Clinton, Maine

The Davistown Museum

The Ancient Dominions of Maine

"One of the town's oldest industries and, certainly the most unique, was the forge and foundry where bog iron was turned into bar iron.  It appears that Jonathan B. Cobb built the iron forge and furnace on the bank of the Fifteen Mile Stream.  The forge was not there when he bought the land from Isaiah Crooker, but when he sold a half interest in the business on October 1808 to SAMUEL PEAVEY of Vienna, the forge was in operation.  The factory was located on the south side of the stream a mile and one-half up stream from the Kennebec River. ...Along with the property Cobb sold, went the privilege of plowing lands of Benjamin Dow and John Burrell.  The authority to plow land, presumably, was for the purpose of taking bog iron from their land for processing at the forge."
(Fisher, History of Clinton, Maine, pg. 183).

"In 1880 the editor of the Clinton Advertiser printed a letter from J.T., believed to have been John Totman, trader and long time resident at Pishon Ferry.

Mr. Editor:—As a forge and furnace in our town is nearly forgotten at the present time, and the excitement about silver, gold, lead, slate, etc., in our state is so great, might it not be well to look back, even for the young, and see what Clinton was seventy years ago. Then Clinton led all other towns for ores. Then iron was most needed of all metals. Then iron ore was in Clinton, and a furnace and forge was built, a new dam across the stream, a large building and houses for the workman, and coal burned. All the near surrounding was a wilderness, and as there was no newspaper it was heralded all over the state by the word of mouth.  Then iron was king almost. It was worth from 12 to 20 cents; nails from 25 to 50 cents, and nearly no money to buy with. This was the time of the embargo. Vessels were not allowed to go to sea. To sell or buy lumber would not pay for running from the mills. Staves was a large business before that, but many rotted on the banks of the rivers. Labor was cheap, wood for coal plenty, and was it any wonder that Clinton was a noted town? Then the prospect of having iron at home, and for labor and farm produce, was one of the things hoped for. This forge, if in operation now, would claim our attention. It was not only a furnace to melt the ore, but a forge to make bar iron. The great furnace and fire, the large bellows, driven by water power, the melted iron run out in the sand, the men hammering the pig with sledges to make it hold together to put under the hammer, with a handle fifteen feet long and twelve by fourteen inches square, and the huge spokes in the driving shaft to lift the hammer about four times in a minute. The hammer could be heard for miles. The pig, so called, was handled by four men with tongs and bars and placed under the hammer, and the shower of sparks and cinders cannot be forgotten as seen by my boy eyes. It proved unprofitable, and after the war of 1812, was abandoned, and caused the poet's lament.—

Their children are half frozen,
Barefooted every day;
And in each hut a dozen,
Their hair points every way.

When Peavey's forge was going,
They had something to eat;
But now the Major is done blowing,
They have neither bread nor meat.

(Fisher, History of Clinton, Maine, pg. 184).

Submitted by Robby Robinson
Edited by Joan Carlson for PVNE