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History is not just the Dead Past.
This collection has a few things:
- We all should know
- We can learn from
In typical Be More Better style, an easy read provides entertainment, interest, and benefit!
Something we wrote for a local paper to illustrate how History is not dead:
300 YEAR-OLD FIRST IRON FORGE ARTIFACTS FOUND
On the Friday before Easter, children were dreaming of finding eggs and other goodies, while some adults were hunting things their neighbors left behind 300 years ago. Those hunters found evidence and artifacts of an early Iron Forge next to the Whippany River.
History teaches that Whippany was the home of the first forge in north central New Jersey, “100 rods west of the Whippanong Burying Yard.” This historic gem needs, and may soon receive some long-deferred attention, but still, it is a wonderful starting place to search for history. The forge operated for 50 years. It made many tons of iron, using ore mined from “Succasunna” and places later named Mine Hill, Mount Hope, Hibernia, and even Randolph’s Motor Vehicle Inspection Station. Cars and trucks following Route 10 have replaced the horses and mules that carried heavy, raw material from the west and ingots to the markets in the east.
The Chairman of the Hanover Township Landmark, Mike Czuchnicki, and Commissioner & former Mayor, Len Fariello, hunted for the 301 year old iron-works whose Tricentennial was honored in 2015. Area-resident, historical-treasure-hunter, Pete Schichtel joined them. As the joke goes, no good deed goes unpunished, so the early spring day rewarded the three intrepid explorers with an unexpected deluge of soaking rain. This, they joked, only added to experience of trying to find, uncover, and understand what may be the earliest colonial site in our town’s history.
Their journey back in time led to the embankment of the Whippany River at the intersection of Whippany Road and Route 10. Climbing down to the river was tricky, particularly carrying buckets, shovels, and other tools. Along the river, they found thick overgrowth, debris from floods, and clear evidence that a forge had operated there.
The banks of the river yielded prizes many would not value. The biggest haul was slag, including some football-sized pieces. These are the waste material from the smelting process. They are what ore becomes after the iron is extracted. The explorers found pieces of iron ore and fossilized charcoal. This was used to heat the forge to almost 1,500 degrees. There were even some bits of black glass – not the residue of broken bottles, though there was enough of that – but sand, transformed by the heat. This all proved a forge worked nearby.
These manufactured remnants from the past were hidden in plain sight. Some speak clearly when discovered; others remain mute, and do not provide any answer to exactly where the furnace was located.
Two mills, Hanover’s Cotton and its Paper, built the dam next to the Whippany Road Bridge. The giant Eden Paper mill had its own, further west. Both dams block heavy materials from traveling downriver, even during a flood. Our pieces of slag and ore were found downriver, to the east, so the forge was between the lower dam and Whippany Road, exactly as is described in the historical accounts.
Ground penetrating radar or careful excavation may show the spot where the fiery heat baked the ground beneath for so many years. The team wonders if the anvil might be there, too. It might be hidden beneath almost three centuries of floods, the constant bombardment of fall leaves, and whatever bulldozers have pushed atop them. There is reason for this hope. The anvil of the Troy Forge – one of the six Hanover Township forges – remains where it was used, easy to see to those who know where to look.
The mystery of the first forge’s exact location has another component. What happened to its dam? Where did it stand? It would have raised the water level to turn the waterwheel needed to power the bellows. The explorers think they found evidence of an old rock dam.
One thing is certain. There is no one living to ask about these mysteries. This site predates both New Jersey and the United States of America. It is the heart of what came to be the industrial center of Morris County. Some who rest in the Whippany Burying Yard worked at the forge, and birthed our nation. We might ask them, but they may be too tired to answer.
The hunt for the forge is part of the effort to enrich what Landmark Chairman Mike Czuchnicki describes as the “Whippany Historic Town Center.” Another of the projects is a brochure & walk on the “Journey through History,” through the WiHi, passing our mills, railroads, raceways, and even someday, a new Whippanong’s Ye Olde Iron Forge.