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THE BALTIMORE COMPANY OR BALTIMORE IRON WORKS
In 1731, the Barrister’s father, Dr. Charles Carroll, formed the Baltimore Company Iron Works on 1800 acres to the west of Mount Clare. He formed the company in partnership with Benjamin Tasker, Daniel Dulany, Daniel Carroll of Duddington and Charles Carroll (father of Charles Carroll of Carrollton – the signer of the Declaration of Independence). It was the second iron works in the colony when it was organized.
18th Century Iron Furnace
at Catoctin, Maryland
An iron furnace was a stone or brick structure where iron ore was melted to produce bars of iron, called pig iron, that were used in other forges to make finished products, like pots or skillets. According to Dr. Carroll’s letters the Baltimore Company produced no pots or skillets for lack of local artisans.

Iron works typically converted pig iron into rods, plates, and bars by re-melting and hammering. Some could also re-melt iron and cast it in molds. The Baltimore Company furnace was producing pigs by 1733.

The company had two furnaces and three forges, and its land stretched from the mouth of Gwynn’s Falls to Catonsville. The first furnace was located near the falls on Charles Run, which flowed into the west of Gwynn’s Falls, south of Washington Blvd. It was 26 feet square and from 26 to 28 feet high. The furnace was lined with stone shipped from England. The location also housed a bellows house and casting house. Other buildings nearby included a bridge house, wheel house, founder’s house, and a coal house for storing charcoal.

As the owner of the land, Dr. Carroll served as the first manager of the company, and was paid a salary for his services. Additionally, he received compensation for medical treatment that he provided to the company’s labor force. Eventually, the company hired a manager named Stephen Onion. Onion produced about 14 tons of pig iron a week, and may have been able to produce more if the ore supply had been able to keep pace with the furnace. The original work force was 94 men, including 46 slaves.

Onion was eventually replaced by Richard Croxall, who had placed an ad in 1746 seeking information on 3 runaway Irish convict laborers.

In 1747, the company built another forge opposite the exiting forge. Shortly, thereafter Dr. Carroll built his own furnace, independent of the Baltimore Company, nearby. His partners, and, in particular the other Carrolls whom the Anglican Dr. Carroll referred to as the “Popish interest” [Catholics], raised objections, and he was obliged to pull the furnace down after only two blasts. He planned to use the wheel and site for a merchant mill. A third forge was under construction by 1764.

By the 1770s, about 3,100 tons of bar and pig iron were exported each year – much of it to England. During the War for Independence, the Baltimore Company produced cannon and other materials for the Continental Army.

Charles Carroll of Annapolis had a one fifth interest in the Iron Works that had appreciated in value from £700 in 1731 to £10,000 in 1764. He described the works in a letter to his son as “a very growing Estate which included the Most Convenient Furnaces in America, two forges with a third under construction, and 150 slaves and 30,000 acres of land.” At the time of the American Revolution, the Barrister’s one fifth interest in the Baltimore Iron Works was valued at £14,000.

In 1783, the year the Barrister died, a tax list shows the company held £2,000 worth of capital improvements [buildings], 7,042 acres of land, and 35 slaves. By 1786, this operation was being leased to another operator for use as an anchor forge, making anchors from 30 to 2,000 pounds in weight. In 1789, a nail works may have been operating on the same site. This location was ideal because of iron ore, deep water access, water power, and lumber for making charcoal. Just north of Charles Run was Hunting Ridge Landing, which allowed ships to reach the furnace to pick up iron bars for export.

In 1798, the Baltimore Iron Works was taxed based on the following:
Two Stone Furnaces: 35x32, 30x16
Frame Coal House: 50x20
Stone Coal House: 76x36
16,674 acres assessed at $83,515

The company began to decline as the 18th century came to a close. The remainder of its holdings were offered for sale in 1808.


SOURCES
  • From Pig Iron to Cotton Duck, A History of Manufacturing Villages in Baltimore County by John W.McGrain.
  • “The Genesis of the Baltimore Iron Works” in Journal of Southern History, May 1953, by Keach Johnson.
  • Mount Clare Being an Account of the Seat built by Charles Carroll, Barrister, upon his Lands at Patapsco by Michael Trostel


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