The West Virginia Genealogical and Economic Survey identifies several small iron-smelting furnaces located throughout the state. Valley Furnace in Barbour County is one of those historic sites.
West Virginians know well how important iron is to our country and the role that our state played in the development of the iron and steel industries. (None need look deeper into history than Harper’s Ferry, the place President George Washington thought so superior in terms of the quality of the iron ore, that he established the famous armory there.) Valley Furnace, though small and short-lived, was no less significant.
Established in 1848, the Old Iron Furnace produced in excess of 9,000 pounds, or 4.5 tons, of smelted iron each day. The furnace is known as a charcoal kiln, meaning charcoal was the fuel used to smelt the raw ore. Transportation of this ore to market was a significant feat as it required overland hauling by mule teams to riverboats on the Monongahela. With time, more efficient means of mining and transporting ore across larger distances gave rise to exploration of richer veins and beds. As a result, much of the iron mining industry relocated Northwest to the Great Lakes region.
The old iron Valley Furnace still stands as a ghostly vestige of an era gone by and the early industrious nature of the Barbour County inhabitants.