The Alleghany Furnace was established by Andrew Henderson and Robert Allison in 1811. For 8 years the partnership was in operation, until ceased in 1818.
Facing stiff competition from more profitable and less costly furnace operations elsewhere, its owners could no longer afford the costs of transporting iron on the backs of mules.
In 1834 the Allegheny-Portage railroad opened. Once unprofitable iron operations throughout the Pennsylvania region suddenly had a less expensive alternative for transportation.
With the introduction of the railroad, local iron producing businesses could become competitive once again. Barges hauling ore could simply be removed from canals, placed atop railcars, and transported overtop land.
In 1836 Elias Baker purchased the abandoned Alleghany Furnace, along with the 3,773 acres of land that it accompanied.
A farmer, merchant, and distiller, Baker moved his family onto the property and commenced reopening the operation.
The sheer size of Baker’s land proved highly useful for his furnace and its workers. On the property Baker built employee housing, as well as workshops and a store.
The land, lush and covered with trees, provided the necessary wood and charcoal needed to fuel and fire his furnace.
Baker’s adult son, Sylvester, also became involved in the business’ operations. After Baker’s furnace was transitioned to coal-firing, Sylvester designed and built a narrow-gauge wooden railroad.
It stretched from their furnace to nearby Kittanning Point, where coal and iron ore could be loaded for transport and delivery.
Despite episodes of economic hardship, over the next three decades the furnace remained in operation.
In 1867 the furnace was converted to utilize coke. Unlike wood, charcoal, and coal, coke burned much hotter, and required significant modifications to withstand the higher temperatures.
For the next 17 years the business continued. In 1884 the furnace blew out and the business closed. It was never reopened.
The property was registered with the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Both the company store and the remants of the blown-out furnace remain standing.
Below are two paper scrip emissions from the Alleghany Furnace.
Printed by Baker’s company store, employees were issued the scrip as part of their earnings, and could utilize it to purchase food and goods.
Both specimens were issued January 1st 1856. Neither are uncirculated, as they were never unsigned. As they aren’t particularly rare, they are relatively easy to acquire in the numismatic marketplace.
Notes and Sources
The History of Logan Township
Industrial Archaelogy, ‘Pennsylvania, Alleghany Furance,’ J. Markiel
The Watchman, Bellefonte Pa, May 20, 1858
The Library of Congress Digital Archives