The furnace was also known as Hellam Iron Works, Hellam Forge and later Codorus Forge.
In 1765 William Bennet built the forge and furnace on a 150-acre tract that he obtained from the Penn family. The furnace is made of selected stone bound with iron hoops and lined with sandstone and fire-clay. The furnace was built against the side of a hill with a bridge from the hill to the top of the furnace. Over this bridge the workers carried baskets of ore, charcoal and limestone and poured the raw materials into layers at the top of the furnace. Blasts of very hot air were forced into the furnace and the resulting liquid was percolated to the bottom. It was then tapped off at intervals into large ladles. This molted iron is called "pig iron" or just "pig". It was poured into molds. Later the metal smiths or blacksmiths worked it into different shapes or forms to make the desired items. The operation was supplied with iron ore and lime from several quarries and ore banks located throughout the Township.
Furnaces such as this could consume 840 bushels of charcoal every twenty four hours.
At one time the furnace employed as many as 60 men. With two guttermen, two founders, two keepers, and three fillers to work it, the furnace was in blast nine months of the year. Work at the furnace was hard and dangerous. For that reason, the legislature passed acts in 1726 and 1736 prohibiting the sale of liquors at any public house within two miles of a furnace.
Many of the cannons and cannon balls used by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War were cast at this location as well as for the War of 1812. The furnace played an important part in re-arming Washington’s armies at Valley Forge.
In 1771 James Smith, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a member of the Continental Congress, bought the furnace. The furnace produced iron bars, pots, pans and cast iron until it ceased operation in 1850 after an existence of 85 years. A similar furnace was operated at Batsto Village, New Jersey. Batsto has its own section.
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