Poking around Mary Ann Forge

Ben Ruset

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All:

So, if you haven't read Jerseyman's post on Mary Ann Forge yet, you should read it before you continue on with this post. Done? Great. Let's go.

I decided to take a trip there today. The area around the dam doesn't make a whole lot of sense - so I wanted to try (again) to make heads or tails of it. I found some interesting things while I was out there, but then coming home and re-reading Jerseyman's post and looking at the maps he attached makes me rethink some of my theories. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. I drew a map to help orient us around the dam:



So, about the dam. The dam served two purposes - it held back water on the Mount Misery Run to create a mill pond to power the forge hammers and it also had a road on top. According to the maps that Jerseyman posted, the town spanned both sides of the mill pond. Going down Mount Misery Road from New Lisbon you could either go straight and bypass the town, or swing through town, ride over the bridge, and be back on Mount Misery Road. The dam seems to have been built with a combination of timber and slag, presumably from Hanover Furnace. This is pretty common - there's a dam near Batsto that's built up with slag, and the dam at Martha Furnace also has slag in it.

Here's the millpond.





Here's the dam/road. When you first walk down it you'll come to a dip where it looks to me like the road was undermined by flowing water. The more I think about this, the more I question that theory. (More on that later.)





At this first dip, with your back to the mill pond, there's some sort of channel. I poked around the edge of it by the road and it didn't seem too deep.





On the mill pond side I found two pilings with nails sticking out of them.





Continuing on towards Mount Misery Run there's another channel to your right. It's really grown over with briars here, but I bravely soldiered through them and got to the head of the channel. I thrust my walking stick down and it's pretty deep.





If you keep going you'll get to the river and see where the dam has washed away. You can see some of the pilings from the dam on the opposite bank of the river.





There's a little beachy area that you can walk down and get to the bank of the middle channel. The channel appears straight and narrow, like any good tailrace ought to be.



So I formulated a theory. The channel in the middle HAD to be the tailrace for the forge. It's deep enough at the end to have housed a pit for the mill wheel, and was straight enough to have been made by people and not nature. That leaves the channel closest to town to be explained. Well, I postulated that at some point in time the dam burst there, flooding where the forge was located. The sudden flow of water draining from behind the mill pond would have dug the channel. I was feeling great about that theory until I came home and re-read Jerseyman's post and saw this map:



This map clearly shows the raceway for the furnace being the top most channel. Interestingly it also shows a sawmill being powered off of the main channel of the river. Had there been a third channel, I'm confident it would have been included on the map.

Here's the 1930 aerial view. Notice how the middle channel (the deep, straight one) shows up lightly on it:



Here again we see the 1858 map showing only two channels:



This place just doesn't seem to make sense. I can't picture them digging two channels (plus the natural course of the river after the dam) since that only leaves a little spit of land to build the forge on.

So, I'm at a loss. I know a lot of folks have been to Mary Ann Forge - what's your take on all of this?
 

bobpbx

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That place has always been a riddle to me too Ben. Thing is, I don't remember it the way that you drew it. Wasn't there a canal on the south side after the washed out dam? But you only show the main creek. I don't know, it's probably my memory that's off. As to the middle run, I never knew one. I'll have to go out and make a map too when my truck is running again. It is fun to figure it out. I think you should keep at it...as you seem to have adopted Mary Ann as something to solve.

PS: Jerseyman's original post on the history for this is first-rate. Well done. I missed it when it came out.
 

Ben Ruset

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The south side, closer to Mount Misery Road? Yes, I think you're right. I spent most of my time on the north side, by the dam. My map doesn't go into that detail. ;)
 

Gibby

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Ben, I feel that if you better understood how the forge was constructed, everything else around it would make sense. Did the water drive a turbine or a wheel? Was the wheel or turbine driven by falling water ? Did the raceway go through the forge or off to one side? What were the horsepower requirements? If question such as these could be answered some how, then what lies behind the forge could be figured out exactly. I have seen a hammer forge in Austria and the mechanics behind the workings are numbing - all aim for drive ratios.
 

Ben Ruset

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Well, turbine mills seem pretty rare in these parts. The only one I know of is the grist mill at Walnsford.

As far as wheel driven mills, the water is carried to the wheel from a sluice (or in the case of Howell Works, pipes) and then let go either at the top of the wheel (overshot), in the middle (breastshot), or near the bottom (undershot.) Overshot wheels provide the most power. Then the water flows through the tailrace along the side of the building back to the main body of water after the dam.

Turbine mills will have the mill race basically flow under the building.
 

Ben Ruset

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Interesting. That mill in Austria was built in 1802, which makes it older than Mary Ann.

I'm wondering if the spot that I have marked as "depression" is the forge site. I've poked around it before but haven't found any brick. Yesterday I was starting to think that it was just a spot that was dug out to build up the dam.

I just need a time machine, that's all.
 

bobpbx

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Thanks for that video Gibby, it cleared up a lot in my mind. Where is that reference to Dover Forge and Ferrago wherein they were in a race to see whose hammer struck first....I can't find it, but they both struck on the same day.
 

woodjin

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Ben, perhaps this third channel was later dug out for the cranberry bog? Or perhaps the forge never utilized the main channel?
I feel like I've beaten mary Ann, lower mill and beck' canal to death and it just keeps on beating back:) Ben, I think Gabe's statement here is of extreme importance to understanding the area...there are layers of history literally resting on top of each other in there. tying to decipher what belongs to what operation is difficult. That doesn't mean you should stop tying, I am eager to see what you come up with, but keep this point in mind and see if there are any differences in the construction of the canals that might be indictive of different time periods.

Jeff
 
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Oops, I just realized I mistyped. I meant to say, perhaps the sawmill never utilized the main channel. It could be the case that the two northern channels were the tailraces of both the forge and sawmill. However, looking at the 1931 aerials, it seems clear that there was a mill that utilized the flow of the main channel, as indicated by the tailrace that begins immediately downstream from the dam and which makes a right turn back into the main branch a little ways downstream. Could there have been three mills here? Or was one of the straight channels simply excavated as an overflow channel, whether for the forge pond or for the later cranberry bog?
 
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It would seem that sometimes more outflow channels were needed for cranberryin'. Collins Mill in Galloway is an example of a millpond converted to a cranberry bog where a new channel was dug out for the cranberry operation.
 

Ben Ruset

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Well, if they wanted to use the mill pond for the bogs they would have needed to drain it. Maybe that's why the road over the dam dips down where the channel is. They needed to get a good amount of water out of there, more than what the raceway to where the mill wheel was, so it would make sense that they would tear a chunk out of the dam to lower the level of the pond. But that doesn't explain the middle channel.