Blackfork, OH – (1818 – present farming, clay mining, & brickyard town nearly abandoned & later repopulated)
Classification: small town
Location: Jefferson Township, Jackson County & Washington Township, Lawrence County – On SR 93 at the intersection of Blackfork Rd
The town was settled next to Black Fork Creek by a mix of runaway slaves from the south, native Americans, & European immigrants. They were all paid the same wages by local businesses during a time when racial prejudices were still running rampant in most of the rest of the country. The Union Baptist Church was organized in 1819. It was originally a log cabin structure but was replaced in the late 1800’s.
Blackfork’s first biggest sources of income were the Blackfork Coal Co. & its iron furnaces. Washington Furnace was built in the early 1850s. It was in operation from 1853 until the late 1800s & what’s left of it can be found in the woods off a gravel road on the south side of the intersection of Blackfork – Firebrick Rd. & Irish Hollow Rd. The other furnace called Cambria was built in 1854. Its remains are inaccessible on private property. The land where the coal mines were got sold to the Cambria Clay Products Company who dealt in clay mining & had a brick making plant. The brickyard also had a freight station on the Toledo, Cincinnati, & St. Louis Railroad.
Portions of the old railroad platforms remain in the area & the railroad’s tunnel # 2, constructed in 1882, is about 4 miles south of town under an overpass on Dry Ridge Rd. It was constructed by the residents of Blackfork. The railroad was later bought out by the Cincinnati, Hamilton, & Dayton RR, & then sold to the B & O who reconstructed the tunnel in 1916. That line of tracks was abandoned the following year. It was replaced by the Detroit, Toledo, & Ironton Railroad which was in operation from 1905 – 1983. Henry Ford bought it in 1920 & had new tracks built that ran through town for hauling pig iron to Detroit.
Many resident left to find work in other town when the brick company went out of business in the early 1960s & trains ceased operations in the early 1970’s. The foundation of the Cambria Company general store is still visible & marked by a set of steps next to Blackfork – Firebrick Rd. Residents were buried several cemeteries including Washington Furnace Cemetery further south down the gravel road past the furnace, Union Baptist Church Cemetery on Ninner Hill, & Bethel Cemetery on Gallia – Blackfork Rd. The town’s post office ran from 1902 – 1985.
Thanks to Donna Dickerson for providing info on the more modern railroad in Blackfork! We previously only had info on the town’s early tracks. Her dad knew most of the DT & I engineers & firemen & occasionally took her with him to check it out. The trains also did pick-ups from the plant at Pedro and would ride up to the clay mill to drop entity cars and take the full cars away.
Buckeye Furnace, OH – (1851 – 1894 abandoned blast furnace town)
Classification: ghost town
Location: Milton Township, Jackson County – On Buckeye Park Rd near the intersection of Buckeye Rd
It was a typical blast furnace community with a few hundred residents & was abandoned when production stopped. The town had a church, general store, wood frame houses for the residents, & post office from 1851 – 1865. The land was donated to the state in the 1930s & the furnace was rebuilt in 1972 by the Ohio Historical Society.
Buckeye Furnace is now a 270 acre state park with picnic areas & hiking trails. Several of the original furnace & town buildings have also been restored including charging shed, iron master’s house, a storage shed, & the company general store which is open Saturday & Sunday 12 – 4. Buckeye Furnace Cemetery is up the hill behind the company store where some of the residents were buried. There are just a few tombstones left, but the cemetery has a lot more burials in unmarked graves. A fall festival is also held at the furnace every year.
Gee Town, OH (mid 1800s – early 1900s mining & farming town slowly abandoned over time)
Classification: ghost town
Location: Bloomfield Township, Jackson County – On SR 327 north of Keystone Furnace Rd
Gee Town was named after the Gee family that lived in the area in the mid to late 1800s. Most of the residents mined coal or worked at Keystone Furnace. We don’t have a lot of info on the place, other than it was instrumental in working with Keystone Furnace, but it can be found on Google maps in a field that looks like it once harbored a town. Gee Town had a train station on the Cincinnati, Hamilton, & Dayton Railroad, transporting iron & coal from the Bloomfield & Ridgeland Mines.
Gee Town Union Methodist Church was formed in 1842. The last church they built still stands on Union Furnace Rd & has recently been updated. Jacob Gee (1868 – 1946) & Daisy (Barlow) Gee (1882 – 1964) were the town’s longest residents. They were buried in the Gee Town Cemetery (Union Cemetery) on Union Cemetery Rd off of SR 327 with their children. Jacob’s parents, Stephen (1845 – 1909) & Rosinda (Sheilds) Gee (1844 – 1926), along with his paternal grandfather Martin R. Gee (1820 – 1878) are buried in Keystone Cemetery off of Bain Perkins Rd east of town.
Jefferson Furnace, OH – (1853 – 1916 coal mining & iron furnace town abandoned when production stopped)
Classification: ghost town
Location: Jefferson Township, Jackson County – On SR 279 close to Jackson Lake
The furnace is viewable from a picnic area on the west side of Jackson Lake. Jefferson Furnace was founded by a group of Welsh immigrants & businessmen. It had an important role in the Civil War by providing high quality iron that was used to make the U.S.S. Monitor ironclad battleship & guns for Harper’s Ferry. The area was abandoned when the furnace shut down & is now part of Jackson Lake State Park.
Keystone, OH (1848 – present mining, furnace, & farming town partially abandoned after the furnace stopped production)
Classification: small town
Location: Bloomfield Township, Jackson County – On Keystone Furnace Rd near the intersection of Orpheus – Keystone Rd
Like many of the surrounding townships & counties, Bloomfield was blessed with an abundance of iron & coal which drove the local economy to heights it had never seen before. Construction of the iron furnace began in 1846 & was completed in 1847. As with all of the 1800s furnaces in Ohio, it created hundred of jobs with the mining & railroad industry in an area that was previously dominated by farming & livestock.
Keystone Furnace started blasting iron ore in 1848. Most of the other iron furnaces in Ohio continued operation during the Civil War to provide steel for the Union troops, but Keystone shut down in 1861. Some of its owners were already enlisted in the U.S. Army, & many of its workers signed on to the 27th Ohio Volunteer Infantry which was involved in numerous battles & campaigns. They bravely fought at Corinth, TN & also joined up with Grant’s forces that were heading for the New Orleans area. The soldiers eventually returned home victorious & highly decorated in 1863 – 1865 & resumed working at the furnace.
Mining & furnace work was dangerous to begin with, but Keystone had more perils than usual. Raccoon Creek, the world’s longest creek, was used to ship iron & coal to the furnace. Boats 60 – 85 feet long & averaging 55 tons were controlled by 4 men each. Many workers perished by drowning in the creek attempting to do tasks near the many mill dams in the area. Nicholas Bishop was killed in a lightning strike while hauling iron to the furnace with an ox wagon.
Keystone’s post office ran from 1849 – 1907, a large portion of that time being in the Keystone Furnace Company general store. A one room schoolhouse that was built in 1846 was replaced by a two story combination school & church in 1867. The town also had a grist & saw mill between the furnace & Raccoon Creek. A blacksmith shop, wagon shop, & the company store were across the road from the furnace. Burials took place at 3 cemeteries, Keystone Furnace Cemetery off of Bain Perkins Rd, Perkins Cemetery further up Bain Perkins where it’s called Dupre Rd, & Union Cemetery off of SR 327. The parents & paternal grandfather of Jacob Gee, the subject of our sketch of Gee Town, were also buried in Keystone Cemetery. Furnace operations ended in 1885. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
These days, Keystone Furnace is on private property but is visitable with permission from the land owner. All that the owner asks is that you ask first, pick up any trash you come across, & leave the snakes alone (lookout for copperheads!). If you’re headed east on Keystone Furnace Rd, it’s the first house past the old iron bridge (a left turn north), & if headed west it’s a right turn before the iron bridge. The GPS coordinated for the furnace are 39.010792 -82.451684. We suspect on top of the furnace remains itself, there also be remains of the engine house & other outbuildings.