Archiver > PA-OLD-CHESTER > 2005-07 > 1121124211

From: "Diana Quinones" <>
Subject: Isabella Furnace, part of the POTTS dynasty, in W Nantmeal
Date: Mon, 11 Jul 2005 18:23:31 -0500
References: <>

ISABELLA FURNACE: see this: Hope you can find this reference as I can't find how to get rid of any HTML items!

Chester County Iron Furnace & Iron Works - Pennsylvania Iron

Chester County Index Pennsylvania Iron Furnace Sourcebook ... See: Pleasant Garden
Forge, Chester Co. Isabella Furnace (ca.1835-1880), Chester Co. ...

BUT.......It says:

Originally, Warwick and Isabella were both located in Nantmeal Township before it was eventually divided into several smaller townships. Warwick started operation in 1730 and Isabella was begun about 1830 by David Potts and was later operated by his son William Potts until 1890. The stack at Isabella was raised from 32 to 60 feet in 1886-7 and the furnace went out of blast for the last time in April of 1894.

In compiling data for this history of Isabella, Russell Buckwalter of nearby Exeter Township in Berks County has been most helpful. He relates that his grandfather, Silas E. Buckwalter, was a drover for the Potts family when Isabella was in operation. He drove six mule teams hauling charcoal all the way from Cornwall. Sometimes he hauled limestone which was used in the iron manufacturing process.

When he traveled on some of the longer trips, he carried his bedroll and slept under the wagon at night. He frequently carried along a demijohn of whiskey, no doubt for medicinal purposes. Silas Buckwalter and his wife later lived in the old ironmaster's mansion located across the road from the furnace. This property was recently purchased and is presently being improved by Mr. and Mrs. lames Derksen and family, who now call this fine old dwelling their home.

The magnificent new mansion was built in 1892 through 1896. This "castle" or "iron mansion," as it was known, is now occupied by the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, who operate a school for retarded children in the building. The paneling, imported marble and the great bronze staircase are some features, among many others, that made this incredible mansion so outstanding.

James Bollinger of Barneston reports that his grandfather, David Bollinger, was the last "Keeper of the Furnace." He originally came from Bedford County, Pa. Here at Isabella, a good grade of pig iron was made that was later sold and shipped to the Baldwin Locomotive Works at Lima, Pa. via railroad from the line that formerly ran between Downingtown and Lancaster known as the D&L.

Isabella Furnace also boasted a very beautiful lake. It was from this lake that the Knickerbocker Ice Company obtained ice that was shipped by rail to Philadelphia and New York on the same line.

William Potts is reputed to have built the roads around and through his holdings. He also employed the former furnace workers to build the unusual stone walls that may still be seen forming the boundaries of this elegant estate. William Potts lived to be more than ninety years of age. Prior to his death on June 1, 1943, he made his home in the great mansion. The old furnace, long unused, had begun to settle into ruin. Following that fateful date of December 7, 1941, America was plunged into World War II and President Roosevelt made a formal declaration of war against Japan. Due to this, an unprecedented demand for scrap metal was created. Mr. Potts was urged to grant his permission to remove all the railroad tracks from his unused spur lines running into the furnace area. However, he was reluctant to do this and it was not until after his death in 1943 that his estate gave permission to remove these rails and other metal to be used in the war effort. For this reason, no trac!
ks remain around the furnace today.

In recent years, many organizations became interested in preserving Isabella Furnace as another historic site, however adequate funds were not available. Eventually, the furnace and some surrounding acres, including the site of the former lake and dam breast were sold to Dr. and Mrs. Daniel Lieberman, who have converted one of the largest stone buildings of the furnace into a very fine home.

Progress in iron manufacture proceeded over the years and one of the improved processes eliminated the use of charcoal in iron manufacture. Most of the furnaces still in operation began to close and soon became a part of history.

Isabella Furnace, by comparison with other furnaces did not function quite as long as some. However, each furnace will long be remembered for its respective contribution to American progress and development.
The last superintendent of Isabella was R. Walter Head, who was actually a chemist by profession. He was employed by Col. Potts in the year 1887 and remained in charge until the business ceased to operate in April of 1894.
Some interesting news items concerning the furnace and its operations are given below:

Dated 12-18-1882: Isabella furnace, West Nantmeal township is now working admirably under its new management and turning out about 60 tons of charcoal iron every week. This furnace had previously chilled four times and gave the owners a great deal of trouble as well as putting them to a great deal of expense.
Dated 8-8-1887: Col. Potts of Isabella Furnace, who has had so much trouble with his furnace, has now employed the services of Walter Head, a chemist, recently from Lafayette College. The experience of other manufacturers of iron has fully demonstrated that furnaces of this kind have to be managed on scientific principles; running them by main strength and awkwardness will no longer do if they wish to compete with those who now conduct them on his new system.
Dated 8-31-1887: Workmen are busily engaged in putting a new hearth in Isabella Furnace, West Nantmeal. As soon as this is completed, the furnace will be again put in operation.
Dated 6-27-1888: A Barneston correspondent writes: The largest fire that ever happened in Chester County took place last night at Isabella Furnace. Three very large and expensive buildings - two charcoal houses and one ore house together with 20,000 bushels of charcoal made a blaze that lighted up the whole northern part of Chester county. These buildings were larger than the largest barns and framed very heavily with the finest of oak and pine timber. They were au new and covered and roofed with galvanized and corrugated iron. The ore house was also filled with valuable machinery for crushing and elevating the ore. The fire broke out about dark and the ringing of the furnace bell speedily assembled a large number of men, who worked hard to put out the smoldering fire, which was then only in the charcoal, but which soon burst into a flame and all they could then do was to save the surrounding buildings. The loss cannot be less than $10,000.00 and is probably partly covered b!
y insurance.
Dated: 7-6-1888: Col. Potts of Isabella, who suffered so severely by fire last week at his furnace, telegraphed immediately for lumber to rebuild the burned ore and coal houses. One coal house is now cleaned out and ready for the carpenters to go to work as soon as the lumber arrives. Nothing but the best North Carolina white pine will be used in these buildings and they will be covered, as before, with corrugated iron.

Dated: 11-14-1888: Col. Potts continues to make extensive improvements at his place of residence and at Isabella Furnace, West Nantmeal. He is nearing completion the two-mile Telford road in and about his premises, the broken ballast upon which is 16 inches thick. Along the road and over the Brandywine, the Colonel has built a $3,000.00 bridge and another costing about $1,000.00. Under the former are three stone arches. Two large coal houses covered with galvanized sheet iron had been completed and an ore house 40 x 100 feet (all iron) has been built in connection with the furnaces, which were destroyed by fire recently. The furnace will not go into blast until after the holidays.

Over the years of operation, Isabella Furnace faced some financial difficulties from time to time. In 1855. due to financial problems, ownership was procured by Robert S. Potts and Addison May. The following year the furnace and sixty-four acres of land were sold to John Frey and James Rutter. After David Potts retired from the furnace business, he became interested in the lumber business which he carried on successfully. In 1860 John Frey purchased sole interest in the furnace. In 1864 the furnace was purchased by Brutley, William, Levi and Horace Smith of Joanna Furnace, Berks County. This firm operated it until 1880. Then the furnace was purchased by Joseph D. Potts, the son of David Potts. This incident brought the furnace again into the Potts family. Joseph D. Potts was a very successful civil engineer and rendered capable military service during the Civil War. He attained the rank and commission of lieutenant colonel and after the war became, an unusually successful bu!

After Col. Potts secured possession of the furnace, he equipped it with steam power. This method increased its production over the water power of Perkins Run. which was uncertain in drought seasons. Under this new method the production capacity of the furnace was increased to 16 tons per day instead of from 20 to 30 tons per week.

Other references in this transcript refer to Joseph D. Potts as Colonel Potts and it would seem to be of interest to note here how he attained the title or military rank.

The furnace was built about 1830 although some historians say that it was built in 1835 after Henry Potts and John P. Rutter secured 49 acres of land from Robert Wilson and wife. The location was in West Nantmeal Township near the place that Perkins Run empties into the Brandywine Creek. This spot later became known as Wyebrooke. In 1836 the ownership of the furnace became vested in Henry Potts, David Potts and John P. Rutter.

Somewhat west of Wyebrooke and Isabella Furnace near the village of Cupola, the old Rebecca Furnace was built about 1764 along the Brandywine Creek in West Nantmeal Township. It is interesting to note that this furnace was located some two miles west of Isabella Furnace, which started operation some years later. There remains no trace of the old Rebecca Furnace today although some evidences have been located to firmly establish the site of operation.

Rebecca FURNACE was named after John POTTs wife, Rebecca SAVAGE!

PA -- Chester Named Buildings in Chester Co:

Isabella Furnace
Bollinger Dr. just N of Creek Rd.
Nantmeal Township
Brandywine Manor
09/06/1991 Iron and Steel Resources in Pennsylvania MPS 91001135

Diana of AL

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Sent: Monday, July 11, 2005 10:00 AM
Subject: PA-OLD-CHESTER-D Digest V05 #271

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