Bloomery Was an Industrial Village
Reprinted from the October 29, 2003 Hampshire Review
Photos by Elli Goyette, Review Staff
Remnants of the iron furnace still stand tall in Bloomery. Large rocks and steel rods formed the foundation of the furnace, and a rock wall still stands behind the furnace on the hill.
Many may not realize that at one time Bloomery was a booming village full of history and business. And at the center of that village was the iron furnace. The furnace was built in 1833 by Thomas Pastly and later owned by Lewis Passmor, according to the West Virginia Historic Commission. A Mr. Cornwell was placed in charge and operated the furnace until 1848 when it was sold to S.A. Pancost. Pancost and his heirs operated the furnace until 1875 when it closed down. It was operated again in 1880-81.
The Historic Commission also records a skirmish during the Civil War that occurred in Bloomery whereupon Brigadier General Frederick W. Lander attacked a Confederate brigade under Colonel J. Sencendiver. During that skirimish, the Confederates were routed and fled toward Winchester. Lander returned to his camp at Paw Paw, and Sencendiver again occupied Bloomery Gap.
Resident Glenwood Johnson has lived in the Bloomery area all his life. He and his family own the land on which the iron furnace and other buildings are located. He as heard stories about the iron furnace and the history of Bloomery passed down from generation to generation. He is an avid reader of historical documents and loves to recall the days of past.
Here’s his story.
“It was called Sherrod’s Store until the iron furnace came to town. The iron furnace brought jobs to about 80 men and put Bloomery on the map as an industrial area.
“All the iron furnaces from Georgia to Maine were called bloomeries, and that’s how Bloomery got its name.
“Bloomery was chosen as a site for an iron furnace because it offered water and elevation behind the furnace to keep the water flowing. Bloomery Run made this area what it was. A flume brought water from the dam near the old school to the furnace to supply the power.
“Not only did Bloomery have an iron furnace, but it also had several mills, including a woolen mill that made blankets for the Confederate army. There was also a doctor, hat maker, tannery, bootmaker and weaving place in Bloomery.
“Located near the iron furnace was a company store and school which still remain today. The store probably supplied salt pork, flour, cloth and shoes. My father attended the school when he was about 9 or 10 years old, and my wife’s aunt taught there. Some of the students were older than her.
The old store, located across from the iron furnace in Bloomery, could have provided pork, flour, cloth and shoes to residents.
“The iron furnace produced about 8,500 tons of ore each year. The ore was mined from the mountains surrounding Bloomery and then loaded onto trolley cars, which were pulled by horses and mules over wooden rails, a distance of about 1 ½ miles. Some of the remnants of the wooden rails can still be seen today. In fact, the wagons were made at a shop across the road from the furnace.
“The ore was taken to the furnace to produce what was called “pig iron” because it resembled a sow with her babies. The pig was then carried by horses to flatboats and rafts for their journey down the Cacapon River.
“It’s amazing how the large rocks were brought in to build the furnace. The charcoal, limestone and iron ore were all found around them. Whatever they needed they found a way to invent and build it.”
The old schoolhouse served iron furnace workers but was also open to the public.