Currently viewing the tag: "Catoctin Furnace Historical Society"

The Catoctin Furnace Historical Society (CFHS) is proud to announce it has won the 2024 Award for Outstanding Stewardship of a Maryland Historical Trust Easement Property. CFHS was selected for its restoration of the Forgeman’s House, a 19th century ironworker’s home. The historic cottage, built in the winter of 1820-21, likely using enslaved labor, was owned by the furnace operation and rented to its employees.

The restoration and stabilization of the Forgeman’s House took four years and was funded by a State of Maryland General Assembly bond bill, a Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) grant from the Maryland Historical Trust, and grants from the Tourism Council of Frederick County Tourism Reinvestment in Promotion and Product (TRIPP) and the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area. The process included removing non-historic additions and returning the house to its original condition. CFHS tore out drywall, repointed and plastered the original stone walls and fireplace, installed a standing seam metal roof, replaced non-period windows with historically accurate reproductions, and furnished the home with antiques that showcase the simplicity of life in the 1800s.

During the restoration, CFHS uncovered more than 30,000 artifacts, including period clothing stuffed into walls as insulation. Now a living museum, the house offers overnight stays and exhibits, such as “Everyday Treasures: Bringing History to Life at the Forgeman’s House,” a collection of archaeologically derived domestic artifacts that span the homes’ 200+ year history and are a testament to the many families who called it home. Another exhibit “Under the Floorboards” features a secret chamber beneath the floor that gives visitors a glimpse into the history of the house, revealing some of the items discovered during the archaeological investigations.

The Maryland Historical Trust is presenting 11 awards recognizing outstanding preservation projects and individual leadership in honor of Preservation Month this May. The Forgeman’s House award ceremony will take place on the premises at 12525 Catoctin Furnace Road, Thurmont, Maryland 21788 on Thursday, May 2 at 11:30 am. All are welcome.

The 49th Annual Maryland Preservation Awards selected by MHT’s Board of Trustees will be livestreamed on MHT’s social media beginning on May 2 and continuing through early June. A complete list of times and locations can be found at

Throughout the year, the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society shares the history of ironmaking through special events. The 6th Annual Maryland Iron Festival will take place on Saturday, May 18 (10 am to 6 pm) and Sunday, May 19, 2024 (10 am to 4 pm) in the village of Catoctin Furnace, Cunningham Falls State Park, and Catoctin Mountain Park. For more information, contact or visit

Catoctin Furnace Historical Society has won a $7,500 grant from Americana Corner to restore a 19th century bellows.

CFHS was one of 171 historic preservation organizations across the country to receive a grant in honor of George Washington’s birthday.

The restored bellows will be used in the blacksmithing demonstration program held in Catoctin Furnace’s newly constructed blacksmith shop.

The bellows was manufactured circa 1875 to 1885 by J. C. Onions company in Birmingham, England, the preeminent bellows manufacturer of the day. The giant bellows measures five feet by three feet and is constructed of wood, tin, and leather. Blacksmiths use bellows to deliver a constant supply of oxygen to the fire, allowing for the high temperatures, which are required to heat iron to the point that it can be worked.

With the addition of the bellows, Catoctin Furnace has a full complement of 19th century blacksmithing tools.

Just as iron was arguably the most critical industry in the development of the early United States, blacksmiths were essential to the production of equipment and supplies, such as nails, hinges, hooks, wagon parts, and tools.

Late 18th and early 19th century blacksmiths in Catoctin Furnace were primarily enslaved and free Africans and African Americans. Research into the African American owned Moses Jones (1787-1868) blacksmith shop in Carroll County and the Felicity or Oakland Mills blacksmith shop in Howard County informed the design of Catoctin Furnace’s new blacksmith shop.

With the addition of this restored bellows, the blacksmith shop will become a platform to honor the contribution of blacksmithing to our history, revive the practice of the craft, and educate visitors about its importance. In addition, it will become an essential part of Catoctin Furnace’s Heritage at Work program geared toward work skills training for at-risk students.

Catoctin Furnace Historical Society shares the history of ironmaking through special events throughout the year, including an annual commemoration of black history month’s “In Their Own Voices,” an autumn performance of Spirits of the Furnace, now in its 21st year, and the Maryland Iron Festival.

The 6th Annual Maryland Iron Festival will take place on Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, 2024, in the village of Catoctin Furnace, and throughout Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park. For more information, contact

The Catoctin Furnace Historical Society won three grants related to historical preservation in November. The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area Mini Grant will fund the purchase of a 27 foot historically accurate marquee tent for outdoor events. The second grant is from the Delaplaine Foundation to perform a traffic calming feasibility study, and the third is a federal earmark to supply matching funds for the restoration of an original ironworker cottage.

Saving A Historic Ironworker Cottage

The historical society purchased the 200+ year old Miller House in December 2021 for $229,000 to save it from modern renovation, and with funding will restore the log worker cottage to its original condition. The restoration will be undertaken by historic building professionals alongside students from Heritage at Work, a training program in preservation and building trades for at-risk youth. Once completed, the Miller house will become a residence for Catoctin Furnace’s new Furnace Fellows program, in which emerging professionals will spend a year living and working in the historic village while being mentored in heritage tourism, museum management, and hands-on historic preservation.

21st Century Safety in an 18th Century Streetscape

Between 2022 and 2023, Catoctin Furnace saw a 2,474 percent increase in visitors, including several major events and visits from thousands of school children each year. To address their safety, CFHS needs to find solutions to slow traffic and increase pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular safety along Route 806, the sole narrow historic village roadway. The seven historic sites that make up the area are situated on both sides of the road which lacks sidewalks and crosswalks. The Delaplaine Foundation grant will fund a feasibility study to assess pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular safety, traffic calming, and improve pedestrian access between the public sites and private residences. The study will provide information for the state to use to plan and implement safety measures along the roadway.

History and Present Day Role of Catoctin Furnace

The iron furnace at Catoctin played a pivotal role during the American Revolution and later the industrial revolution in the United States. Throughout the 19th century, the furnace produced iron for household and industrial products. After more than 100 years in service, Catoctin Furnace ceased production in 1903.

Founded in 1973, the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society is undertaking groundbreaking research, including bioarchaeological research of the African American cemetery. In partnership with the Smithsonian Institution and the Reich Laboratory for Medical and Population Genetics at Harvard University, CFHS is analyzing ancient DNA and the human genome of revolutionary era enslaved African American workers at Catoctin Furnace. By studying and disseminating the results of this research, we hope to give everyone, including the descendants of the enslaved workers, the opportunity to understand them and the critical roles they played in the development of our young nation.

The Catoctin Furnace Historical Society shares the history of ironmaking through special events throughout the year including an annual commemoration of black history month’s “In Their Own Voices,” an autumn performance of Spirits of the Furnace, now in its 21st year, and the Maryland Iron Festival. The 6th Annual Maryland Iron Festival will take place on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19, 2024 in the village of Catoctin Furnace, and throughout Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park.

For more information, contact

For millions of Americans who are descended from enslaved Africans, genealogical research often hits a dead end at the era of slavery because there were few written records of enslaved people’s lives. That has now changed for thousands of Americans who are descended from 27 enslaved workers who were buried at the Catoctin Furnace iron forge in the state of Maryland. 

Published August 4 in the journal Science, researchers from Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution, 23andMe, and the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society analyzed the DNA of the remains of 27 individuals buried at Catoctin Furnace and compared it to people who have submitted their DNA to genetic genealogy databases.

The results revealed how the 27 individuals at Catoctin Furnace were related to each other, genetic conditions they may have had, and their African ancestors and American descendants.

Elizabeth Anderson Comer, CFHS President: “The search for a descendant community has been the principal quest of CFHS for more than a decade. Catoctin Furnace is an example of the tragedy of slavery writ large: namely, the erasure of the black population and collective heritage from the area, manifest in the lack of an identified descendant community. This latest research has the potential to identify individuals and reconnect this lost legacy of skilled ironworking.”

The research compares novel ancient DNA technology, which sequences genetic data from human remains to data from consumer genetic testing services, to establish relationships between the enslaved African Americans at Catoctin Furnace and modern Americans. The new method was developed by a team led by David Reich, professor of genetics in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School and professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, and first author Eadaoin Harney, a population geneticist at 23andMe. Until now, it has been difficult to trace family lines from enslaved people because of the absence of birth and death certificates and census listings. Before this research, there were no known descendants of the enslaved ironworkers.

By comparing the genetic profiles of the 27 Catoctin Furnace workers to millions of American DNA profiles, 41,799 relatives were identified. Of those, 2975 participants were found to be close relatives of the Catoctin Furnace workers. The results have a profound impact on our understanding of the history of enslaved Africans and their descendants.

The research also shows that the people buried at Catoctin Furnace were descended from people in West and Central Africa, particularly the Wolof and Mandinka of Senegambia and the Kongo of Central Africa. Fifteen of the Catoctin workers were part of five genetic families who were buried close together.

Elizabeth Anderson Comer, CFHS President: “This research may increase our understanding of knowledge transfer of ironworking skills from the continent of Africa. For example, well over forty thousand smelting furnaces have been counted in one eighty-kilometer section of the Senegal River Valley in Mauritania, illustrating the prevalence of ironmaking. These results may inform future research linking knowledge transfer of ironworking to the colonies, that was then exploited by owners who realized great wealth and power for themselves.”

The Catoctin Furnace study moves genetic research into African American family trees forward and helps to right some of the historical wrongs that were created by the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Catoctin Furnace was built in 1774 by four brothers, James, Baker, Thomas, and Roger Johnson, to produce iron from the rich deposits of hematite found in the nearby mountains. The iron furnace at Catoctin played a pivotal role during the Industrial Revolution in the young United States; American cannonballs fired during the Battle of Yorktown came from here. The furnace supported a thriving community, and company houses were established alongside the furnace stack. Throughout the nineteenth century, the furnace produced iron for household and industrial products. Catoctin Furnace ceased production in 1903.

In 1973, The Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, Inc. was formed by G. Eugene Anderson, Clement E. Gardiner, J. Franklin Mentzer, and Earl M. Shankle to “foster and promote the restoration of the Catoctin Furnace Historic District…and to maintain the same exclusively for educational and scientific purposes,” as well as “to exhibit to coming generations our heritage of the past.”

Catoctin Furnace maintains much of its original layout and structures, which were constructed primarily between 1774 and 1820. The village introduces visitors to the area’s historical importance and heritage resources, providing the look and feel of an early industrial complex yet retaining the freshness and charm of a small community at the foot of Catoctin Mountain. It is located 12 miles north of Frederick on Maryland Route 806 (Catoctin Furnace Road). For more information, call 240-288-7396 or visit

Pictured from left are Russ Thompson, Program Committee; Ray Ediger, Program Committee; Elizabeth Comer, guest speaker; and Harold Staley, Program Committee.

Courtesy Photos

Elizabeth Comer, an archaeologist who serves as the president of the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, Inc. and president of EAC/Archaeology, Inc., was the guest speaker of the March meeting of the Lewistown Ruritan Club. 

Comer gave an interesting presentation on the historic industrial iron furnace and village at the foot of Maryland’s beautiful Catoctin Mountains.  She described the restoration project of this area that commemorates the state as a center for the craft of iron making. Her presentation was well received by the club members and guests, as evidenced by the lively question and answer period afterward.

In addition, the Lewistown Ruritan is proud to welcome Greg Daniels as a new member. Greg was sponsored by Jeff Barber, Lewistown Ruritan Club member. This is the fourth new member that Jeff has sponsored for the Lewistown Ruritan. 

The Lewistown Ruritan Club works to improve the community through funds raised from its famous chicken BBQs and other fundraising events. They always welcome new members to the Lewistown Ruritan.

The Lewistown Ruritan Club is proud to be an organization of positive people doing positive things in our community. The club meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at the Lewistown United Methodist Church.

The Washington Revels Jubilee Voices performed at Harriet Chapel as part of the Iron Festival which is presented through the dedication of volunteers from The Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, Catoctin State Park, Harriet Chapel, The Thurmont Library, and numerous other community organizations.

The performance was generously sponsored by PNC Bank and centered around the lives of enslaved people who worked in the Catoctin Iron Furnace and helped build many of the structures in the Village of Catoctin Furnace.  The Washington Revels Jubilee Voices ensemble is a professional musical group committed to the preservation of African-American history and traditions—presenting songs and stories of struggle and perseverance, trials and triumphs, expressed through a cappella music, drama, and dance.

Catoctin Voices Evening of Poetry opens its 2018 series with guest poet, Jessica Flynn, on Friday, April 20, at 7:00 p.m. in the Collier’s Log House, located at 12607 Catoctin Furnace Road in Thurmont. Flynn, of Gardners, Pennsylvania, has written poetry for sixteen years and performed as a Spoken Word Artist for over four years. She represented the USA as an award-winning Poet of 2015 in the International Poetry Festival in Macedonia. Her YouTube channel, “The Hippie Housewife,” currently features fifty-nine videos on topics such as art, crafts, food, nature, family, animals, tattooing, dreadlocks, hula hooping, children, and more. She produces two videos per week. Her husband, Dustin Nispel, is also an award-winning published poet and Spoken Word Artist.

Catoctin Voices is open to the public and features a guest poet from the region every third Friday of the month, from 7:00-9:00 p.m., April through November. The venue is held in the village of Catoctin Furnace at the historic Collier’s Cabin, courtesy of the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society. Anyone who writes poetry or has a favorite poem by another author may share up to three pieces during the 45-minute open mic time. Students are most welcome! Open readings precede the featured poet and refreshments are always served. For more information, call 301-418-3375.

Jessica Flynn, featured guest poet at Catoctin Voices Evening of Poetry on April 20, 2018.

Deb Spalding

As we enter the Holiday shopping season, it’s important to be prepared and, sometimes, cautious. Here at The Catoctin Banner newspaper, we encourage local shopping—with our valued advertisers, of course!

Statistics suggest that shopping locally helps support our local economy, since the money stays in our community. Another major plus is that it strengthens our community by providing jobs.

In support of shopping locally, we’d like to remind shoppers to “beware” should you decide to meander to a big city or play in cyberspace. It’s a nasty world out there, sometimes. Here are some examples of situations where you should be cautious. Don’t be a sucker!

Sucker Tip #1: Do not respond to unsolicited emails on the computer or unsolicited offers on the street, in the mall, or on your computer. While working on the computer, I opened an email that turned out to have a virus attached. I spent a lot of time and money removing it. Something might look appealing to click on and possibly purchase; however, be weary if you don’t know the site or the sender. In the aftermath, I am fed up but wiser. May my sentiments carry us all safely through shopping season.

Sucker Tip #2: Avoid filling out forms both online and in person. Did I tell you, I just won a wonderful vacation from those nice people “giving away” free vacations at an event I attended this past summer? NOT! If I fulfil my sucker destiny, I will spend a few thousand on a vacation to some place I had no plans to visit. I get something for free, but the end doesn’t justify the price.

Sucker Tip #3: Are the deals really worth the hassle? I waited in line on Black Friday last year and missed the deal. The last one was given to the lucky sucker five up in line from me. If you really want the prize, be sure to calculate your risk and reward ratios. It’s cold outside!

So, save yourself time, gas, and headaches and see what your neighbors are selling (this is only a partial list of local ideas for gifts; sorry to all who are not mentioned. Please check out the ads in this issue for more ideas.)

The Thurmont Lions Club is selling some great holiday gifts of mural designs created by Artist Yemi. Commemorative gift items include all six murals, signed prints, individual mural prints, ornaments of etched glass, and a full color giant book Thurmont – Murals and Memories.

Each year, the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society members decorate wreaths to your design with bows, pinecones, ornaments, icicles, and more, during the Traditional Village Christmas event on December 6, from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Coffee gift baskets are available at Holy Grounds Café in Emmitsburg.

Browns’ Jewelry has beautiful fine jewelry, watches, and gifts in stock in Thurmont.

Schedule your appointment with Nails By Anne for a fresh holiday manicure or pedicure!

Hunters might like their trophy mounted by Quirauk Skull Works.

We have many auto repair professionals throughout The Catoctin Banner reading area. It may be time for a tune up, a shine, or some new tires.

Vigilant Hose Company members are selling Gun Calendars and Spring Fling Tickets. Get yours today!

White House Ornaments, honoring President Warren G. Harding, are being sold by the Catoctin Area Civitan Club.

Gateway Candyland Market will hold a candy making open house with a large selection of Christmas gifts and crafts, including an open door into At Home Primitives, where home décor is abundant.

Get your Shot Shell Christmas lights from the Frederick County 4-H Shooting Sport Club.

There are unlimited sources for gift certificates in our local area.  Patronizing local artists, authors, and photographers is a unique alternative for meaningful gifts.

Members of the Catoctin Area Civitan Club are offering 2014 White House ornaments that honor President Warren G. Harding. If you would like more information, please call 301-676-9752.

The ideas listed here are just a sampling of ideas to get you started. Remember, don’t be a sucker and enjoy the Holidays!