History of Oak Hill, Ohio (continued)
Jefferson Furnace Constructed
Part of the land acquired for Jackson Lake was the site of the Jefferson Furnace. Founded by a group of immigrant Welsh businessmen in 1853, Jefferson Furnace began operations in 1854 and was one of the 40 iron furnaces that operated in the Hanging Rock region of southeastern Ohio from 1840 to 1890. During this time extensive oak-hickory forests were clear-cut to provide charcoal for the furnaces, where ore from nearby mines was smelted. For more than a half-century some of the best iron in the world flowed from these types of furnaces.
The iron produced at Jefferson Furnace was well regarded and used at the United States’ Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). In a short time, "Jefferson iron" became the standard of excellence throughout the Hanging Rock region and the world. Sold to manufacturers under the trade name "Anchor," this iron was used to build the Union Ironclad U.S.S. warship, the Monitor. History books vividly recall the famous naval battle of the two iron-clad ships, the Monitor and the Merrimack (as noted on the Oak Hill corporation sign). Due to the strict religious beliefs of the owners Jefferson Furnace never operated on Sunday.
Just a few short decades after the Civil War came to an end, richer lodes of iron ore were found elsewhere in Michigan and Minnesota. As the growing nation demonstrated a need for iron ore in greater quantities than the Hanging Rock region could produce, the great furnaces of the southeastern Ohio hills shut down. The Jefferson Iron Furnace made its last cast in 1916. Today, visitors may explore remnants of the furnace from within the Jackson Lake State Park or by traveling west from Oak Hill on State Route 279. An Ohio Historical Marker is present at the remains of Jefferson Furnace stack at Jackson Lake. Pieces of pig iron and other items connected with Jefferson Furnace are on display at The Welsh American Heritage Museum.
Gallia Baptist Church Organized in 1856
Portland Masonic Lodge #366 established June 8, 1866
Village of Oak Hill Formed
Oak Hill was formed as a village in 1873. The first mayor was J. Edward Jones.
Townships Formed and First Newspaper Created
Madison Township was formed prior to 1880 followed by Jefferson Township that was formed in 1882. A small newspaper called “The Budget” was started in Oak Hill in 1881-1882. Evan C. Davis edited the paper while continuing his trade as a blacksmith. The paper was discontinued after a few years.
Oak Hill Morgan Academy Created
The Morgan Academy opened in April 1880. The Morgan Academy, known as Oak Hill Academy, was founded by Stephen and William E. Morgan. The first term opened in April 1880 with only fifteen students. The spring of 1883, 130 students were enrolled. The purpose of the school was to fill the education need in the community for education beyond common school, and to train teachers. This academy was in session two terms about six weeks each annually, known as the spring and summer terms. The academy was never in session during the winter months. They used the Oak Hill Grade School Building. The tuition was from $5 to $7 per term depending on the number of subjects that the students scheduled. It was operated until 1893 (except two years around 1887 when it operated in Jackson) when its founder, Stephen E. Morgan, was elected to represent the Tenth District in U.S. Congress. Subjects offered were Introductory Latin, Ray’s Higher Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Astronomy, Harvey’s and Holbrook’s Grammar, Houston’s Physical Geography, Principles of Teaching, Logic, Philosophy of Education, Anatomy, Elecution, and Physical Education.
First Financial Institution Created
The Farmer’s Bank was the first bank in Oak Hill. It was organized in 1891 by Edward Jones, David Wynne, John C. Jones, Elias Morgan, and others. Since most Oak Hill residents did not have transportation to Jackson the Farmer’s Bank offered a convenient banking service to the residents and businesses of Oak Hill and the Farmer’s Bank became a thriving institution.
Brick Industry Develops
The Oak Hill area was one of the leading brick producers in the United States.
The Aetna Fire Brick & Coal Company was incorporated in February 1873 to produce hand made brick. The first shipment from the plant located in the Village of Oak Hill was made in September 1873. On May 1, 1874 it was destroyed by fire, rebuilt, and operated until it was sold in 1963.
The Oak Hill Fire Brick Company was incorporated in February 1873. A small plant was erected in the Village of Oak Hill. The transportation of coal and clay was a problem until 1887 when a tram-road was constructed and used for over forty years. On April 10, 1941 an amendment to the charter was filed, changing the name to Oak Hill Fire Brick Company. A plant to produce a plastic fire brick was added in 1945. The plant sold on December 31, 1961.
The Ohio Fire Brick Company was incorporated on August 1, 1898 and was a small plant consisting of steam power facilities, a hot floor, dry and wet pans, and three circular down-draft kilns. In later years additional continuous kilns increased the capacity of this plant until it closed in 1986.
The Davis Fire Brick Company was incorporated on September 17, 1901. All brick were hand molded. In 1957 the company erected a new shuttle brick plant in east Oak Hill where it operated until 1986.
The Cambria Clay Products Company was incorporated on October 10, 1912. The company purchased the properties of the Blackfork Coal Company comprising some 6000 acres of mineral lands and face brick plant. It was converted to the manufacture of fire brick. Later the company erected a sewer pipe plant on the property. On November 30, 1931 the main building was destroyed by fire and the company rebuilt the plant and designed and equipped it to make silica fire brick. At one time it was the largest silica plant in the United States. In 1971 part of the silica plant was converted to a refractory specialties plant. It operated until 1976.
The Diamond Brick Company, located south of Oak Hill, was incorporated on February 27, 1903. This plant produced brick, pipe, tile, and fire proofing. The company was sold to the Portsmouth Refractories Company in 1936 and they abandoned the Diamond Plant and made extensive improvements to the William E.Dee Company.
The Jones Fire Brick & Cement Company was incorporated on March 13, 1906. A plant was erected one mile south of Oak Hill. The plant was sold on April 13, 1913 to William E. Dee and Robert E. Miller. Equipment to make sewer pipe was installed while the company continued to make face brick, building tile, and fire brick. In 1927 the plant suffered heavy loss by fire, the plant was rebuilt, and the property sold to the Portsmouth Refractories on May 29, 1933. They sold to General Refractories Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1939 and the plant closed in 1961.
The Pyro Plant, located about three miles north of Oak Hill, was built by the Du Brui Company and incorporated on September 15, 1903. On May 28, 1909 the Pyro Clay Products Company was incorporated. In 1953 the company name was changed to Pyro Refractories Company reflecting the diversification program of its management. Then in 1956 the plant was sold to the A.P. Green Company of Mexico, Missouri. This plant is still operating.
The Plibrico Jointless Firebrick Company, located about six miles south of Oak Hill, was purchased from the Hitchcock interests in Fire Brick in 1929. They specialized in plastic fire birck and high temperature cement. The plant is still operating.