Iron mining has a history that evolved through centuries. Although it is fairly young in America compaired to the world, Delaware’s iron mining is integral to the state.
The state of Delaware is known by many names, three of which are, the first state, the DuPont state, or the state of small wonders. For its size, Delaware has accomplished much in its history, and a lot of that deals with trade and manufacturing. One thing that is often overlooked within the labor market of Delaware is the iron mining that was accomplished within the state for over one hundred years. The area in focus is known as the Welsh Tract, which includes the Iron Hill area located in Newark, Delaware.
Welsh Tract and Iron Hill’s Humble Mining Beginning
Welsh Tract’s origin began with a large number of Welsh immigrants from iron manufacturing districts in the country of Wales. These people where granted land in New Castle County, in and around Newark by William Penn. During the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the Welsh Tract and Iron Hill was granted, it was discovered that iron ore was in existence there. That began an influx of Welsh immigrants to the area, attracted by the prospect of mining the iron ore found there. Small groups of Welsh men opened shafts there and mined for a couple decades.
One self-made man in this venture was Samuel James. By 1723, he built a forge called a bloomery near Iron Hill. The forge lead the way for some of his friends to become interested, as well as some people from Philadelphia; and a company was established called the Abbington Furnace. The company bought 1,000 acres of land, and then built a furnace and a forge by Christiana Creek. The furnace and forge was named Abbington Iron Works, and was up and operational by 1726. However, the Works was deemed a disaster and the company and shareholders from Philadelphia lost interest. Samuel James continued to keep the works open until it was sold off in 1735.
Samuel James, Abbington Furnace and the End of the Mining Era
After the closing of the Abbington Iron Works, the land was left relatively unused until 1841, when D.C. Wood of Philadelphia worked the Iron Hill ore pits for a number of years. Again the land was left alone until the Principio Furnace of Maryland took the land over from 1862 to 1884. During this time Chestnut Hill was mined by William McConaughey. He also stopped mining when his iron ore deposits began to fail. All iron ore mining was stopped when the iron ore deposit failed during 1891.
The last companies that owned the land of Iron Hill and Chestnut Hill hired immigrants and African American men who moved into the area. By the late nineteenth century, the African American community that was establishing themselves there began to build communities that would later erect churches and a school. After the last of the iron mining was completed, the land was then sold off, and used for private land holdings for homes, a school and a church.
- Hartmann, Edward G. (1967). Americans From Wales. Boston, MA: The Christopher Publishing House.
- Melson, Robert. (1967). “Geology of Iron Hill,” Geogram, Monthly publication of the Delaware Mineralogical Society, Inc., January.
- Owen, James Richardson & James Bishop Owen. (1967). A History of the Iron Hill Area Newark, Delaware. Newark, Delaware: Newark Chamber of Commerce.