During the decade from 1860 to 1880, Hecla Furnace was one of the most famous iron interests in America. When Big Etna, in Ironton, was erected in 1875, it was the largest in the world. So large was this furnace that it lost money, and was idle during that period from 1885 until the Spanish American War when the late Col. H.A. Marting and E. J. Bird, mortgaged nearly everything in Lawrence and Scioto Counties to get it in operation, and then it made many people wealthy.
But Hecla Furnace went on and on. It was one of the first prosperous iron furnaces west of the Allegheny mountains, although her capacity was only 100 tons per day, and those 100 tons were transported to Ironton daily by ox carts, and shipped by rail or river – by river until 1889.
The large railway systems of the country comprised its principal consumers. It is to this furnace to a great extent, that can be traced the national reputation and fame of the Hanging Rock Iron Region.
The iron manufactured at Hecla was great for its susceptibility and durability of…..[can’t read]
During the Civil War, Hecla iron furnished armor for the gun-boats that stormed Fort Henry and all the metal that would be [ineligible] was engaged by the Government to the manufacture of ordinance at Pittsburgh. Many of the guns used in the siege of Charleston, S.C. were from the metal of which the celebrated gun known as “The Swamp Angel” which threw 100 pound shells at five and one-quarter mile range into that city. When the people first heard the firing they cried out, “Hark! It’s an angel shouting freedom.” Hence it was called the Swamp Angel.
For more than 90 years the property of the Hecla Iron and Mining Co. has remained in the hands of the family and heirs of John Campbell (the founder of Ironton). The late I.N. Henry, who died only a few years ago, was furnace manager for years. Charles Campbell, secretary and manager, was the last of the Campbells to pass away, and he lived on the furnace property for years after it ceased to operate following the Spanish-American War.