Thanks to our friends at the Canaan/Falls Village Historical Society for coming up with this YouTube video that originally appeared on Connecticut Public TV.
Shot in the 1990s, it features faces that are familiar to those associated with Beckley Furnace over the years. The faces (and voices) of Ron Jones, Ed Kirby, the late Fred Hall, and the late Fred Warner, are notable. The furnace itself appears in the starring role, which is perfectly reasonable! After all these years, and despite some initial flickering in the video, even if you actually watched it on CPTV, it’s well worth viewing again.
A few things to watch for, besides the four men mentioned earlier: There are several views of the furnace with scaffolding around it during the restoration process. Note the masons at work on on the furnace. In the early years after restoration we had a chain link fence around the furnace, which made it a lot less photogenic — and you can see that fence in place in these views. The account of why the Bessemer process of steel making was established in Pennsylvania instead of Northwest Connecticut is particularly poignant.
What are the five holes in the rock in the middle of the river?
The honest answer to this question is that we don’t know. We don’t even know that they have a connection to Beckley Furnace, in fact. The facts that they’re in a perfectly straight line, that they’re in the bedrock and not in a boulder that might have washed into this position, that they’re exactly the same width and the same depth all combine to make it pretty clear that they were man-made.
But why? They represent a fair amount of work, and clearly somebody wanted them to be right where they are.
So, lets explore possibilities.
Were they part of the blast furnace or related processes? Likely not; they’re a bit far from both the furnace itself and also from the blowing tubs farther upstream.
Were they part of a bridge foundation of some sort? Well, we don’t have any historical evidence of a bridge at that location. The likeliest possibility would have been a bridge to carry slag across the river to be dumped, but we’ve not seen similar holes elsewhere along our stretch of the river. Also, they’re at a slight angle to both river banks — not what you would expect for a bridge support.
So we’ll leave our answer as “We don’t know” and ask you to suggest possibilities that might occur to you!