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Blog post by Lee Maddex, Archives Processing Assistant, WVRHC.

The Henry Clay Furnace hike is one of the most popular hikes taken on Coopers Rock State Forest. It is a relatively short hike, about one mile to the furnace and it is rated as a moderate hike, not too easy, not too difficult. On any given day, numerous hikers can be found along the trail or at the furnace. I have made the hike to Henry Clay Furnace perhaps thirty-five or forty times since the late 1980s and have explored forest adjacent to the trail and furnace many times, as well. During these adventures, I have found the numerous remains of the iron industry. This blog post provides a hiking guide to the vestiges or remnants of the iron industry to see along the trail to the furnace. First a brief history of the Henry Clay Furnace.

Henry Clay Iron Furnace hiking trail sign

Brief History

Leonard Lamb constructed the Henry Clay Iron Furnace in 1834 for the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania firm of Tassey, Morrison and Semple. Lamb presumably named the furnace Henry Clay after the Kentucky senator Henry Clay, who was a great proponent of the American iron industry. Interestingly, Lamb also named his third son Henry Clay, as well (born December 22, 1834). The Henry Clay Furnace was the first steampowered iron furnace in Western Virginia and operated until 1848. It was abandoned after its iron ore supply was depleted.

The Henry Clay Furnace was part of a larger ironworks complex. At its height in the late 1840s, this industrial complex (known as the Monongalia Iron Works), included not only the Henry Clay Furnace, but two additional iron furnaces, the Woodgrove and Anna furnaces; and a cut nail factory, a stove works, a rolling mill, puddling furnaces, sawmill, and grist mill located at Ices Ferry; plus some 14,000 acres of timber and iron ore lands in Monongalia and Preston counties. Interestingly, the footprint of Coopers Rock State Forest sits virtually on top of the footprint of this historic ironmaking tract.

hikers at furnace
Henry Clay Furnace was a popular destination for hikers well before the creation of Coopers Rock State Forest in 1936. Shown here are hikers at the furnace in 1890.

Remnants of the Iron Industry

The Henry Clay Furnace is the most recognizable remnant of the ironmaking industry that once flourished on the present-day Coopers Rock State Forest. What follows is a guide to the less oblivious remains of this iron industry and takes the form of a travel log starting at the Henry Clay Furnace parking lot.

The road to the Henry Clay Furnace (aka Clay Furnace Trail) is a less than oblivious vestige of the iron industry. Today this road is just one of many forest trails, connecting with several other forest trails, but it predates the building of the Henry Clay Furnace. The road’s construction dates to the early nineteenth century, and historically it led east to the crossroads at Hopewell Church and west to a point on the early road across Chestnut Ridge. Like real estate, where location is key, iron furnaces needed to be near its raw materials (iron ore, timber for charcoal and limestone), making its location crucial. Leonard Lamb chose a site that was ideal for an iron furnace. Not only was the furnace site near its raw materials, but the road facilitated the construction of the Henry Clay Furnace. It permitted relatively easy access for the stone masons to quarry and transport stone to the site, and after its completion, transporting of the product of the furnace, pig iron, to Ices Ferry. Just imagine hauling a huge steam engine to the furnace site over this road!

As you leave the Henry Clay Furnace parking lot on the way to the furnace, the road will initially be rocky and rough. After about 0.25 miles, the road will start to level out. Look to the right and you will notice a trace of trail running diagonally down into the woods. This is not a trail, but the remnant of a tramroad. This tramroad was a horse drawn railroad, that was used to haul iron ore to the furnace from the nearby iron ore mines.

tramroad
Several additional miles of tramroads were built on the forest in the 1840s and 50s. The tramroad shown here dates to the 1850s. Note the use of wooden rails.

Continue down the road. After a short distance, about 150 feet, look to the right and you will notice several deep holes below the road. These are iron ore mines, where iron ore for the Henry Clay Furnace was mined. Iron ore was mined by excavating the soil and rock layer above the iron ore. Once uncovered the iron ore was broken up with sledgehammers and hauled to the furnace on the adjacent tramroad. These mines take the form of pits and trenches and are extensive on this side of the road. These “ore banks,” as they were known in the nineteenth century, are the earliest iron mines associated with the Henry Clay Furnace.

iron ore pit
Iron Ore Pit

Continue down the road, perhaps another 0.10 miles. On left above the road are more iron ore mines. These are trenches (once the iron ore was located, it was mined by following the contours of the land). You will have to scramble up the bank to see these trenches (just be careful climbing up and down the bank; it can be a little treacherous). If you check around the base of trees near these trenches, you will see “spoils,” bits of shale excavated in the mining process, and generally you see fragments of iron ore as well. The iron ore is dense and heavy for its size and will be red and/or red and black. It will vary in size from fragments to sometimes large pieces. Historically, the miners called these ores, the “Red Belt Ores,” and are same ores mined on the other side of the road. These are also the earliest mines associated with the Henry Clay Furnace.

Iron Ore Trench
Iron Ore Trench

Not everything to see on your hike to the furnace relates to the iron industry. There are natural features too. As you near the furnace, the trail becomes a little rougher again. The bank is steep on the left and the hillside drops away on the right. Look to the right for a boulder, a piece of Connoquenessing sandstone. From up the trail it looks like another rock, in a landscape full of rocks and boulders, but continue down the road another ten feet or so, past the boulder and look back up at it. It may take a moment or two to find the right perspective, but you will see a boulder that has the distinct shape of a fish. You can make out the mouth, the eye, a fin, and the tail. The tail makes a fine seat too if you need to take a break.

fish-shaped boulder
Fish-Shaped Boulder

When you arrive at the junction of the Henry Clay Furnace road and the Advanced Ski Trail, take a moment to stop and look at the back of the furnace. This level ground was where the furnace was charged with its blend of iron ore, limestone, and charcoal used in the smelting process (no longer extant, but there was a bridge that connected this area with the furnace). Notice the ground is black from the charcoal. Also note how the bank behind the furnace has been eroded by mountain bikers riding down the hillside. This is a fun ride I am sure, but this activity is extremely bad for the furnace remains.

As you resume your hike toward the furnace, the road bends to the right and it becomes rather rough again. This part of the road was paved using slag. Slag is the glassy byproduct of iron smelting process. Slag is ubiquitous around the furnace with “slag heaps,” or piles of slag everywhere within a quarter mile of the furnace. There is even a slag island in Clay Run.

Henry Clay Iron Furnace
The Henry Clay Furnace in the fall of 2019. The steam engine sat to the right of the furnace and the molten iron was run out into a sand bed in front of the furnace. The dendritic pattern formed by the iron being cast resembled piglets suckling at the mother sow, thus the name “pig iron.”

When you arrive at the furnace, take some time to closely look at it. The furnace is in remarkable condition for a structure that is nearly two hundred years old. Look at the stonework. Each stone was hand cut and placed without the use of power tools or other modern construction equipment. Also notice the care taken to add texture or rustication to each stone block.

close-up of stonework
Close up of the stonework

This concludes your tour to the Henry Clay Furnace. From here you can return the way you came or venture on one of the forest trails that connect at the furnace. Most of all enjoy your time at Coopers Rock State Forest!

Blog post by Lee Maddex, Archives Processing Assistant, WVRHC.

On April 10, 1983, the legendary San Francisco rock group, the Grateful Dead, played the West Virginia University Coliseum to much ado. Formed in 1965, the Dead forged their own musical path over the next thirty years, playing well over 2,300 concerts. Often perceived as a 1960s psychedelic throw-back band, the Grateful Dead had their roots in folk and jug band music and jazz and played a sophisticated blend of rock and roll, jazz, country and blues (now is known as roots music or Americana). The group disbanded in 1995 following the death of lead guitarist Jerry Garcia. This blog post touches briefly on the actual concert, but mostly examines the local and student reaction to the Grateful Dead and their followers coming to Morgantown.

Now nearly four decades later, it is easy to forget how popular the Grateful Dead once were, but in the early 1980s, the Grateful Dead were extremely popular with college students on campuses across the United States. WVU was no exception and our campus had a couple hundred ardent Dead fans known as Dead Heads. Not an overwhelming number but we had our fair share. In fact, when the local Grateful Dead cover band Nexus played downtown at the Underground Railroad (now 123 Pleasant Street), it was always packed with students and locals alike, dancing to the songs of the Dead until closing time. So, when the WVU Pop Arts Committee announced that the Grateful Dead were to play the WVU Coliseum on April 10 there was excitement both on campus and around the state. Tickets went on sale at the Coliseum on Sunday March 13 at 1:00pm. A sizeable crowd of students and fans camped out inline starting late Saturday night to get the best tickets when the box office opened the next day.

Invitation to Grateful Dead concert
The Go Go’s, Flock of Seagulls, Pat Benatar, Kenny Rogers, and the Oak Ridge Boys all played the WVU Coliseum during the 1982-83 academic year.

However, this excitement for the Grateful Dead concert was not shared by the local law enforcement. Morgantown Chief of Police John Cease was not very sanguine about the Grateful Dead coming to campus and was clearly in near panic over the concert. In a Dominion Post article dated Friday April 8, 1983, Cease said that the Grateful Dead were “notorious for its almost “cult-like followers” and that “we are anticipating we will probably have some motorcycle guys in here Sunday.” Cease went on to say “come Sunday, there will be an influx of persons into Morgantown [and] typically, Grateful Dead followers camp out rather than lodge in hotels…and that there have been “situations where people camp out on public grounds, private buildings and vacant buildings without much regard to those whose property they were on.” He concluded “It is the group activities before and after the concert that have presented the most direct threat to communities.” Fortunately, not all the local officials were in a state of panic. Cease acknowledged that the “university officials” stated that they are “well attuned to planning for the concert.” Cease’s near hysteria was remarkable considering on any given home football weekend, Morgantown experienced a huge influx of sports fans, many rowdy and law enforcement had no trouble handling the football crowd.

The Pop Arts Committee was the student-elected group tasked with bringing concerts to campus. Starting in the mid-1970s, they brought many big-name musical acts to the Coliseum, such as Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, America, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the Doobie Brothers, Boston, and many others. However, by 1980 the Pop Arts Committee struggled to bring in national touring bands because of the restriction prohibiting hanging equipment from the Coliseum’s dome. It was believed that the weight of this equipment would structurally compromise the Coliseum. Eventually it was determined that it was safe to hang lights and speakers from the dome. The Grateful Dead were one of the first bands permitted to hang their equipment hung from the dome.

The rumor on campus after the show, was that the Grateful Dead caught wind of this story (likely from the student stagehands, who worked the show) and that the Dead, ever the pranksters, wanted to test the structural soundness of the Coliseum. To that end, they opened the show with Samson and Delilah, a loud, rocking song that had the chorus “If I had my way, I would tear this old building down.” The Dead tried their best to tear down the Coliseum, but they, thankfully, failed.

Bob Weir
Rhythm Guitarist Bob Weir. Weir is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is still on the road performing Grateful Dead music

The Dead, however, did succeed in getting the audience up and dancing for the entire show! And by the end of the concert, the Coliseum crowd had enjoyed a typical early 1980s Grateful Dead concert. From the Samson and Delilah opener to the U.S. Blues encore, the setlist included songs ranging from their earliest days with Me and My Uncle to the 1970s with Uncle John’s Band and Sugar Magnolia to newer songs like Althea and My Brother Esau to the future top twenty hit Touch of Grey, that opened the second set. The concert was fair to middling musically, nothing too stellar, just some well-played “good old Grateful Dead.” However, without a doubt, everyone left the Coliseum with a smile on their face.

Local and student reaction to the concert was a mixed depending on who was commenting. The Dominion Post reporter, who clearly did not attend the show reported the next day “An influx of dead heads into Morgantown during the weekend to attend a rock concert turned a lot of heads, but for the most part passed without incident.” The reporter went on to say that only one concert goer had been arrested by the end of the show “for public indecency and intoxication.” (Oddly enough, this arrest occurred right in front of this author.) Police Chief John Cease, whose dire predictions did not come to pass, noted “Sunday…night passed without incident.”

The Daily Athenaeum sent student reporter Rich Gaw to the concert. His “jottings of a roving eye reporter” as he called them were published in the DA on Monday. It was clear that he did not get the Dead or the Dead Heads. Although the concert was a novel experience for Gaw (Dead Heads would disagree and say each show was a unique experience, a compelling reason to see more shows), he unwittingly captured the essence of the Grateful Dead concert experience. Gaw writes: “Outside the Coliseum, hordes of flowery vans flanked by gypsies are lined up in the parking lot. Lots of babies…Middle-aged women with long skirts parade in the blue entrance gate selling buttons, t-shirts, and tie-dye shirts.” He goes on “Concert starts. Coliseum transformed into traveling road show. Jerry’s harem weaving fluidly in the aisles, silhouetted against the exit gates. Going to Dead show is more a novelty than anything else. Like saying you’ve been to World Series…I watch some young man run up the aisles without clothing…I concluded that acid at a Dead Show is like hotdogs at a Yankee game…”

Jerry Garcia
Lead Guitarist Jerry Garcia. The song writing duo of Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter produced a canon of music that was superb with its beautiful melodies and timeless lyrics.

Laura Chiodo a contributor to the 1983 Monticola (WVU yearbook) had, for the most part, a better understanding of the Grateful Dead and their fans. She noted in the Monticola: “April 10, a rock and roll institution stopped in Morgantown. The Grateful Dead, followed by Dead Heads from across the nation, took concert attenders back to the days of peace, love and understanding. On the seats, in the aisles and with each other, Dead Heads danced throughout the two and a half-hour show. Guitarist extraordinaire, Jerry Garcia, laid down licks which proved why the Dead is such a mainstay in rock and roll history. Although many students did not attend, faithful Dead followers kept ticket sales from suffering…”

When it was all said and done, Morgantown survived the Grateful Dead and the Dead Heads. While there was one arrest, the Dead Heads did not run wild through the streets of Morgantown, destroying public property and the bikers never descended on the University City. The band and touring fans had the next day off, but they did not linger. Everyone moved on, heading to the next show in Binghamton, New York. And while Morgantown looked a little different in the Monday morning light, ultimately, the Grateful Dead left behind only memories and a few dozen of Grateful Dead related stickers on signs all around town.

Please note the Dominion Post and Daily Athenaeum newspapers and the Monticola yearbooks are available for use at the West Virginia Regional History Center.

There were multiple live recordings of the April 10, 1983 WVU Coliseum show available for your listening pleasure at archive.org.

By Nathan Kosmicki, WVRHC Graduate Assistant

Wheeling, West Virginia was a bustling town by the beginning of the Twentieth Century. It was the largest city in West Virginia and home to many industries including; steel, glass, pottery, breweries, and tobacco works. The period (roughly) between 1890 and 1920 has been called the Progressive Era for a number of reasons; the activism of several social movements, governmental intervention in public health and industrial matters, and societal shifts in the name of “progress”. Some of these were the famous trust busting of Theodore Roosevelt, the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration, the Temperance Movement, and the Labor Movement.

The Labor Movement was a social movement to address the vast gaps in economic equality which plagued the working classes of the United States. This labor movement was present in Wheeling, and in fact was very active during the first decades of the Twentieth Century. The Wheeling Majority was a socialist newspaper which circulated on a weekly basis in the city. Beneath the banner read the words “For those who plod with plow, pick, or pen”, suggesting that this publication was for all members of the working class.The Wheeling Majority featured articles and columns from noted labor leaders such as Eugene V. Debs and Mother Jones. Mother Jones was famous for her efforts with the United Mine Workers of America to unionize the coal miners in West Virginia. In addition to this, articles regarding women’s suffrage and boycotts of certain businesses would be posted. Wheeling was a hotbed of socialist activism for the state due to the aforementioned industrial presence but also because of the Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly. This organization made the dissemination of materials easier and brought together more than forty individual unions in the Ohio Valley area.

Mother Jones
A photograph of Mother (Mary) Jones, a prominent advocate for both labor and women’s rights in the Progressive Era.
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