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Campbell part of history bus tour

 Eventgoers gather outside the John Campbell house as they take part in the Iron Furnace History Tour Saturday morning.

Eventgoers gather outside the John Campbell house as they take part in the Iron Furnace History Tour Saturday morning.

About 125 years after his death Ironton founder John Campbell came back to his beloved city to tell his story to a busload of history buffs.

The appearance of Campbell, portrayed by Stephen Jenkins, was part of a Saturday tour of significant places in the county as part of the ongoing bicentennial celebration.

The Iron Furnace History Tour was presented by the Lawrence County Historical Society and organized by Steve Call, Dave Lucas, Debbie Rogers, Chris Saunders and Nicole Cox.

“John Campbell built or helped built 14 furnaces,” Jenkins told the group.

Besides building Ironton, Campbell also worked with M.T. Hilton, a surveyor, who helped lay out neighboring Ashland.

Jenkins has been portraying Campbell since 2004 when he first started participating in the society’s Historical Walk in September.

Campbell was one of the station masters of the Underground Railroad that rescued hundreds of slaves.

Then it was onto the Olive Furnace on State Route 93, one of the few remaining furnaces in the county.

The furnace produced 16 tons of pig iron a day and was started by Campbell in 1846. It features a Roman arch.

Restoring it is an ongoing project of Cox, a member of the historical society.

She has called in a couple of contractors but they declines to pursue the matter.

“We are trying to find somebody to help us save it,” she said.

Other sites on the tour were Vesuvius Furnace and the museum where Kay Rader did her portrayal of Nannie Kelley Wright.