By Emmett A. Conway, Sr., The Olde Forester
Site of Zaleski Furnace, 1978
Dates: 1858 c'72
Condition: Bluff and few fragments
Capacity: 15 tons
Observations and Comments on
the Zaleski Company Iron Furnace
Written by The Olde Forester
after a visit to site on February 17, 1999 (his 85th birthday)
I walked from SR 278 thru the hemlock planting just south of Mine Hollow Road to find a cut stone I remembered from 1941-47 when the Forest Ranger. Sure enough there was the stone as I remembered it although hidden from view by the drooping branches of the hemlock planting.
I am more inquisitive now and looked for other remains of the Zaleski Furnace.
The furnace field is above on the large level ground now occupied by the Zaleski State Forest Ranger Station. When I was there in the forties, the old timers called the flat “ the furnace field” . In the thirties the CCC camp occupied the furnace field. It was called the furnace field by Jim McKibben and Mr. Vansky, older residents of Zaleski.
Vansky talked of ore roads in the forest and charcoaling roads or “coalin’ roads."
The Story of Zaleski by S.W. Ely given to me by Eliz. Cavanaugh when at Zaleski State Forest and copied by my secretary, describes the furnace and the operation. They first used coal. Ely reported that they first tried coal in the furnace. The stack cracked and had to be relined. Then they switched to charcoal, I think. The ZSF forest office has a copy of these three newspaper articles, I believe. I know that the Vinton County library does.
Behind the stone there is a pit which is about where the stack would have stood. The sougan or salamander would have been in this spot, the bottom of the stack containing the last of the mix.
On the north side of the stack hole is another pit which might be where the engine would have been powering the blowing pistons or blowing tubs. There are flywheel pits at Vinton Furnace and at Richland Furnace. They would be one side or the other at Zaleski.
It appears that the furnace stones which were useable were removed. The one remaining is shorter than usual and has two small pieces beside it. They alone were left to help identify the furnace site. There is no record of the stack having had an iron mantle.
The next thing I found was a 1" x 1" mixed remnant under the leaves. It appears to be part of what would have been in the bottom of the stack. It is heavy with iron, has some slag, and looks like charcoal. I didn't take time to look for more, but there would be much archaeological material in the ground to study.
Next we drove to the Park Ranger Office and asked for Rod Garey. He was at the Dining Lodge, so we drove up there.
I gave the piece found just east of the cut stone to Rod Garey and told him of the furnace site. I suggested that he give it to the Naturalist at the Park and that he might want to explore further and include the site of the furnace on their visitor tours.
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