Cleanup of old Hamilton Furnace continues

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 15, 2008

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Unearthing buried treasure.

Work continues on a project to clean up the site of the old Hamilton Furnace along the Ohio River in Hamilton Township.

About a year ago, area history enthusiasts began clearing away the overgrowth that obscured the remains of what was once one of the area’s producers of the pig iron for which Lawrence County and this part of the Ohio Valley became known. The furnace and surrounding property was owned by Ironmaster Robert Hamilton until 1856.

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But years had not been kind to the old furnace. The 110-foot-tall smokestack was demolished in the 1920s and until last spring, brush and saplings covered what was left of it.

Covered in vines and blocked by trees, passersby on the river and on U.S. 52 couldn’t see it and most probably didn’t even know it was there until last spring when work began to clean away some of the underbrush.

Afterward, what was left were some trees that had grown on the top of the furnace. Bob Blankenship, one of those spearheading the effort, said Randy Kelley, who owns BWC trucking, has donated the use of a track hoe and bulldozer. Kelley began work at the site last fall and then returned earlier this month.

“He’s removed some of the trees that were growing on top of the furnace and leveled some of the dips and this has just opened up the area,” Blankenship said.

Kelley was not available for comment.

Blankenship estimated 29 people have donated 153 hours of volunteer service within the last year to clean up the site.

“You stand there now at the furnace and you can look out on the Ohio River and see in both directions,” Blankenship said.