Towers of Fire: Iron Production in the Pine Barrens

Ben Ruset

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Bob,

I will go back through my books and see exactly where I read about the poor quality of finished bog iron books.

It may also have come from a conversation with Budd as well. I really should take better notes.
 

bobpbx

Piney
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Oct 25, 2002
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Pines; Bamber area
Cannon and cannonballs were cast from bog iron; and bog iron, due to the impurities and structural irregularities inherent in the limonite, was in fact, of a lesser quality than iron ore sourced from Pennsylvia and refined with anthracite coal.

http://www.maden.hacettepe.edu.tr/dmmrt/dmmrt128.html (and scroll down to "bog iron."

So Ariadne, a couple follow-up questions then:

-Would a cannon ball made from NJ bog iron hurt less if it hit you in the stomach, than from one poured from, say, Pennsylvania ore?

-Does your statement about the "impurities" and "structural irregularites" inherent in our bog iron translate to the general statement that materials and products cast from bog iron ore in 19th century NJ were useless in most applications?

-Can processing techniques indeed improve upon some of the negative qualities? Do you think some furnaces may have indeed perfected techniques that improved their products greatly?

-Were there any products fashioned out of bog iron ore in NJ during the 19th century of such a qualtity that they were (and still are today) admired for their strength, durability, and workmanship? Or was everything just useless junk that broke or shattered easily.
 

Furball1

Explorer
Dec 11, 2005
378
1
Florida
Brooklawn Cannonballs (Sounds like a Bowling Team)

My Grandfather lived in a home near the Little Timber Creek in Brooklawn. It was within yards of the southern bank, quite an impressive and high river bank. The story has it that he was planting in his garden when he discovered 6 cannonballs buried in the soil. He got in touch with a local historical society (Woodbury/Gloucester County?) and a team of investigators from Rutgers (?) came, their mission was to find buried cannon and cannonballs which were purportedly buried in haste when the Hessians routed the colonials after the second attack at Redbank---or, when the colonials routed the Hessians on the first attack...well, someone buried these armaments in an effort to prevent the enemy from obtaining them, and my Grandfather's house was near Old Kings Highway, which everyone used during the revolt when they were running from enemy soldiers and the like. I still have two of the cannonballs---it would be fascinating to see if they were forged in the PB's. They are very hard, solid, and heavy, and boy does it hurt when they come anywhere near your toes! I would guess their quality is quite superb, especially when hitting the enemy in the midriff. The cannon(s) were never found. There's another story about a sword still in a scabbard found in the mucky mud of the LTC, but I cannot confirm its accuracy as the teller of the tale might have been telling a "tall tale".
 

Ben Ruset

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So Ariadne, a couple follow-up questions then:

-Would a cannon ball made from NJ bog iron hurt less if it hit you in the stomach, than from one poured from, say, Pennsylvania ore?

-Does your statement about the "impurities" and "structural irregularites" inherent in our bog iron translate to the general statement that materials and products cast from bog iron ore in 19th century NJ were useless in most applications?

-Can processing techniques indeed improve upon some of the negative qualities? Do you think some furnaces may have indeed perfected techniques that improved their products greatly?

-Were there any products fashioned out of bog iron ore in NJ during the 19th century of such a qualtity that they were (and still are today) admired for their strength, durability, and workmanship? Or was everything just useless junk that broke or shattered easily.

You seem to be taking this personally. :)

Bog iron is more brittle than other forms of iron. Hence, there is a larger chance that a cannon made from bog iron would explode vs. a cannon made from Pennsylvania iron. A cannon ball made from either form of iron is going to do the same damage.

I don't think that anybody has said that bog iron products were useless. Brittle, yes. Inferior to Pennsy iron that was stronger, yes. But, how strong does a window sash need to be? How strong does a fireback need to be? Obviously there are applications that bog iron would be just as good for than any other form of iron. It's all a matter of how much stress the finished product was put under.

I am sure that, had the Jersey furnaces stayed in business longer, there would have been more and more advances to improve the quality of the finished product. Most of these advancements were made in forge technology rather than furnace technology, with the main exception being the development of the hot blast technique.

Jersey Furnaces died because they couldn't compete with Pennsylvania furnaces. Pennsylvania furnaces were larger[1], and therefore could produce more. Pennsylvania had the benefit of a better rail network. Coal was easier to get than charcoal, and the iron in the Pennsylvania mountains was of a higher quality (and probably cheaper to mine) than bog iron.


[1] Making Iron & Steel: The Historic Process, 1700-1900 by Jack Chard, North Jersey Highlands Historical Society, 1995 p.6
 
So Ariadne, a couple follow-up questions then:

-Would a cannon ball made from NJ bog iron hurt less if it hit you in the stomach, than from one poured from, say, Pennsylvania ore?

The answer to that is no.
However the purpose of the cannon ball in most cases was to damage forts and ships, etc. A ball that would shatter on these things would be pretty useless.

Steve
 

bobpbx

Piney
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Oct 25, 2002
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Pines; Bamber area
I am not taking it personally, but on behalf of the Jersey pioneers who made good quality iron. I have a lot of pride in NJ and its history, and I assume so do the forefathers.

I was a little put off by Diggers comment..."Bog iron was definitely a sub-par product, whose own uselessness contributed to its failure. I would be interested to see how long and what sorts of items made from bog iron stood the test of time."

I mean come on, are you going to say its so bad it disintegrates? There are still firebacks today in great condition. I'm quite sure George appreciated each delivery of cannon balls also.
 

woodjin

Piney
Nov 8, 2004
4,274
244
Near Mt. Misery
My Grandfather lived in a home near the Little Timber Creek in Brooklawn. It was within yards of the southern bank, quite an impressive and high river bank. The story has it that he was planting in his garden when he discovered 6 cannonballs buried in the soil. He got in touch with a local historical society (Woodbury/Gloucester County?) and a team of investigators from Rutgers (?) came, their mission was to find buried cannon and cannonballs which were purportedly buried in haste when the Hessians routed the colonials after the second attack at Redbank---or, when the colonials routed the Hessians on the first attack...well, someone buried these armaments in an effort to prevent the enemy from obtaining them, and my Grandfather's house was near Old Kings Highway, which everyone used during the revolt when they were running from enemy soldiers and the like. I still have two of the cannonballs---it would be fascinating to see if they were forged in the PB's. They are very hard, solid, and heavy, and boy does it hurt when they come anywhere near your toes! I would guess their quality is quite superb, especially when hitting the enemy in the midriff. The cannon(s) were never found. There's another story about a sword still in a scabbard found in the mucky mud of the LTC, but I cannot confirm its accuracy as the teller of the tale might have been telling a "tall tale".


That's cool!! Growning up in Lincroft NJ, a friend of mine found a cannon ball along the bank of an tributary to the Navasink river. It was along this area we called Devil's Hill because it was the steepest sleding hill around. Anyway we just knew it came form Capt. Kidd's ship as he fought his way back to the open ocean.

Jeff
 

Ben Ruset

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I was a little put off by Diggers comment..."Bog iron was definitely a sub-par product, whose own uselessness contributed to its failure. I would be interested to see how long and what sorts of items made from bog iron stood the test of time."

Ah, ok. I was wondering where the useless bit came from.

The answer to that is no.
However the purpose of the cannon ball in most cases was to damage forts and ships, etc. A ball that would shatter on these things would be pretty useless.

Steve

There were some quite nasty anti-personnel cannonballs:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canister_shot
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_(projectile)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grapeshot (ouch)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carcass_(projectile)

It never ceaces to amaze me how good man is at killing other men. Chemical weapons befor 1914? Didn't know we had 'em.
 

Furball1

Explorer
Dec 11, 2005
378
1
Florida
Franklin stoves?

I think PB iron was superb and exceptionally useful for the needs of the times---technology/progress, a force unto itself, made a new generation of iron available. The Batsto furnace was active for many years, proving its usefulness and worth to those early pioneers. If I recall correctly, the Franklin Stove fireplace insert was made in the PB's, either at Batsto or Atsion or both? Would B.Franklin choose poor ore for one of his very useful, and at the time "highly efficient" fireboxes, which was a very efficient alternative than BTU wasting fireplaces? Heck, I think his design is still being used today to improve heating capacity/ability of a typical fireplace. You just have to admire the unbelievable efforts and hard work of those early entrepeneurs! 3 cheers for Pine Barrens Iron Ore!!! It:dance: helped the USA win the Revolution!!!
 

Furball1

Explorer
Dec 11, 2005
378
1
Florida
Yip Yip Hooorayyy for the USA!!!!

I'll take a "just barely" win over a loss anytime. The whole war was a "just barely" event, and I am thankful for the contributions of those early forges.
 

bobpbx

Piney
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Oct 25, 2002
12,331
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Pines; Bamber area
Just barely. The vast majority of furnaces sprung up post revolution (and actually, a lot were post War of 1812 as well.)

Batsto and (I believe) Hanover were the only Pine Barrens furnaces that actually made munitions for the war.

Geez Ben. Have you ever seen Debbie Downer on Saturday Night Live?

Raaaa-Raaa!
 

jokerman

Explorer
May 29, 2003
336
11
Manasquan
They say that all the water pipes installed in lower Manhattan were made at Butcher's Forge in Ocean County, N.J. I can't say whether or not this pipework has been replaced, but I bet some of it is still being used. Pine Barrens pig iron and it's refined product seem to be extremely resistant to decay and are most likely still in place in many places in good condition.
 

Ben Ruset

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They say that all the water pipes installed in lower Manhattan were made at Butcher's Forge in Ocean County, N.J. I can't say whether or not this pipework has been replaced, but I bet some of it is still being used. Pine Barrens pig iron and it's refined product seem to be extremely resistant to decay and are most likely still in place in many places in good condition.

Butchers Forge was not too far from my house. When the chiggers die down I'm going to go looking for it.

And yes, I would place a bet that somewhere in Lower Manhattan there are bog iron pipes still in the ground - if not still being used.

IIRC there is a bog iron pipe inside a log on display at the Franklin Institute.
 

jokerman

Explorer
May 29, 2003
336
11
Manasquan
jokerman said:
Butchers Forge was not too far from my house. When the chiggers die down I'm going to go looking for it.

The only thing left is the pond. There are 2 outfalls from the pond to the Metedeconk River, but the dam broke in the 1840's destroying the forge, most of the town and a lot of the inhabitants. Some old homes and buildings which appear to be related to the former forge town are located on the northeastern side of the river. This area is currently called "Laurelton", and formerly part of Burrsville. An old house associated with the Burr family (Burrsville) who were owners of the forge at one time is located about 1-2 miles up Burrsville Road to the north of the former forge site. If you look at old maps, the forge would have been located adjacent to a road which entered the forge site from Rt. 70 and went diaganol to the southwest. You can still see where this road went into the area and continued onto islands which are currently surrounded by water. Based on my estimates, the forge would have been an area there which is currently underwater since they rebuilt the dam and current water-holding configurations. I'm also sure that the current parking lot at the closed supermarket was used as the main yard for the forge. A mill was also located on the south side of the dam area.
 

jokerman

Explorer
May 29, 2003
336
11
Manasquan
The old landing is on the east side and this area still appears busy. Bergen Iron Works also used this landing for shipping their product which was brought down via a "plank road".
 
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