Paula Stoner Dickey
Antietam Furnace Complex Archeological Site
Mount Aetna & Mount Lena Roads, , Hagerstown, , Washington County
The Antietam Furnace Complex is an eighteenth century Iron furnace located along South Mountain in Washington County, Maryland. It was owned and established by the Hughes family, operated circa 1768-1775, and was probably the earliest iron furnace in the present day Washington County. Antietam Furnace produced pig iron, stoves, domestic iron wares, and possibly cannon. Archeological excavations unearthed portions of the core furnace area which contains the structural remains connected with the actual smelting and production of iron: the furnace stack, water wheel pit, small forge, retaining walls, casting and machinery areas. Secondary furnace support areas consist of the locations for various associated furnace activities: ore mining and charcoal making areas, course of raceway from stream to wheel pit, slag/iron waste dumps, and unexposed remains of outbuildings and workers' community. Numerous recovered and unrecovered artifacts provide valuable information concerning furnace operations, activities, and products.
The Antietam Furnace Complex is significant for four major reasons. First, it coincides with the initial settlement of present day Washington County following the end of the French and Indian War. It was among the earliest industrial enterprises in that area and certainly attracted new settlers. It also is clearly associated with the early development of the iron industry in Western Maryland. Secondly, Antietam Furnace is closely related to the Hughes family and their accomplishments in Washington County In the eighteenth century, the Hughes played a formative part in the County's creation, development, politics, and iron industry, and they contributed substantially to the Revolutionary War efforts through their production of cannon. Thirdly, the furnace complex is an excellent representation of iron furnace industry and technology in the eighteenth century. It operated for a short period of time and was not subsequently modified and reused. Finally, the Antietam Furnace Complex is significant for the information it has yielded and is likely to yield in the area of eighteenth century historical archeology in North America. It is the earliest scientifically excavated iron furnace in Maryland. It can contribute considerably to the knowledge of the iron industry, settlement, development, and history of Washington County in the eighteenth century.