Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Columbia Furnace

Columbia Furnace During the War Between the State

Columbia Furnace, Va. April 16, 1862 1st Squadron, Pennsylvania Cavalry, Detachments of 14th Indiana, 5th Connecticut, 28th New York, and 46th Pennsylvania Infantry.Maj.-Gen. N. P. Banks, reporting under date of April 16, 1862, says: "An entire company, more than 60 men and horses, Ashby's cavalry, were captured this morning at Columbia Furnace, about 17 miles from Mount Jackson, by our cavalry and infantry. The capture includes all the officers but the captain."Source: The Union Army, vol. 6, p. 311 Columbia Furnace, Va. Oct. 7, 1864 3d Cavalry Division, Army of the Shenandoah. In the retrograde movement of Sheridan's army from Harrisonburg, this division, commanded by Brig.-Gen. George A. Custer, moved by the back road toward Columbia Furnace.A slight demonstration was made by the enemy at 5 a. m. and several times during the forenoon the 1st Vt., which was acting as rear-guard, was called on to repel attacks made by the Confederate cavalry. About 2 p. m., when near Columbia Furnace, two attacks were made in quick succession and Col. J. W. Bennett, commanding the regiment, called for reinforcements.Part of the 8th N. Y. and 50 men of the 1st N. H. were sent to him and were stationed in reserve. At 3 o'clock another attack was made, this time on the left, and Bennett fell back on his reserves to find them in full retreat.The 1st Vt. was then forced back about 2 miles to the lines of Pennington's brigade, when the enemy's advance was checked and the division proceeded on its march without further molestation.It seemed as if the works at the furnace were set afire every time a federal force came through but this time the destruction was more complete. The most recent destruction had taken place the previous May. Apparently there had been enough new construction completed to provide quite a bit of fuel, because when Confederates passed through the next day one soldier noted that "the furnace and some other buildings were burning." Resources and will were finally stretched too thin, and this time reconstruction would wait until the end of hostilities."'Source: The Union Army, vol. 6, p. 311 and The Burning, a great book on Sheridan’s campaign of destruction in the Shenandoah Valley during the late summer and fall of 1864.


Columbia Furnace is a large village located on present-day Highway 42 approximately 6.5 miles west of downtown Woodstock. The village straddles Big Stony Creek where it issues from a gap in the mountains that define the western border of Shenandoah County. The section of the village on the west side of the creek includes the site of the Columbia Furnace itself, which survives above ground as a series of low stone walls and embankments. Directly to the north of the furnace site on the north side of Highway 42 stands the Columbia Furnace Stables (85-476), a long one-story limestone building that is probably contemporary with the furnace. The stables has deep eaves overhangs on its south (front) and north sides, traces of exterior whitewashing, and stone jack arches over windows and stable doors. In front stands a 1920S or1930s limestone service station that plays on the architectural character of the stables. Other buildings in the vicinity of the furnace and stables include a large two-story frame building dating to about 1900 or earlier that may have served as a store and hotel boarding house; a two-story frame dwelling that is believed to have served as a saloon and post office, with an omate one-story Victorian porch; and a 1930s or early 1940s (WPA?) Colonial Revival-inspired brick or brick-encased school now subdivided into apartments.

On the east side of Big Stony Creek is a residential quarter associated with the furnace .Approximately a dozen houses dating from the early nineteenth century to the early twentieth century line the east side of Route 748. The southernmost house is a two-story, five-bay, five-course American-bond brick house dating to the fu-st third of the nineteenth century, with a single-pile center-passage plan and possible Federal interior detailing. Extending from the rear of the house is a one-story Flemish-bond brick ell that may have served as an office. The refinement of this house and its possible dual function as an office suggests it may have served as the residence of the furnace ironmaster. Other houses in this residential quarter include stuccoed log (?) dwelling (possibly the house of a laborer at the furnace), and a I- 1 /2-story frame (?) house said to have been built in 1850 and later owned by the Kingree family. On a hill top to the east overlooking the village is Columbia Furnace Union Church (85-403), an 1854 frame building with a large stonewalled cemetery adjacent.


Columbia Furnace was probably established during the first decade of the nineteenth century, although some accounts suggest origins in the late eighteenth century. John Wayland, in his history of the county, states that the furnace was developed by George Mayberry & Co. and was sold to John Arthur & Co. in 1808 (hence the alternative historic name, Arthur's Furnace). The furnace was well situated at the foot of the county's western mountains, which abounded in ore and timber, and on the banks of Big Stony Creek, which supplied power for the furnace bellows and other activities. In the 1830s, Columbia Furnace supported a population of 200 workers and others, entitling it to a post office and suggesting the present village was in existence. According to the 1860 census, Columbia was the county's most productive furnace, consuming 3,304 tons of ore, 280,000 bushels of charcoal coal, and 340 tons of lime to produce 1,365 tons of pig iron valued at $30,098. An 1864 map of the county shows Columbia Furnace, an adjacent hotel, and a row of houses and a church located on the east side of Big Stony Creek. The 1885 Lake's Atlas portrays a diversified community with a store and post office, mills, a blacksmith shop, a doctor's office, a school, and both private and company-owned housing. The company during the latter part of the nineteenth century was the Philadelphia-based Columbian and Liberty Iron Company, which operated a store and miff at the location. Production at Columbia Furnace apparently ended in'1886, but the village continued to function as a local service and trade center. Columbia Furnace was reported to have a population of seventy in 1917.

Draft Statement of Significance:

The village of Columbia Furnace is a rarity in Virginia--a community that developed around a nineteenth-century iron furnace and survives today with most of its historic range of building types intact. In addition to the ruins of the furnace, the village rewns a historic hotel, stables, and housing associated with the furnace workforce as well as the furnace management and professionals who served the furnace in a support capacity. Columbia Furnace is eligible for the National Register under criterion A in the area of industry, as a rare example of a relatively complete nineteenth-century iron furnace community.

Back to People and Places in the Shenandoah Valley