Jackson’s Ironworks at Ices Ferry was northern West Virginia’s most significant antebellum ironworks and an important nail production center until its closing in the late 1850s. Located on the east side of the Cheat River at Ices Ferry in Monongalia County, the ironworks was established by Samuel Jackson about 1809 for the manufacture of hand-wrought nails. The works used local ore, limestone, and fuel, and over the next 40 years the operation was expanded into an extensive ironworks complex. Local tradition holds that during the War of 1812 the ironworks supplied iron for shot used in the Battle of New Orleans and shipped nails and plates to Lake Erie for Admiral Perry’s Lake Erie squadron.
By 1812, the first Western Virginia rolling mill was in operation at the ironworks, and in 1822 the region’s first cut-nail machinery was installed there. About 1836, the Henry Clay Furnace (now part of Coopers Rock State Forest) was built to supply pig iron to the works; it was the first steam powered furnace in Western Virginia. The Ellicott brothers, important Maryland iron masters, purchased the property in the late 1830s and made a number of improvements, including the addition of puddling furnaces, the construction of a new rolling mill, and the integration of the outlying furnaces with the Ices Ferry site by means of animal-powered tram roads. Despite their innovations, the Ellicotts failed at Ices Ferry, and in later years, the ironworks changed hands frequently. By 1860, the ironworks closed for the last time. The lack of adequate transportation and the depletion of iron ore and fuel resources forced its closure. The once extensive ironworks now lies beneath the waters of Cheat Lake.
This Article was written by Lee R. Maddex
Moreland, James R. The Early Cheat Mountain Iron Works. Morgantown: Monongalia Historical Society, 1992.