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On This Date in History: Lawrence Mill Explosion Injures Several, Kills Four
Just before 8:00 p.m. on October 24th, 1887, a massive explosion shook the city of Ironton. A battery of six boilers at the Lawrence Rolling Mill blew up, sending machinery and debris into Storms Creek and west Ironton. Each boiler was 28 feet long and 42 inches in diameter. They were positioned not far from the railroad tracks, which ended up warped and twisted. Interestingly, men who were reportedly standing very close to the boilers were covered in thick mud and dust but were otherwise unharmed. Most of the large fragments were blown beyond the mill, away from the workers. A piece of one of the boilers crashed through the roof of the residence of John Abrams, narrowly missing his wife and children. A section of the boiler plate was found as far away as Eighth Street.
Now the location of the Ironton Little League fields and wastewater treatment plant, the mill began operating in 1854 and employed nearly 200 men. The Ironton Register newspaper reported the instant deaths of Michael Dyer, father of six children; Michael’s cousin, James Dyer, who was only 35 years old; and Thomas Davis, a veteran mill worker who had previously labored at the Ironton Rolling Mill, who left behind five children.
Fireman’s helper Peter Clay suffered a crushed arm and severe burns, and passed away twenty-six hours later, leaving behind a wife and two young children. The newspaper reported that, “the shock of the explosion was felt in almost every quarter of town.” Moments after the blast, families of the workmen rushed to the mill to search the ruins for their loved ones. A laborer near the furnace saw the roof come off the building just before he heard the outburst, and nearby stacks of iron were described as being tangled like straw.
Survivor Edward Dyer described a hissing sound just before he was knocked to the ground. Despite suffering extensive burns, he walked home and pleaded with his wife not to call the doctor, whom he knew would be needed to assist his fellow workers.
The cause of the explosion was never determined. The boilers were only thirteen years old at the time and had passed safety inspections the previous June. Despite the damage, the mill was repaired and continued to operate for several more years.
In total, the deadly disaster claimed the lives of four men and injured nearly twenty more.
*** Here’s a link to the ORIGINAL newspaper article: https://www.lawrencecountyohio.com/history/accidents/lawrence-mill-explosion/
Nicole Cox is a trustee at the Lawrence County Museum & Historical Society and owner of LawrenceCountyOhio.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ironton Register, October 9, 1851 – ELECTION – On Tuesday next is to be held a most important general election. A full ticket of State officers under the new constitution is then to be elected, which alone will call out a full vote. In Lawrence county, however, in consequence of a local question, viz: the removal of the County Seat, the election promises to be unusually animated and exciting. Full Democratic and Whig county tickets have been nominated, and the candidates and their friends are using much exertion. We may look in view of all things for a heavy vote probably as heavy as ever was cast in Lawrence county.
As very much interest is manifested in regard to the result, we shall try to obtain the full vote of each township for our next week’s issue. In order to do this we ask the assistance of our friends, as it will be difficult for us to obtain the returns for Tuesdays paper. Will not our friends in Elizabeth, Decatur and Washington townships see that we are furnished with an abstract of their vote early on Wednesday, when the poll books are sent to Burlington. We shall try to obtain the abstracts for the other townships from Burlington on Wednesday.
COUNTY SEAT MEETING – The citizens of Ironton held an adjourned meeting on Saturday night last in relation to the question of the removal of the county seat from Burlington to Ironton. It was determined in consideration of the liberal subscriptions made by the citizens of Ironton and vicinity for the erection of Public Buildings, to enter into obligation with the commissioners for the purpose. The obligation appears in another column, and has been printed for general circulation. Ironton Register, October 9, 1851.
Ironton Register, October 16, 1851 – Election. – The election on Tuesday passed off in most parts of the county with considerable spirit. We have been able as yet to get but partial returns from the county, owing to the length of time taken to count out votes.
In six townships, Vinton has 700 and Wood 499.
For Representative, Upper gives Vermillion, Whig, 270, Anderson, Dem. 168, Elizabeth, Vermillion, 109, Anderson 147; Rome, Vermillion 80, Anderson, 100; Mason, Vermillion, 89, Anderson, 33.
For Clerk of Court, Upper gives Proctor 234, Camp, 56, Kouns 142; Elizabeth, Proctor 83, Camp, 46, Kouns 136; Rome, Proctor, 68; Camp, 46, Kouns, 56; Mason, Proctor, 88, Kouns 32; Fayette, Proctor, 4, Camp 61, Kouns 51 – Proctor leading Kouns in the five townships 61.
J. F. Wheeler for Probate Judge wins ahead of his ticket in the townships heard from, as also does Hambleton for Treasurer.
For Prosecuting Attorney, Upper gives Leet, 383, George, 49; Elizabeth, Leet 176, George 87; Mason, Leet 39, George 77; Rome, Leet 97, George 71; Fayette, Leet 47, George 57.
For Recorder Kerr has in Upper 424, Elizabeth 259, Rome 160, Fayette 47 and Mason 90; and Davidson has in Upper 17, in Elizabeth 7, in Mason 25; in Fayette 62 and 22 in Rome.
There is but little doubt that the question of the removal of the county seat from Burlington has carried by a large majority. The vote stood in Upper, “For Removal,” 384, “Against Removal” 16, besides which 31 were cast “No Removal.” In Elizabeth, for 209, against 58; Decatur 126, for, none against; Washington 64 for none against; Fayette 14 for, 94 against; Rome, 13 for, 101 against; Mason, 3 for, 110 against; beside which Aid is reported to have given but 3 votes against, and Symmes 2 votes against, and Perry gives a large majority for removal.
Ironton Register, October 23, 1851 – Ironton, The County Seat Of Lawrence County. – It will be seen by the official vote given in another column that the voters of Lawrence county determined at the late election to remove the county seat of said county from the town of Burlington to the town of Ironton. The majority for removal is clear and decided, giving no chance for cavil or contest. The vote stood 1043 for removal, 697 against removal – majority 346. The blanks given on the question numbered 195, which counted against gives 151 majority of the entire vote cast at the election. The vote was also a full vote, being but 27 votes less than the entire vote given for Taylor, Cass and VanBuren at the last Presidential election. Counting townships, eight out of thirteen townships have decided majorities for removal. The removal, however, is not to take place until the commissioners can provide in Ironton suitable county buildings which duty the commissioners by the law are to perform without delay, and to cause notice of said fact to be given in some newspaper of general circulation in the county.
That a large majority of the people of the county will be fully satisfied with the removal there can be no doubt. Even a large portion of those who voted against the removal were not in favor of the county seat remaining at Burlington. It would be safe to say this of the people of Upper, Elizabeth, Aid, and Mason Townships who voted against, all of whom without doubt voted as they did from other considerations than those in favor of Burlington, and all of whom without doubt we will be glad in the end that the removal is made. The fact is, Ironton is far more central than Burlington as regards territory, population and business. It is and will be the town of the county, the place to which the most people will resort for trade – both selling and purchasing – the principal place for business in general. Although some point back from the river is nearer the territorial center of the county, yet there can be no question that Ironton is nearer the center of population and business than any other point within the limits of the county, and it is more central as regards territory than any other river point, unless it be some two miles above Ironton, near the mouth of Ice Creek.
In a word the great majority of the people of Lawrence county will be far better accommodated in every respect by having the County Seat removed from Burlington to Ironton, and although the measure may work inconvenience to the few ‘yet it will subserve the general interest of the county – of the many. Ironton is henceforth to be expressed at a general election, and so be it.
Ironton Register, October 23, 1851 – BURLINGTON, OCTOBER 18TH, 1851 – Messrs. Stimson and Parker: – I am informed that some persons reported at the polls on the day of election, in Upper Township, that I had electioneered in some parts of their county, against the removal of the County Seat from Burlington to Ironton. Permit me through the medium of your paper to say that the report was utterly false. When I was in Ironton I was repeatedly solicited to take some part in favor of removal but my invariable answer was that I could take no part in the matter, either for or against, nor did I. And I defy any voter of Lawrence county to come forward and say that in any way solicited him to vote for, or against said removal. Neither did I volunteer any statements in reference to the matter, but when I was asked how I thought the vote would go, my uniform reply was that I thought it would be in favor of removal.
I have not written the above because I think that I have suffered any loss by my defeat (for I should not have been a candidate, had I not been nominated by the Whig party, and that too without any solicitation,) but I have written to show the people of Upper Township, (who caused my defeat) that said report was entirely false. JOHN S. GEORGE.
|Address||NR Reference Number||City||County|
|Burlington 37 Cemetery||Center St||01001064||Burlington||Lawrence|
|Johnston, William C., House And General Store||Washington & Davidson Sts||76001463||Burlington||Lawrence|
|Macedonia Church||N of Burlington||78002096||Burlington||Lawrence|
|Old Lawrence County Jail (DELISTED)||Court St||78002097||Burlington||Lawrence|
|Chesapeake High School||3748 SR 7||SG100002122||Chesapeake||Lawrence|
|Maplewood||W of Chesapeake on Maplewood Lane||77001070||Chesapeake||Lawrence|
|Brumberg Building||222 S 3rd St||08000148||Ironton||Lawrence|
|Downtown Ironton Historic District||Portions of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, Center, Park, Vernon & Bobby Bare Blvd||08001296||Ironton||Lawrence|
|Erlich, F. W., House||1908 S 6th St||80003134||Ironton||Lawrence|
|Fifth and Lawrence Streets Residential District||5th & Lawrence Sts||78002098||Ironton||Lawrence|
|Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall||401 Railaroad St||12000801||Ironton||Lawrence|
|Marlow Theatre||S 3rd & Park Sts||08000149||Ironton||Lawrence|
|Marting Hotel||202 Park Ave||99000331||Ironton||Lawrence|
|Norfolk And Western Railroad Depot||1st St & Park Ave||78002099||Ironton||Lawrence|
|Rankin Historic District||Roughly bounded by Vernon, 7th, Monroe & 4th Sts||79001876||Ironton||Lawrence|
|Selby Shoe Company Building||1603 S 3rd St||09000444||Ironton||Lawrence|
|Vesuvius Furnace (+ Boundary Decrease)||Co Hwy 29 at Storms Creek in Vesuvius Recreation Area of Wayne National Forest||11000671||Ironton||Lawrence|
|Miller–Knight House||2 TR 1046||03000720||Miller||Lawrence|
|Olive Furnace||SR 93 at TR 239 (Olive Branch Rd)||07000299||Pedro||Lawrence|
|Scottown Covered Bridge||E of Scottown on SR 67||75001456||Scottown||Lawrence|
Articles of Incorporation for the Ohio Iron & Coal Company, found in Deed Book 11 Page 566 at the Lawrence County Recorder’s Office
2. Dr. Caleb Briggs (Secretary)
3. Andrew Dempsey
4. Henry S. Willard
5. George Steece
6. Henry Blake
7. Joseph W. Dempsey
8. Washington Irwin
9. James W Means
10. James A Richey
11. James O Willard
12. John E Clark
13. Robert B Hamilton
14. Smith Ashcraft
15. H.C. Rodgers
16. William Ellison
17. D.T. Woodrow
18. John Ellison
19. James Rodgers
20. Hiram Campbell
22. William H. Kelly
23. John Culbertson
24. John Peters
While John Campbell is typically credited as being the founder of Ironton, it was actually William D. Kelly who purchased all of the land needed and created the map that laid out the town. He was also the grandson of Luke Kelly, one of the pioneer settlers in Lawrence County.
Deaths of Furnace Men 1849-1860
Robert B. Hamilton, owner of Center Furnace, and a relative of Robert Hamilton of Pine Grove, died in October 1858 and, in noticing his death, the Ironton Register called attention to the unusual mortality among the furnace men of the vicinity within the preceding decade. In January 1849, occurred the death of Samuel Seaton of Green upsburg builder and proprietor of the New Hampshire Furnace, and in the later part of the year John T Woodrow passed away who had been owner of the Raccoon Furnace and was then manager of the Ohio Furnace. In 1850 the mortality included Andrew Dempsey of the Etna Furnace, Henry S Willard of Buckhorn, George Steece of Mount Vernon, and John Patton of Pennsylvania in 1851. Henry Blake of Hecla, 1852; John W Dempsey of Vesuvius, 1854; James W Means, brother of Thomas W. of the Lawrence, Ironton, 1855; James Richey of Ironton, former proprietor of Centre and various furnaces in Jackson County, and James O Willard of Buckhorn Furnace; 1856 Robert Hamilton of Pine Grove Furnace and Archibald Paull of Wheeling, one of the builders of the Bellefonte Furnace and for many years proprietor of the Amanda; 1857, LD Hollister of the Raccoon Furnace, who died at Covington Kentucky, and, in 1858, besides Robert B. Hamilton, John E. Clark of the Lawrence Furnace, and John Culver of Catlettsburg, a builder of the Amanda Furnace.
Dissolution of the Ohio Iron & Coal Company
Within the same period of time of the twenty four members who organized the Ohio Iron and Coal Company, which had founded Ironton in 1849, the following eleven had died: Andrew Dempsey, Henry S Willard, George Steece, Henry Blake, Joseph W. Dempsey, Washington Irwin, James W Means, James A Richey, James O Willard, John E Clark, and Robert B. Hamilton. Two had disposed of their stock by October 1858: Smith Ashcraft and HC Rodgers, which left in the company as original members, John Campbell, William Ellison, DT Woodrow, John Ellison, James Rodgers, Hiram Campbell, William D Kelly, John Culbertson, John Peters, Dr C Briggs, and William H Kelly. In 1859, the year after that record was made, the property of the company was sold with the exception of the river wharf which came into possession of the Town of Ironton. [Note: not totally accurate. There was leftover Ohio Iron and Coal property until Oakley Collins resurrected the Company and made himself President to acquire all the property for a $35 filing fee.
Legendary businessman and ironmaster Colonel Henry Adam Marting is highlighted here. The links below are just a few of his enterprises. Below the links are newspaper articles that reference Col. Martng.
• IR Jan. 7, 1892 – The Ironton Ice Factory has been reorganized, J. F. Austin being elected President and Dr. Gray, Secretary and Treasurer. The Directors are J. F. Austin, Dr. Gray, E. Lein, H. A. Marting and S. B. Steece.
• IR Aug. 3, 1882 – East End Items. – H. A. Marting’s residence on Adams street, will soon be under roof.
• I.R. Jan. 28, 1892 – At the organization of the Foster Stove Works last week, Lewis E. Marting, who was formerly in the grocery business in East Ironton, was elected Secretary and Treasurer, in place of H. A. Marting. The other officers were re-elected. Mr. Marting has been at Gephart St., on the M. & C. for the last year or two. He will move to Ironton at once and go into the office of the company.
• THE CORRUGATED IRON AND STEEL ROOFING CO. – I.R. JANUARY 30, 1896
The Corrugated Iron and Steel Roofing Co. has been incorporated and organized with the following officers:
H. A. Marting, President and General Manager
W . M. Kerr, Vice President
Charles Horn Secretary and Treasurer
August Fillgrove Assistant Manager
This is an extension of a business which has been operated to some extent in connection with Fillgrove’s pan factory. The Company has bought property running from Front to Second street on part of which Joe Wieteki’s stable stands. They are receiving bids on a building 42 x 80 feet, to front on 2nd. This will take away part of the stable. It is the purpose to put in at first, a roofing machine and a paint machine. The former is a heavy press. They will make all kinds of iron and steel roofing.
• MARTING IRON & STEEL – I.R. FEB. 23, 1899
The directors of the Marting Iron & Steel Co. are:
H. A. Marting
A. H. Mittendorf
W. A. Murdock
R. N. Gilbert
T. J. Gilbert
J. H. King
The first three are Ironton men and the last three from Columbus. The organization discloses the interest of members of a splendid iron company in Columbus, which stands high in the commercial world. This is the King, Gilbert & Warner Co., who have two furnaces and a steel plant in that city, and whose output amounts to 500 tons of steel a day. This community is proud to attract such capital to our town. Col. Marting is President and General Manager of the new company; T. J. Gilbert is Secretary and Treasurer and E. J. Bird, Superintendent. Mr. Gilbert is a nephew of the Gilbert in the Columbus firm, and will move his family to Ironton.
• IR July 20, 1899 – In the Wreck. – Among those in the N. & W. smashup from Ironton were: Col. H. A. Marting, F. F. J. Goldcamp, E. B. Willard, Rev. E. V. Pierce, Chas. Edwards, wife and children, Oscar Chatfield, Pearl Sanders, Mrs. Rowan, Mary Myers, Myrtle Cullen, Mary Gentron. None hurt to amount to much.
• IR Oct. 19, 1899 – Three empty cars were wrecked in the Marting Iron & Steel Co’s yards Saturday, by reason of one car jumping the track and dragging the others over the side of the incline.
• IRONTON ENGINE CO.
I.R. Feb. 8, 1906 – The stockholders of the Ironton Engine Co. held their annual meeting Tuesday afternoon and elected the following directors. Col. H. A. Marting, J. B. Alfree, E. B. Hetzel, W. A. Murdock, A. R. Johnson, A. H. Mittendorf, T. L. Collett, F. C. Tomlinson, and D. C. Davies.
The board of directors perfected the organization by naming Col. Marting for president; F. C. Tomlinson, vice-president; E. B. Hetzel, treasurer and general manager and L. A. McLaughlin, secretary.
The directors authorized the purchase of a lot of new machinery, which will greatly increase the capacity of the plant, and will furnish employment to about 25 extra men. At present the plant furnished employment to about 70 men.
The business of this institution for the past four months has been unprecedented and the outlook for the future is very flattering, with orders ahead for a four months run.
• IT Dec. 10, 1969 – Landmark Ironton Residence Will Be Sold at Auction on Friday Morning. -By Mim Grimes. – One of the city’s most impressive homes, the Colonel H. A. Marting residence at 419 South Fifth Street, will be sold at sheriff’s sale Friday morning. Hundreds of visitors to the large red brick house at 419 South Fifth Street can not believe their eyes as they walk through the spacious foyers and rooms. They find the interior of the home has remained in pretty good condition, presenting a much more inviting atmosphere than the exterior where deterioration has played its usual tricks through recent years. – It is ironic that the man who dreamed about the home and who built it about 1917-18 for his daughter, never lived to occupy it. Colonel H. A. Marting died Sept. 30, 1919 and his daughter Nell Marting Lowry, and her husband Dr. Clarke Lowry, moved into the residence with her mother, Col. Marting’s widow, Margaret Duis Marting. The fact that the builder did not live to enjoy the handsome home left its mark upon the family. It was never the gay social center that it was intended to be due to the illness that struck Mrs. Marting and invalided her in her later years. After the deaths of Dr. Clarke Lowry and his wife Nell Lowry, the home was occupied and owned by a niece, Margaret Reif, who never married. Miss Reif sold the home in 1945 to Mrs. A. G. (Fay) Spriggs who resided there several years. It was then one of the Tri-State’s most beautiful residences and was maintained in good repair by Mrs. Spriggs. She later sold it to the late D. E. “Ducky” Corn. – The home has three floors and a finished basement. The second floor has three suites of rooms, two bedroom suites each with baths. The downstairs has a mahogany paneled library, a 20 x 40 foot ballroom, large solarium and dining room, with large kitchen and built-in refrigeration (not usable now). In one room on the first floor there is a large built-in steel vault of walk-in proportions. – A house at the corner of Fourth and Adams, known as the Judge Fred Roberts’ residence, was once situated on the lot on which the Marting home whch is to be sold is located. – The Martings lived in the former Roberts home when they planned the new, larger home. They moved the house one block away and later sold it to Judge Fred Roberts of the Lawrence County Common Pleas Court. When the old house stood on the big lot at Fifth and Adams it fronted on Adams street. The address (according to old records) was 171 Adams. When the new red brick home was built it was constructed to face South Fifth street on the large 132 x 132 lot. – The late Colonel Marting and his family were influential in Ironton’s business and social circles. He was president of the Citizen’s National Bank and president of the Marting Iron and Steel. The Marting-Lowry interests built the old Marlow Theater, once located on South Third above Park Avenue. It was razed several years ago. The name Marlow was taken from the two-family names. – When constructed, the home cost $65,000 to $75,000 and was a showplace of the Ohio River Valley. – The landscaped lawn and exterior of the residence at Fifth and Adams in its current state is an eyesore, however, the home stands proudly and the marks of its original beauty live on through a maze of trees, neglected shrubbery and deteriorated exterior items, such as broken window shutters and broken decorative items of stone and cement arranged at the entrances, the driveway and the broad front entrance. The well built home of the 1917-18 era has withstood the years well and contractors have examined and marvel at its fine woodwork and paneling and the condition of the walls. “Little damage has occurred within the home that can’t be corrected,” one contractor said.
• IT Feb. 26, 1949 – Spriggs Home of South Fifth Is Bought By Corn. – Mrs. Guy Spriggs announced this morning the sale of her home at 419 south Fifth street to Mr. and Mrs. D. E. Corn, of Gray Gables, Hanging Rock. The sale price was not disclosed. – Mrs. Spriggs will give possession in the late summer. Her plans for another residence are incomplete at this time, she said. – Mr. Corn also declined to say what plans he has concerning the newly acquired residence. – The property is one of Ironton’s most beautiful homes and was built by the late Colonel Marting and was later the home of the late Margaret Reif prior to sale to Mrs. Spriggs five years ago.
• IWR Oct. 14, 1899 – Another Furnace May Possibly Be Built in Ironton by H. A. Marting and Associates. – Three furnaces bought in the Hocking Valley will be dismantled. – Columbus is after the location of the new plant. – Mr. H. A. Marting recently purchased three blast furnaces in the Hocking Valley near Logan. It is the intention to dismantle the three properties and from the material and equipment erect one and probably two furnaces at some other point. Columbus and Ironton are the two points under consideration for the location of the new furnaces….negotiations are pending for the purchase of the old Lawrence Mill site. That is a most excellent location; there are nearly seven acres of ground and switches from all the railroads…The location of the furnaces here would be another valuable addition to Ironton’s long list of busy industries.
•IR May 27, 1880 – Messrs. Stones and Brown, of the Iron & Steel Co., paid Ironton a visit last Saturday, and inspected their mill and furnace. They found everything in good shape and ready for business when the iron market puts in a brighter appearance. …
•IR Feb. 16, 1893 – Big Etna was built in 1873. It was started a few months before the panic of that year struck the country [Cooke Panic of 1873 – smk] In 1893, it will resume. What a history in those twenty years! Etna is a good furnace and the knowing ones say that even in the present low ebb of the pig iron market, it can be made to achieve comfortable dividends. We hope so.
• IR Sept. 23, 1897 – Iron & Steel Furnace Sold. – Last Saturday, Sheriff Ward sold the Iron & Steel furnace to Col. H. A. Marting for $2000. The appraisement was $3000. Sale was on a suit by the county for about $1400 taxes. The Iron & Steel furnace was built in 1871 and cost over $100,000. Shortly after it was completed there was a slump in the iron business and so the furnace was never a money making enterprise. But the price paid $2000, is a terrible descent from the original cost of $100,000. This is because, the condition of the furnace makes its worth little over the cost of scrap. The boilers are burnt out. The ovens out of date. The engines, too small. All the brass mountings have been carried off. The furnace lining is worn out. It would cost almost the price of a new furnace to get it in condition to run. The purchaser will dismantle the furnace and use the ground, about an acre , in connection with the Eagle Mill. But he will not be able to carry out this purpose, for two years, as the former owners have had that time to redeem the property, by paying a penalty of 25 per cent.
• IR Feb. 2, 1899 – Big Etna. – The Furnace Bought and Improvements to Begin. – Big Etna is now the property of Col. H. A. Marting. In a few days he will transfer it to the Marting Iron & Steel Co…. The Marting Iron & Steel Co. has been incorporated with $200,000 capital. The incorporators are H. A. Marting, J. D. Foster, A. H. Mittendorf, C. H. Ketter, A. R. Johnson and E. J. Bird, Jr. Other prominent business men are in the company, and they wil organize probably the first of next week…
• IR Apr. 25, 1901 – After Valuable Property. – Concerning a suit brought some time ago, and in which local attorneys are interested, the Cincinnati Enquirer says: “A suit to recover two furnaces at Ironton, Ohio, now owned by the Marting Iron & Steel Company, was begun before Judge A. C. Thomspon in the U.S. Circuit Court yesterday. The Aetna Coal & Iron Company of New York bought 26 acres of land at Ironton, Ohio, which included the two furnaces known as “Alice” and “Blanche.” They gave a mortgage to the two trustees and secured a $100,000 bond issue by a mortgage on the 26 acres. – Th Aetna Company now alleges that the trustees sold the furnaces to themselves and then transferred them to the Marting Iron & Coal Company January 1, 1899, taking stock in the company. – They allege that the profits of the first year were $210,000, and are suing to recover the furnaces and an accounting and damages. Charles W. Baker is the local attorney for the New York company.”
The plant of the Marting Iron and Steel Company, known as Big Etna Furnace, one time the largest furnace in the United States. It is among the most modern furnaces in the country today. Lawrence County has seven blast furnaces in active operation, with a daily capacity of 1,600 tons of Pig Iron, or over five hundred thousand tons per year.
The Big Etna Furnace, built in 1874, and at the time the largest furnace in the world. It has been rebuilt, and is now one of the best equipped large furnaces in the country. It is one of the furnaces owned by The Marting Iron and Steel Company of Ironton, Ohio.
The Legend of “Ducky” Corn
Profile 2013 – Thursday, February 28, 2013
By: Benita Heath
Ironton Businessman Became Iconic Figure
Once upon a time there was a little boy who liked to hang out with his older brothers and their buddies near their home on South Third Street, about the same spot where Cooke’s Farm Center is today.
Sometimes the older boys would jump on a passing train coming into Ironton on the line that ran parallel to the Ohio River to sneak a ride through town. At least as long as there wasn’t a conductor looking their way.
When there was, the little boy would signal his brothers not to hop on. That is, he would try to tell him.
“He was the youngest and couldn’t talk very plain,” his daughter, Mary Ison, recalled. “He would try to say ‘conductor.’ It would come out ‘ducky.'” And that is the earliest story in the legend that is Dustin “Ducky” Corn, larger than life businessman, entrepreneur, politician and whatever else that is part of the mystique of the man who died more than 40 years ago.
A man who is still talked about today.
There’s the story about the trained bear that loved to guzzle beer, an action captured in time in a photograph now on the wall of a South Third Street restaurant [Rax] where Corns’ lot was. That he sold nothing at the lot but his own used Cadillacs is a tale often heard but can’t be confirmed.
Ison doesn’t recall the bear but rememebers a goose with a similar taste for the quasi high life. And after a few sips the inebriated fowl would go pecking at anything and anybody in its way.
Ironton attorney Elliott Meyers represented Corn once, his son, Richard Meyers, also an attorney, remembers.
“We lived on 10th and Pine, and Dad was representing him on something or other and I remember Ducky getting out of his car with a bottle of whiskey and went into the conference,” Meyers said.
Then there’s the famous headline in one of the Ironton newspapers Ironton attorney Craig Allen recalls where Ducky argued that something wasn’t illegal.
“Illegal [ill eagle] is a sick bird, was it was was ill-lawful,” Allen said the newspaper reported.
Whether Corn really grasped the finer points of English grammar, he could speak about the legal system, having found himself on the wrong side of the law when he was charged with not paying $10,000 in cabaret taxes.
That was in the fall of 1957 in federal court in Columbus where Corn took the stand in his own defense, claiming he knew he had to pay the tax but didn’t have the money to do that at the time. Basically he claimed he was broke.
Testifying at the trial as well was Norman Walton, then vice president of Ironton’s First National Bank, who said he had turned down a loan to Corn because he didn’t have sufficient collateral.
That wasn’t the first time Corn had gotten in trouble over taxes. From 1950 to 1956 the IRS had filed tax liens against him totaling a half-million dollars. The case was settled but the terms were never revealed.
Evidence was presented at the federal trial that he had paid the cabaret taxes later, but Corn claimed he didn’t know he could file a return and not have to pay the taxes at the same time.
On Oct. 31, 1957, a federal jury found Corn guilty on 13 counts – five for not filing the tax returns and eight for not paying the tax. The penalty looming was a maximum of 45 years in prison and $130,000 in fines.
The nightclub owner spent a couple of days in jail but was released on the grounds that a stint in prison would endanger the life of the diabetic.
In a career that spanned almost 25 years, Corn started out running a filling station on Third Street, where he hawked watermelons during the summer. That initial experience in finding out what the public wants, plus some training at Davidson Business College, led Corn into the realm of owning and operating bistros and bars.
One of the most well-known started out as the Ritzy Ray, again only about a half-mile from where he grew up, now the location of Spare Time bowling alley. But in 1954 that was transformed into what Corn described as a nightclub bigger than one of the top clubs in Paris.
Ducky talked about it in an interview he gave in the summer of 1954, just before the Ritzy Ray was apotheosized into the Latin Quarter.
“Tell ’em its the biggest club in the nation, the world,” he told the reporter. “Expect ’em in here from up and down the river.”
There were to be Las Vegas-style cabaret shows, a roving photographer, a cigarette girl and uniformed powder room attendants, plus a pay roll of 52.
“It’s never been tried, but I’m going to do it,” he said. “It’s going to be clean…going to run it the right way.”
In between playing impresario Corn had two terms on Ironton City Countil and ran the Village of Hanging Rock as mayor.
But the private man is the one Ison remembers and centers her thoughts on.
“He was wonderful to me,” she said. “In his eyes, I could do no wrong. And I tried not to do anything to disappoint him. When anybody is that good to you, you try not to disappoint them.”
Ison, who goes by the name “Dusty,” was named for her parents, Dustin and Mary.
“Back then it wasn’t cool to name a girl a guy’s name,” she said. “So it got cut down to Dusty.”
In the summers she would ride with her father to his office at the Latin Quarter where she would spend the day.
“Sometimes I would get to go out into the bar and they had an automatic glass washer,” she said. “The brush would go into the glass and I would get to clean the glasses.”
The Corns originally set up residence at Gray Gables, a house on the edges of Hanging Rock that was once a hospital and later owned by a member of the Means family. Across the road Ducky built a stable where his wife would ride her Tennessee Walkers and Dusty would ride her pony.
Then, when Ison was old enough to go to school, Corn moved his family to Ironton and the Marting Mansion on the corner of 5th and Adams Streets [419 South 5th Street]. There he lived until his death in 1969.
Among her memories of her father’s generosity is when the Corns would spend days packing up boxes of food and Ducky would take it around to families he knew needed some help.
“He didn’t advertise it or honk his horn,” Ison said. “He would drop off the boxes of food in town and out in the county. At Christmas we would do the same thing.”
That was the man Ison remembers and wants people to know.
“I know he has a crazy reputation that goes back and forth,” she said. “But he was a good person and would help anybody.”
Below is an excerpt from “A Standard History of the Hanging Rock Iron Region” by Eugene Willard:
The Baptists were the pioneers in church matters holding services at and near the mouth of Storms Creek nearly forty years before the Town of Ironton was platted and over twenty years before the Presbyterians organized near Pine Grove Furnace. They so long held the local field as a denomination that an extended account of the First Baptist Church is presented from the pen of Mrs KV Henry, representing one of the oldest and most prominent of the families which have so long supported the organization which now stands for a membership of over four hundred and many good works. In the year 1811, she says Rev John Lee, relative of the famous General Robert Lee, came from Virginia with his family, a wife and five daughters, and bought a farm near the mouth of Storms creek. He, with other Baptists who had settled on farms along the river in the community, cut logs and built a large log church house on the river side of the road near the present Storms creek bridge. Rev Lee assisted by Rev Eli Bennett and Rev John Kelley, organized a church in this log house in 1812 calling it the Storms Creek Baptist Church. They chose Rev Lee for pastor who served until his death 1839. The following is a partial list of the charter members: Rev John Lee and wife, Peter Lionbarger and wife, John K Smith and wife, Brice Henry and wife, Morris Henry and wife, Joseph Brammer and wife, Isaac Henry, Sarah Henry, Jesse Sherman, Mary Kelley, James Henry Jr ,John Lionbarger, Pehmie Golden, James Kelley and wife, George Neff and wife, James Henry and wife, Martha Yingling. At the first meeting of the Ohio Association held at Tigert’s Creek, Ky., Aug. 18, 1821, the church numbered 36 members. In the early history of the church, Revs Felix Ellison and Wm Fuston rendered excellent service in many ways, especially along missionary lines. Just one hundred years ago this Sept 7th, 1914, Luther Rice, who had accompanied Adoniram Judson to the foreign field, returned and preached in this church in his effort to raise funds for the support of Judson. He found a ready response many of the members giving liberally Rev John Lee alone giving $100 which in that day was a princely sum. About 1820, the banks of the river washed away to such an extent that the log church had to be abandoned and a frame church was built just across the road and the church reorganized with about 33 members. Around the old church was a grave yard which also washed away and many of the bodies were removed to Woodland. In 1839, Rev JM Kelley was licensed to preach and in 1840 he was ordained and chosen pastor of the church. He was married the same year by Rev John Kelley to Sarah Ann Baccus who still survives him at the age of ninety two. In the early days of the church they were very strict in discipline. They brought members before the church who failed to contribute to the support of the church and if any two members had the slightest trouble or the smallest offense or grievance or the slightest intoxication of a member they were brought before the church and required to make it right before they could sit at the Lord s table.
In 1854 the present brick church was erected corner of Fifth and Vernon Streets, and reorganized with 156 members, the name being changed to the First Baptist Church of Ironton, Ohio, with Rev JM Kelley as pastor. In 1851, he had been chosen moderator of the Ohio Association and was re elected to that office until his death. During his life he traveled many many miles to preach in the country churches. The beginning of the Bible School was a union school held in the first school house erected in Ironton. When other churches built houses of worship they all started Bible Schools and the First Baptist church organized their school in 1847 or 1848. During all these years so far as can be ascertained there has gone out from the First Baptist church but one young man into the ministry namely Rev Jas M Kelley. One young woman has gone to the foreign field as a missionary namely Mrs Mary Wolfe Lewis in October 1902, who is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Jas T Wolfe. She is now engaged in missionary work in China. This church claims the honor of being instrumental in establishing the Lorain St Church. In 1902 a Bible School was organized in the school house and in 1903 the church house was built and dedicated and the church organized with about twelve members, choosing Rev TF Carey as their pastor. Mr Jas T Wolfe always manifested a great interest in the Bible School and church and did much to promote the enterprise. The following is a list of the regular pastors who have served the church .A number of supplies have filled in between: In 1812, Rev John Lee; 1840 Rev JM Kelley; 1855 Rev Geo E Leonard who afterward served the State Convention as Secretary for so long; 1860 Rev GW Gates; 1864 Rev Joseph Sharp; 1865 Rev BF Ashley a man of rare gifts. He had associated with him some laymen strong and true such men as D Phillips, WD Henry, DK Burket, deacons and others with E Bixby church clerk. It was during his pastorate that the auditorium was finished and dedicated.
In 1870 came Rev GW Taylor; 1871 Rev PP Kennedy. It was not until in this period of the church’s history, 1872, that the church voted to have the organ used in public worship. In 1877, Rev JA Kirkpatrick; 1879 Rev WW Whitcomb; 1881 Rev HA Summeral; 1884 Rev TC Probert; 1887 Rev JH Roberts; 1888 Rev M Roberts; 1889 Rev Noah Harper; 1894 Rev EV Pierce. It was during Rev Pierce’s pastorate the auditorium was remodeled and dedicated with many pleasing features he being assisted by Rev JM Kelley and others. In 1900 Rev Henry Brandt was chosen; 1907 Rev VL Stonell; 1908 Rev US Knox; 1909 Rev SE Davies. In this pastorate the present parsonage was purchased; 1914 Rev Chas E Griffin/ It was during this last year that the greatest ingathering to the membership has occurred in the history of the church namely 174. Of this number 135 came in after the union meeting conducted by Dr WE Biederwolf. The first Sunday in June 81 new members received the hand of fellowship which was an inspiring sight. On the 26th day of June 1914, the lightning struck the steeple of the church tearing away the large copper ball which had stood the storms for sixty years. This ball was made in the tin shop of Duke & Kingsbury in 1854 when finished it was proudly carried to the church by two young men: Charles Kingsbury and Elbert Duke.
For forty years, the Baptists were the only religious body in what is now the city of Ironton. Many have been the struggles anxieties and tears and today we have entered into the labors of those who have gone before.
The above article puts the location of this Church at the later site of the Ironton/Union Furnace.
First Baptist Church is now located at 304 South 5th Street and at http://www.fbcironton.org
Unknown source of photo….taken approximately 1960