Historical Markers
Coleraine Forges Historical Marker
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Coleraine Forges

Laurel Highlands/Southern Alleghenies


Marker Location:
Pa. 45, 1.6 miles NE of Spruce Creek

Dedication Date:
April 30, 1947

Behind the Marker

Coleraine Forges and other refinery forges processed pig iron from charcoal furnaces into wrought iron. Refinery forges were part of the secondary iron-production process, but like primary-production furnaces, refinery forges often stood at the center of iron plantations. And ironmasters sometimes integrated one or more refinery forges with charcoal furnaces into their operations.

Numerous ironmasters owned and operated the three forges that became known as Coleraine Forges. About 1810 William Patton and Edward Roach erected on Spruce Creek a forge they called Upper Sligo. Around 1813 these partners erected a second forge downstream from the first and named it Lower Sligo. Samuel Marshall constructed another forge nearby on Spruce Creek about the same time. Edward Patton and markerDavid R. Porter acquired the two Sligo forges in 1814, but they went out of business in 1819. Sometime later David McMurtrie, John Lyon, and Robert Stewart acquired all three forges and combined them under one name, Coleraine Forges. In 1828 Joseph and James Barnett and Anthony Shorb purchased Coleraine Forges and integrated them with Pennsylvania Furnace, which they also owned. Coleraine Forges processed iron from Pennsylvania Furnace and other area charcoal furnaces.
Oil on canvas of David Porter.
David R. Porter, Governor of Pennsylvania, 1839-1845.

The three Coleraine Forges operated next to a swift flowing stream and nearby charcoal furnaces, like numerous other refinery forges built in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Spruce Creek provided the water power essential to run the large tilt hammers at the forges. Extensive forests in the region supplied wood for the charcoal that heated the forge hearths. Nearby charcoal furnaces produced the iron that supplied the forges. Area iron ore deposits, forests, and the stream's water power were the essential ingredients that made Spruce Creek prominent in the markerJuniata Iron region. Coleraine Forges were also part of a larger iron plantation, like many other forges in the early nineteenth century, having a gristmill, store, ironmaster's mansion, and workers" housing.

Coleraine Forges were like some other refinery forges in another way; they were part of an integrated charcoal furnace and refinery forge business. The owners of furnaces, such as the investors in Pennsylvania Furnace, sometimes bought or constructed refinery forges as a ready outlet for the iron produced at the furnaces. They also sold wrought iron manufactured in their forges to blacksmiths and others who fashioned a wide variety of products. Other ironmasters, such as markerThomas Rutter and John Potts at markerPottsgrove Manor, also owned both a charcoal furnace and one or more refinery forges.

Coleraine Forges were large, producing 29,661 tons of wrought iron between 1828 and 1860, or almost 1,000 tons per year on average. In 1860 the owners built one forge to replace the earlier forges. This forge was capable of manufacturing 1,200 tons annually, and employed about twenty-five men. This last forge operated until 1874. Like other forges, the last forge at Coleraine was constructed of wood so it did not survive after it closed. Today all that remains is Coleraine Forge's Mansion, the ironmaster's big house.
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