Resume of the Kent Iron Industry

Limestone was to be had near the furnace, and was broken out easily in small pieces and delivered into the top house and loaded into two wheel carts ready for the stack. Ore and lime were both weighted for each charge proportioned to the cart of charcoal.

A Grist mill and a Blacksmith shop were both necessary adjuncts of furnace operation. About fifty acres of land adjoining the furnace were cultivated to produce hay, oats, corn and rye with which the twenty or more teams of horses and oxen could be fed. Other grain was brought in by car loads. A special feed for the animals was prepared in the mill of mixed corn and oats roughly ground.

Hay was cut into small lengths by a hand machine and a ration of hay, corn and oats, well moistened was made up fresh for each feeding. Wheat and rye flour was ground fine and bolted in the mill. Grain was brought in by local farmers who paid in tolls for the accommodation. The mill also ground plaster from limestone, for use on some farmland, by the furnace and local farmers, as fertilizer.

The mill was built over the flume which carried water to the wheelhouse for air supply to the furnace and used the same water supply in turbine wheels. The mill equipment was first class for those days and was always maintained in good order with daily operation, to the benefit of the community.

A blacksmith was in constant demand to keep the horses and oxen properly shod, and to make and repair all tools for furnace and farming use. The Blacksmith had to be an expert in his line, and was one, except when certain lapses occurred in mental and moral activity.

There was at one time a third furnace in Kent situated on Macedonia Brook about one fourth mile above the bridge over the brook leading up to Fuller and Skiff Mountains. This furnace was probably owned and managed by Charles Edwards of Kent. Mr. William K. Stone, an old and prominent resident of Kent, is authority for the statement that he remembers this furnace in operation, when a small boy, with a man named John Wilson as agent.

The counting house and scales used by the furnace were located on the site now occupied as a home by John Peters, also an old time resident. Macedonia Brook is formed by the union of Nodine Hollow Brook and an outlet from what was known in those days as Fuller Pond. There was a dam at the outlet of the pond with a gate to control the outflow of water to Macedonia Brook. It would appear therefore that the water power available from the brook was limited, and that the output from the furnace was small.

This furnace brought ore from Salisbury, Sharon, Amenia and Kent ore bed. A peculiarity mentioned in Atwater’s History, is that no limestone was found west of the Housatonic River for this furnace, and that it had to be carted over from Kent. Charcoal was made for this furnace, probably, in Nodine Hollow and iron was undoubtedly sent to Poughkeepsie as did the other Kent furnaces. There was, however, a Puddling furnace on this same brook, situated just below the turn of the highway north at what might be termed Peters Corner, situated on the Ross property. [It was located south of the highway on the brook below Peters Corner.]

It is stated that this Puddling furnace was operated and owned by Charles Edwards of Kent, possibly by others, which led the writer to assume as stated above that Mr. Edwards was no doubt interested in the iron furnace further up the brook, as they were close to each other, used the same water power and the output of the furnace undoubtedly was a feeder for the Puddling furnace.

A Puddling furnace is a much smaller structure than a furnace which transforms iron ore into pigs, and is in fact, a refinery for remelting pigs of iron cast in a furnace. The furnace is built of iron sides, top, and ends, approximately six feet wide, six feet high and twelve feet long, lined with refractory brick calculated to withstand very high temperatures. Fuel (charcoal) was fed into one end with a bridge wall a short distance from the firing door, and the far end was contracted to about two feet in width, from which a chimney took off gas and fumes and the bottom of the chimney let out accumulation of slag.

The process of Puddling consisted of stirring up the melted mass of pig iron with iron bars, and hooks, much as a woman might stir up a pudding. A strong blast of air, very much more in amount and pressure than a furnace requires, was continually brought into the puddling process with the melted iron for the purpose of removing all impurities and undesirable elements in the iron and especially carbon.

If this refining process is thoroughly carried out, the character of the metal is entirely changed and becomes wrought iron, which can be, and is, pounded by heavy drop hammers or squeezed to force out slag or other undesirable ingredients and then passed several times through rolls while still hot. The result of the process produces wrought iron shaped into bars or rods of different sizes, wagon tires or structural shapes.
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