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.
Olive Furnace, OH (Mount Olive) – (1846 – 1915 iron furnace & farming town mostly abandoned after the furnace operation stopped)
Classification: semi – ghost town
Location: Washington Township, Lawrence County – On SR 93 1/2 mile north of Kimble Creek Rd
Olive Furnace was built next to Olive Creek in 1846 & financed by John Peters, John Campbell (the founder of Ironton, OH), Madison Cole, William Clements, & J.L. Thompson. The furnace provided iron for steel manufacturing during the Civil War & for steel manufacturers in Northern Ohio & other places around the country.
The furnace, coal mines, & the surrounding town (sometimes called Mount Olive) were on 3,600 acres of land that was purchased by the furnace owners. Most of the early roads in the township were built & maintained by the furnace company. Beside the buildings at the furnace, the town also had a blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, company store, church, & a school, as well as a few dozen houses for the workers. The closest railroad station was about 1/2 mile southwest of town on the Cincinnati, Hamilton, & Dayton Railway. The furnace began operation in 1847 & produced an average of nearly 4,000 tons of iron every year until production stopped in 1910. Farming was also a local source of income.
In 1915 the furnace was sold for scrap iron & a lot of it was destroyed. The Olive Furnace post office ran from 1857 – 1915. Now the land is owned by the Mt. Olive Furnace Park Corporation which is accepting donations with plans to reconstruct the furnace. The Mount Olive Community Baptist Church still stands across the road from the remains of the furnace & the Olive Furnace Cemetery is up a hill behind the furnace.