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Volunteers hope to restore Mt. Olive furnace

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP - Mt. Olive will once again have an iron furnace if a group of Lawrence County residents can rebuild it.

In 2002, Amos Hawkins, a retired history teacher from Aid Township, and Carl Malone, a 32-year employee of the U.S. Forestry Service from Symmes Township, formed the Mt. Olive Furnace Park Corp.

Malone said they created the corporation, which now has a total of eight members, because they want to educate the residents of Lawrence County about this aspect of the county's history.

The corporation's members, according to documents obtained from the corporation, intend to cooperate with the county's schools to make this a mandatory field trip for all students.

"It's a shame people in Lawrence County don't know the history of the county," Hawkins said in written statement.

The completed project will include the re-establishment of some original buildings, such as the company store, which will have a museum and classroom on the second floor; nature trails created with the cooperation of the U.S. Forestry Service and shelters with picnic tables for parties and reunions, according to plans obtained from the corporation.

Malone said the blueprints that will be used for rebuilding were obtained from Buckeye Furnace. He said, though, that no two furnaces were built alike. For instance, the Mt. Olive Furnace has a Roman archway that Malone believes no other furnace in the United States has.

Mt. Olive Furnace began its blast in 1846 and ceased operation about 1910, according to the research the group has completed.

The group also found the furnace employed approximately 300 men to operate the furnace and work in the forest and mines.

The furnace produced approximately 3,000 tons of iron every year, which lasted from September until May.

The corporation secured a 50-year lease from Dave Patton, owner of the property, in April 2003, allowing the corporation to move forward with its plans.

However, if the corporation cannot renew the lease after 50 years, a clause in the lease calls for the destruction of everything the corporation built, Malone said.

According to Malone, approximately $2,000 has been raised from local residents and businesses and the money has already been spent developing the land. Also donated to the cause has been an estimated $3,000 in volunteer labor, Malone said.

John Rehme of Decatur Township has volunteered his time to help with the project.

"It has tremendous county historical value with what went on before the Civil War," Rehme said.

During the past year, the corporation has razed the remains of a store and removed trees and brush. The furnace is now visible from state Route 93, 20 miles north of Ironton, across from Mt. Olive Baptist Church, the former company church.

To donate money or labor, contact Carl Malone at 2753 County Road 51, Pedro, Ohio 45659 or call (740) 643-2657.