Old Iron Works At Hay Creek Valley

By Staff
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Rock crusher makes short work of a hard job.
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They come in all sizes: Robert Martin's models.
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1 HP Gray with Letz mill.
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1927 1-2 HP Jaeger.
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1928 IHC Type M, owned by Larry Heilner, Glenmoore, Pa.
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1916 Galloway fodder cutter powered by 1920 3 HP Hercules.
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Giving advice on how Earl Norton's 1910 6 HP Mogul works.
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'Pumping iron.'
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'Let there be light.'
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LeRoy Hoover's New Holland collection.
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1937 F-20 20 HP Farmall and 1946 Oliver Cletrac HG.
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1912 Boy Scout, 1 HP.

GEM Staffer

If there’s one phrase that can be associated with the Hay
Creek Valley Historical Association’s annual Fall Festival,
it’s ‘old iron works.’ And if there’s a second
phrase that comes to mind, it’s ‘old iron works.’ Why
say it twice? Because in this case it’s true
twice.

Every September, on the weekend after Labor Day, you can come to
the association’s Fall Festival and see old iron working nearly
200 vintage engines, both gas and steam, not just sitting there,
but actually doing the work they were made for. At every moment and
every turn, there’s something to watch, and something new to
learn for those who aren’t of an age to remember when, even
though it looks like backbreaking work, this kind of power was the
labor-saving way to get things done.

At last year’s show, from the moment I arrived on the
property I was watching technology at work. The first thing to
catch my eye were the hydraulic rams pumping water up the hill.
They’re a fascinating piece of machinery, downright hypnotic,
and it’s such fun to watch them working. Then I turned around,
and there was a 1927 Jaeger (isn’t that the most beautiful
blue?) with flywheel spinning, owned by Bill and Cindy Swisher of
Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. They also exhibited a 1 HP Gray engine
running a Letz mill.

Here’s one I’ve never seen before: a Boy Scout engine, 1
HP, built in 1912, owned by Henry Moore of Souderton, Pennsylvania.
Who knows anything about these? I couldn’t find it in
Wendel’s big book, so now I’m intrigued.

Walt Lilley’s 22 HP 1914 Witte provided throaty background
music for viewing a lineup of New Holland engines owned by LeRoy
Hoover (aka ‘Farmer Brown’) from Morgantown. In his third
year of exhibiting at Hay Creek, Hoover had on hand a 1915 HP, a
1905 1 HP, a 1923 2 HP, a 1915 4 HP, and a 1916 5 HP.

You wanna see impressive power? Watch a rock crusher for a
while, pal. When you see big chunks of limestone reduced to gravel,
you realize just how much work this machinery can do. You realize,
too, what an impact the development of gas engine power had on
rural life when you see exhibits like Bob Linton of Lancaster’s
generator display, showing how engine technology brought light to
the farm and home.

More hard work was being done at the Heft family exhibit. The
Hefts, of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, had a big display showing what
happens to corn once it’s in from the field. Anita Heft and
Jennifer Curry used a lot of elbow grease demonstrating the
manually-operated fodder cutter and corn shelter, while the men ran
the engines (boys and their toys, you know). They had a 1920 3 HP
Hercules belted up to a 1916 Galloway fodder cutter, a 1920 l HP
Hercules powering a 1910-1915 Mountville two-hole corn sheller, and
a corn grinder run by Fairbanks-Morse Z.

Watching all that work gave me an appetite, so no better time to
take some nourishment. Local civic and church groups operate booths
in a ‘food court’ of sorts, where the good eats of
Pennsylvania Dutch country are made available. Don’t miss the
homemade soup made by the McGowan family, simmered in huge
cauldrons over an open fire.

Now that I’m fortified, it’s time to explore the second
reason for saying ‘old iron works’ here at Hay Creek. This
bustling festival is held at historic Joanna Furnace, a site
abundant with those things necessary for the processing of iron:
nearby ore deposits, woodland for charcoal, lots of limestone, and
waterways that were an excellent power source for the once-thriving
iron industry and supporting community that flourished here
throughout the 1800s.

The furnace, carved out of semi-wilderness in 1791, was for most
of her life a cold blast, single stack charcoal iron furnace.
Water-powered until the late 1850s, the furnace was later converted
to steam power, with installation of a Weimer blowing engine in
1889 and conversion to hot-blast operation.

Hay Creek Valley Historical Association was organized in 1975 by
a group of people (my grandparents and uncle among them) who were
interested in the preservation of early American tools and
machinery, and the sharing of that interest with the public. Since
the late 1970s, members of HCVHA have been working to restore the
furnace complex, which was donated to them by the Bethlehem Steel
Corporation, once a large landholder in the area. Many of the
original buildings still exist and have been stabilized, restored,
or rebuilt. Visitors can see the blacksmith shop, where iron
working demonstrations take place; the blower engine house, which
once housed the blast machinery and is now used as a viewing area
for an orientation video; the furnace stack, in which ore,
limestone and charcoal were layered to remove the metal from the
ore; the charcoal barn, a massive sandstone structure used to store
the charcoal for the furnace operation; the office and store, which
served as the hub of daily operations; and the mule stable, where
the work animals were kept.

In addition to the large engine and mechanical technology area
and the buildings of the furnace complex, there’s an extensive
area in which early American crafts are demonstrated. Here’s
where you can see glassblowers at work, woodcrafts being made, soap
making, butter churning, apple butter cooking, sheep shearing,
spinning and weaving, basket weaving, chair caning: oh, there’s
so much I can’t fit it all in! A Civil War encampment is also
held on the grounds, with educational exhibits about camp life for
soldiers and civilians. A musical performance stage with comfy
straw-bale seating, and a large home craft and antique marketplace,
round out the mix of activities.

When you get to the showgrounds, pick up a copy of the program.
That way you won’t miss any of the scheduled activities, like
the Tractor Parade, or the threshing, sawmill, or shingle mill
demonstrations. Parking is off-site, but not too far away, and they
run a very well-organized shuttle bus operation (handicapped
parking is available on the grounds). Early September in
Pennsylvania can be hot and humid, but the show site is blessed
with lots of shade. This year marks the 25th annual festival, which
is scheduled for September 7-9, 2001. If you’d like more
information about the event, call 610-286-0388, or visit the HCVHA
website at www.haycreek.org. Joanna Furnace is located three miles
north of Morgan-town, Pennsylvania, on Route 10.

If you can’t make it in September, you might want to come
out for the Hay Creek Apple Festival later in the fall, set for
Saturday, October 13. Or, put the annual Spring Show and Swap on
your agenda. Show organizer George Loughery notes that talks are
currently under way to expand that event for next year, perhaps
moving the date into May and turning it into more of a tractor and
engine show. Keep your eyes and ears open for more on that!

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