References to Beckley Furnace and iron industry material

Information about Beckley Furnace and the historic iron industry of the upper I’m Housatonic Valley can be found in many sources of all kinds.  Here’s a sampling of some of the sources we’ve uncovered to date.  We continually add to and refine this list, so check back frequently.  Do let us know of your suggestions for this list, too.

One such suggestion we’re received is that we categorize the list — for example,  to separate the archival material from the books from the web links.  We’ll probably be doing that soon.

Another suggestion we have taken is to expand references beyond the Upper Housatonic area, particularly when the reference contains information for which we’ve not yet located a counterpart in our area.


1. Various archives.  They’re really a whole special class of material about this topic, so we’re covering them on a separate page.

2. Website: Chronology of Beckley Furnace (this is found on the website of an area business, Between the Lakes Group).

3. Website:  The Barnum Family (this is also on the Between the Lakes Group website)

4. Website: History of Trinity Lime Rock (this is the history page from the website of a church that Barnum & Richardson Company built for the owning families and their workers who lived in Lime Rock).  Interestingly, the Rector of Trinity (sometimes called “the church that iron built”)  preached about William H. Barnum in August 2014.  Read her sermon on the Trinity website.

4. Three really good books:  “American Iron 1607 – 1900” by Robert B. Gordon (Johns Hopkins University Press).  (Dr. Gordon is a professor at Yale University.  “Echoes of Iron in Connecticut’s Northwest Corner” by Ed Kirby (published by Sharon Historical Society).  Ed is president of the Friends of Beckley Furnace.  Also: “A Landscape Transformed: the Ironmaking District of Salisbury, Connecticut”, also by Robert B. Gordon (Oxford University Press).

5. A book by someone with close family ties to Beckley Furnace:  “History of Iron Making, principally in East Canaan, Connecticut” by Walter L. Michaels, published by  Walt is the grandson of the last ironmaster of Beckley Furnace and an active member of the Friends of Beckley Furnace.

6. More about the geology?  Read “Exploring the Berkshire Hills — a guide to the geology and early industry in the upper Housatonic watershed” by Ed Kirby, published by Valley Geology Publications.

7. In the organization of the Connecticut State Government, Beckley Furnace Industrial Monument falls under DEEP (the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection).  Visit the DEEP web page about Beckley!

8. Certainly a resource is a paper written by Richard Paddock of the Friends of Beckley Furnace about the fire of 1896 and its aftermath.  It’s available on this website; simply click The Fire of 1896 to read it.

9. The Upper Housatonic Iron area was far from the earliest in what became the United States.  In terms of iron ventures that actually produced a measurable amount of iron (and probably even more litigation) was the enterprise on the Saugus River in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the first half of the 17th century.  The best book we’ve seen on that operation (or debacle) is E. N. Hartley’s “Iron Works on the Saugus”, published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1957.  Hartley was a professor of history at MIT.  Paperback reprints are available from  Tip of the hat to Bill Jenks for this suggestion!!

10. Staffing iron furnaces is always a topic of interest.  Buffalo Forge, in Virginia, was operated largely by slave labor, and very extensive records have survived.  Charles B. Dew’s “Bond of Iron:  Master and Slave at Buffalo Forge”  (W. W. Norton & Company, 1994) is considered definitive on the subject.

11.  You may find that our video about slag (the main byproduct of iron smelting) is interesting.  View it here.



%d bloggers like this: