Iron Furnaces of the PA Highlands Forged a Revolution

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site  (Copyright 2013 - Robert P. Thomas)
As Independence Day approaches it's worth considering that the success of the American Revolution depended largely on the robust iron industry that thrived during the 18th century in the Pennsylvania Highlands region.

The Pennsylvania Highlands are the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  The irregular ridges and deep valleys of this unique landscape feature common cultural themes that directly reflect the Highlands geology, which in turn influenced the history of the region, and the outcome of the American Revolution. The main components of iron making -- iron ore, limestone and wood (to make charcoal) were abundant resources found throughout the Highlands region.


This legacy of early iron production and manufacturing is evident in the region's towns, historic sites and parks including, Bethlehem, Durham Furnace, Coventry Forge, Hopewell Furnace, Johanna Furnace, Cornwall Furnace, and Warwick Furnace.

Warwick Furnace in particular was a primary source of supplies for the Continental Army, providing cannon and musket balls. Iron blast furnaces consumed enormous amounts of charcoal, which was produced by wood. Warwick Furnace required about 240 acres of forest for its annual operations.

 Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site provides visitors with a glimpse into workings of an 18th century iron making village. It's situated next to French Creek State Park and offers great hiking trails and other amenities. The PA Highlands Trail is planned to connect with several towns and historic sites that are part of the Highlands region's iron legacy.