie H. Kelley, acquired by the present company on July 1, 1906. Center furnace, according to the dates in the ancient records of the business, was built in 1833 by William Carpenter and in 1841 passed to the hands of RB Hamilton. In 1868 WW Johnson as administrator for the estate of RR Hamilton (deceased) leased it to WD Kelley & Sons and in 1867 WD Kelley bought the property outright. The furnace was managed by Lindsey Kelley until his death in 1902 and afterwards by his widow until the property was sold to the Superior Portland Cement Co of Superior, Ohio, in 1906. This is probably the only instance the management of a blast furnace by a woman and the old residents of Superior say that her supervision was most complete and that it was a common occurrence for her to don a leather jacket and divided skirt and take active charge of operations which included mounting a horse astride and superintending the mining and transportation of the ore which was brought by ox teams from the mines or the production of the charcoal required in the operation of the furnace. The stack is square and built of stone with buckstays at about 5 foot intervals from the base to the top. The lining is of fire brick and the present lining has been in use for over 26 years, though a new hearth is built each year. A flue is built under the hearth to permit the passage of a current of air. The stack has a capacity of 12 tons per day. There is only one tuyere 4 inches in diameter, made of bronze and water jacketed, and through which the hot blast passes into the furnace. The blast pressure is two and one half to three pounds. Steam for the blowing engines is generated in two horizontal boilers at the top of the stack by waste heat from the furnace which from the boilers passes into the heating chamber, or stove, in which there is a series of tubes through which the air from the blowing engine is carried then through a flue direct to the tuyeres. This system of hot blast is said to have been the subject of a patent issued to one Simpson in 1861. The old blowing engine is worthy of notice and is shown in Fig 10 It is of a very old design and of horizontal type. The steam cylinder is about 12 inches in diameter with a stroke of 5 feet. It will be noted that the air cylinders are driven from a jack shaft which in turn is driven by gear from the engine crank shaft. The chests and ports are bolted to the cylinder barrel on both the steam and air cylinders. The valves of the latter are of the flap type. On the discharge ends of the air cylinders will be seen an air receiver from which the air is led direct to the heating chamber. An extension of the slide valve stem operates the pumps which circulate the water through the tuyere, etc. The connecting rods are of wood iron strapped Fig 3 shows how the slag is hauled from the slag bed in front of the furnace by means of a chain wrapped on the drum of a bull wheel. The roasting or calcining of the ore is done by first laying a course of cord wood on the ground with spaces 6 to 9 inches between and over this another cross course of plank or cord wood as seen in Fig 7. On this is spread a bed of ore to a depth of about 12 inches then a layer of small charcoal, then another course of ore, and so on, until a height of about five feet is reached. Fires are then started at the base and allowed to burn naturally. The ore contains 45 to 50 per cent iron and charges consist of about 1,100 pounds of ore to 30 bushels of charcoal and 110 pounds of limestone. The photos shown on the following pages are by courtesy of the Superior Portland Cement Co., the present owner of the furnace.




Photo 1 – Front of stack and casting house
Photo 2 – Oxen hauling away slag
Photo 3 – Slag wheel and side view of casting house (company barns can be seen in the background and in other pictures above article)
Photo 4 – Furnace while operating




COMMON PLEAS COURT – Ironton Register, SEPT. 26, 1867 – The report of the Commissioner in the Center Furnace case was found correct and the furnace ordered to be sold. **Note: Was sold by Sheriff’s Sale to W. D Kelly in 1868,

Ironton Register, July 30, 1885 – (Country Notes) – Center is quiet. There are only a few families living on the furnace grounds. The men are working on the farm.
Richard Dovel is growing into a farmer. He stirs late and early. He is now in the midst of his hay and oat harvest.
Lindsey Kelly spends part of his time out here, mostly at the station, where the company is having some ore mined. They get about a thousand tons a month. They ship now seven cars of burnt ore a day to Etna Iron Works. J. R. Cook weighs the ore at the station, and assists Mr. Kelly in the management of the work.
W. D. Corn says he has a good school at Centre. His brother Ed is here attending school. W. D. makes things go. He puts Ed and some of the boys through some extra lessons before school in the morning and after dismissal in the evening. There is not a more energetic, indefatigable, or thorough teacher in Lawrence county than W. D. Corn.
We met W. B. G. Hatcher at Center. He is making a survey of the Centre lands, for the purpose of making a topographical map of the same. He has quite a good deal of work yet to do in the field – four or six weeks – before he is ready for work on his map. Thomas Harris, brother of Dave and Al., is assisting Mr. Hatcher, and receiving instruction in practical surveying.

Ironton Register, June 28, 1888 – We understand that the ore miners at Etna, Vesuvius, Lawrence, Bartles and Center Furnaces have gone out on a demand for $1.25 per ton for digging, and the enforcement of the law requiring semi-monthly pays. They have been getting various prices, ranging from 80 cents to $1.20 per ton, with the law enforced in some instances. A meeting of the miners is to be held this Wednesday afternoon, when the matter may be adjusted.

Ironton Register, August 17, 1899 – CENTER FURNACE – After a long period of silence this furnace is to resume blast, and preparations have been already begun. Mrs. Lindsey Kelly has leased the property to a company composed of W. C. Amos, H. L. Amos, L. D. Davis, Dr. O. Ellison, Dr. H. B. Justice and Wm. Laird, which company is incorporated with a capital stock of $25,000. Of this concern H. L. Amos will be President and Superintendent and L. D. Davis, Secretary and Treasurer. The lease is for one year with the privilege of five, and the rental is one ton of pig iron for every 15 tons produced.
Mrs. Kelly bought in this property at a trustee’s sale in June, 1898, paying therefore $19,700. It will take the lessees until December to get things ready for a blast, but this delay will be occasioned by the slow process of charcoal production. The furnace itself can be got ready for running in a short time. The store will be opened right away. We are informed that some prominent iron men are back of the enterprise.


Directory of Iron and Steel Works in the United States and Canada, 1916


“From 1894 to 1897 the iron industry in this country practically at a standstill and stocks were worth about 15 to 20 cents on the dollar. Buyers at that price were scarce. Mrs. Wright, a close observer of political and financial affairs, reasoned an upward trend was due and invested in old Centre Furnace, near Superior. She paid the taxes, received an initial education in furnace operation and in 1899 she bid in the furnace, at auction, for $19,950. This included 12,000 acres. She managed the furnace, conducted regular inspections of property and in additions, made regular weekly trips to Cincinnati. She continued as owner and operator until 1906 when she sold to the Superior Cement Co….”

“With her death today Ironton’s lost a resident who was a link with the “aristocratic” days of other years, a woman whose life was always one of bold adventure. She was the last immediate member of her family but some cousins, including the Davidson family of South Point, survive.”


“Reminiscences of the Hanging Rock Iron District “

Center Furnace, three miles east of Clinton, was built in 1836 by William Carpenter. It was also located on Pine creek in Elizabeth township, Lawrence county. When I became familiar with Center it was owned and managed by RB Hamilton an excellent gentleman a native of Pennsylvania who later built a fine home in Ironton to which he removed his family and where he died. The furnace property was leased for a term of years to a prominent business man of Ironton WD Kelley who at the expiration of his lease purchased the entire property and I think it still belongs to his estate. He passed away some years ago. Center was a well located and consequently a successful furnace. I understand that Center furnace is at present controlled and managed by a lady, daughter of Captain Wash Honsell and widow of the late Lindsey Kelly of Ironton.
“Iron Trade Review” Volume 39, Issue 2, Page 20. July 19, 1906

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About Lawrence County, Ohio

Lawrence County, Ohio borders the Ohio River at the Southernmost part of the state. Six architecturally interesting bridges span the Ohio River, connecting Lawrence County with various locations in both Kentucky and West Virginia. Because of these bridges, metropolitan Ashland, KY and Huntington, WV are just minutes away from virtually anywhere in the county.

Lawrence County Ohio was organized December 20, 1816, the first Court of Common Pleas was organized March 4, 1817. In 2016, Lawrence County celebrated its Bicentennial… click here to view photos of the Grand Finale event.

The first election was held April 7, 1817, with Joseph Davidson, Joel Bowen, and David Spurlock elected county commissioners. Their first meeting was held Monday afternoon, April 21, 1817, at the home of Joseph Davidson in Burlington.

Lawrence County, Ohio was named after Capt. James Lawrence, a native of Burlington, NJ and a gallant naval officer of the War of 1812.

Lawrence County was home to 23 blast furnaces and was once the world leader in pig iron production.

The county seat is Ironton, where you will find our government offices, restaurants, museum, library, splash park, civic organizations, and is home of the famous Memorial Day Parade.

Check out what’s new in Lawrence County, with the Lawrence County Guide Book. 

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