Tucked along the base of the Chestnut Ridge in the Allegheny Mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania, the Connellsville Coke Region was world famous for its abundant, high quality bituminous coal and beehive coke. Geographically speaking, this area is situated in a long narrow strip of land averaging three and a half miles wide and nearly forty miles long, stretching from Latrobe in Westmoreland County to the area around Smithfield in Fayette County. The heyday of the Region spanned roughly the century from 1870-1970. During this period of phenomenal industrial growth throughout the United States, the Connellsville Coke Region fueled the blast furnaces of the steel industry in nearby Pittsburgh.
Coke is the solid carbonaceous material derived from destructive distillation of low-ash, low-sulfur bituminous coal. Cokes from coal are grey, hard, and porous.
The Mount Vernon Furnace
Built By: Isaac Meason
Location: Mounts Creek--Bullskin Township--Wooddale, PA
Type Blast: Cold
Type Furnace: Charcoal
Stack: 26 Ft. Square At Base--16 Ft. Square At Top--33 Ft. High
Consumed: 800 Bushels Of Charcoal Every 24 Hours
Timber: Used 1 Acre Trees Daily
Blown Out: 1830
Employed: Up To 60 Men
The Mount Vernon Furnace was one of three Furnaces constructed and owned by Isaac Meason. The success of the furnace depended upon four natural resources: Iron Ore, Limestone, Timber, and Water. Along the base of Chestnut Ridge was an excellent quality of Ore and Limestone, a vast abundance of Woodlands, and Mounts Creek. The furnace had their own mills to cut the lumber and mills to grind the feed for the animals. The trees were cut by hand by the woodsman and work horses were used to drag the trees from the woods to the mill. The trees were then cut into smaller pieces and charcoal was made to feed the furnace fires. The timber lands were cut over every 25 years. Mount Vernon had cut their second growth of timber from its lands before blowing out in 1830.
The metal was cast into Kettles, Utensils, Iron Bars, and other molded products and then carried to Connellsville for shipment "Down River" and further "West". Some shipments going as far as Louisiana.