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FURNACE TOWN - A Wonderful Peek Into The Past of Small Town Life 1829-1850
A Quaint Community - Furnace Town
Nestled amongst the hardwoods, cedars, and holly trees, in the forests of Snow Hill, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, lies a unique little town known as Furnace Town. From 1829 to 1850, this special, quiet place became home to approximately 300 people who lived and worked together, side by side, toward one common goal – the making of iron. The town was situated on 4800 acres of land that had been purchased by the Maryland Iron Company when iron bog ore was found to be growing abundantly in the Nassawango Swamp. 300 - 400 of those acres became a pond that held water used to power the bellows of the furnace, and the Town’s grain and sawmills. In 1850, the Town ceased to exist as a working community when a better quality of iron ore was discovered in the Western states and the Maryland Iron Company declared bankruptcy, forcing most of the families to move away to find work elsewhere. The Worcester County Historical Society began work restoring Furnace Town in the 1960’s and Furnace Town Foundation, Inc. maintains Furnace Town as it is today.
Walking along the quiet paths of the Town with only the sounds of the wind rustling the leaves in the trees, birds happily chirping to each other and insects going about their day amidst the period buildings and gardens, one gets a sense of the hustle and bustle of everyday life as people went about the business of making iron, and building their families and quaint community. Each individual person possessed his or her own special individual responsibility and role that was pertinent to the success of the Town - the Town storekeeper who also took on the roles of banker and postmaster, the bog workers whose responsibility it was to remove the ore from the swamps or bogs, the colliers who made charcoal needed for fuel in the smelting of the iron, teamsters who hauled the ore to the furnace, the blacksmith who made items from iron for anything from nails, to wagon wheels, to kitchen utensils to tools, the women who kept house, raised their children, made bread and carried it to the local brick oven to have baked and tended gardens needed for food and medicinal purposes, the woodworker and carpenters who made wood products for the building of homes, businesses, cabinets, wheels, and furniture, the potter with his or her homemade bowls, cups and jars, the weaver who used a hand loom to make beautiful pieces of cloth and fabric for rugs, clothes and household items, the broom maker who used sticks, corn and straw to make brooms for sweeping hearths and floors, possibly even a printer for the Town newspapers, school books and manuals, and many, many others - each person with his or her own special skills and talents that played a very important role in sustaining life in Furnace Town.
Visiting Furnace Town will provide you the opportunity to take a peek at life as lived in a small, successful, self-sustaining town as it may have been over 180 years ago. You will be able to walk through a house adorned with items a family may have needed and used in their everyday life, a woodworker’s shop chock full of tools he may have used in his carpentry work, a church, an outhouse, a working blacksmith’s shop with actual bellows, furnaces and iron. You will be able to take in the immensity of the actual furnace that produced approximately 22 tons of iron each week, a broom house with handmade brooms and the items used in making those brooms, a print shop, implement building, and weaver’s house where they still make beautiful woven items today. There is a small museum that will “tell” you the story of Furnace Town, displays archeological finds from the Town and will show you how the iron was actually made. You will also see the actual ruins of the furnace warehouses, baker’s oven, mansion house, brick walkway, and company store. There is a delightful garden with vegetables, herbs and other plants used for medicinal purposes growing beautifully as it would have been tended to and cared for all those many years ago. You may even be fortunate enough to have a conversation with a period dressed artisan who will provide you with interesting facts and quips about his or her life in Furnace Town and the flora and fauna of the area that Furnace Town calls home. There is a visitor’s center/museum shop where you can purchase actual items made in the weaver, woodworker and blacksmith’s shops. It is a wonderful adventure that will take you back to a more peaceful time where everyone worked and labored hard with hands, heart and soul, together, side by side, for the success of their community and a way of life rarely seen today.
Furnace Town Foundation, Snow Hill, Maryland