Danville's Iron History

Danville was an iron town. It had been one practically since its founding in 1792. The entire community's lifeline psychological as well as physical radiated from this single economical base. As a result developments within the iron industry noticeably altered Danville's way of life. Blast furnaces, forges, foundries, and rolling mills were all familiar sights in a town involved in producing iron. A few of the many mills that existed in Danville throughout the 19th and 20th centuries included:
Montour Iron Works
Columbia Furnaces (Grove Brothers)
Rough and Ready
Kennedy Van Saun Site
Danville Stove & Manufacturing Co.

The Montour Iron Works

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The Montour Iron Works in 1840 in Danville, Pennsylvania, was a company owned by stockholders. Their holdings included iron ore mines, a limestone quarry, blast furnaces, puddling mills, two (2) large rolling mills and a narrow gauge railroad to transport the raw materials from mines and quarries to the furnaces.

The owners also built over 300 Company homes, owned and operated a Company Store and a grist mill. 

On October 8, 1845, the first T-rail rolled with iron ore, smelted with anthracite coal was produced at this mill. 

The Montour Iron Works was the largest mid-nineteenth century rail mill in the country. 

In the 1850s, there were more rails produced at this iron mill than any other in the United States.

The North Branch of the Pennsylvania Canal was located near the mill and brought thousands of tons of anthracite coal, one of the ingredients necessary to produce anthracite iron, from the northeast fields to their wharves.

The Montour Iron Works, after many changes of managers and ownership, became the property of the Pennsylvania Iron Company in 1861. At that time, Thomas Beaver, one of the stockholders, became the resident overseer of the company, a position he held until 1876. It was at the beginning of their ownership that they built a grist mill to supply flour and feed to their Company Store. The Iron Mill had its most financial successful period during the Civil War, operating at full capacity, manufacturing railroad iron.

Thomas Beaver, later a generous benefactor to the town of Danville, sold his interest in the Penna. Iron Company in 1876, reserving by purchase the Mansion on the Hill.

The Pennsylvania Iron Company was sold to a corporation that included the Philadelphia Reading Railroad in 1880. It was renamed the Montour Iron & Steel Co. 

In 1895 the Reading Coal and Iron Company became the sole owner of the Montour Iron and Steel Co. when they purchased the entire operation at a sheriff's sale. The Reading Iron Company existed until 1936 when they became insolvent. After 98 years of producing iron products in Danville, the mill was dismantled in 1938. The Danville Area School District Middle School sits on the site of the once stupendous Montour Iron Works.

The Grove Furnaces

image The Grove Furnaces were situated at the east end of East Mahoning Street in Danville and the owners, Michael and John Grove known to everyone as the Grove brothers were among the best known 'furnacemen' in the state. Their first furnace was built by George Patterson in 1839 and was one of the first anthracite furnaces in this country. The Groves purchased it in 1840 and built a second furnace in 1859-60. They were very innovative in this endeavor. These two (2) furnaces, known as the Columbia Furnaces, had a capacity of 12,000 ton per annum.

The brothers assumed the superintendency of the Montour Iron Works while continuing to operate their own business from 1850-1857. The Columbia Furnaces became idle in the late 1880's and subsequently dismantled by the end of the century. 

Their magnificent residence, named "Castle Grove" was built in 1867 and in 1919 became the home of the Sisters of Saints. Cyril and Methodius.

Rough and Ready Rolling Mill

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The Rough and Ready Rolling Mill was built on the site of an unfinished nail mill erected by Burd Patterson, one of the early pioneers in the iron industry. 

William Hancock and John Foley had come to this country in 1844 from their native England to share their expertise in iron rail production with the owners of the Montour Iron Works. They purchased the Patterson mill for the purpose of making merchant iron in 1847 and named it the Rough and Ready after the old general, Zachary Taylor. 

In 1850 they started producing railroad iron and were soon manufacturing six thousand (6,000) tons of railroad iron per year.

Names of other Companies that occupied this site:

1867National Iron Company
1874 Hancock Steel and Iron Company
1879 The Glendower Iron Works
1887 The Mahoning Rolling Mill
1898 Howe and Polk Structural Tubing
1915 Danville Structural Tubing Company
1928 Charles M. Schwab took possession of the D.S.T. Co. and renamed it Danville Structural Steel Co. He rebuilt their #1 Mill at the corner of Railroad and East Market Streets. 
1930 The Danville Structural Steel Mills were turned over to the Bethlehem Steel Corporation.
1942 U.S. Government took possession of the Bethlehem Steel Corp. for war time production under the Rheem Manufacturing Company
1945 to present- many small companies occupied this site at different intervals until Thompson Products purchased it in 1951. T.R.W. is the present owner of this mill.

Kennedy Van Saun (Mesto Minerals) Site

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1906 The Danville Foundry and Machine Company was founded on a portion of the National Iron Company Area. They manufactured fire escapes, building fronts, bank grilles and similar wrought iron products

1919 Now the Danville Iron and Steel Company, they entered into an agreement with Kennedy Van Saun Manufacturing and Engineering Corporation of New York City to be their sole manufacturer of KVS products (Crushers, Screen, Conveyors, Rotary Kilns, Ball Mills, Hydrators, Belt and Bucket Elevators, Pneumatic Conveyors, Scrubbers, Incinerators, etc.) 

1933 After serving as their subcontractor for 14 years Danville Iron and Steel merged with Kennedy Van Saun Manufacturing and Engineering Corp. KVS made a variety of Mineral Processing Machinery and became the world's leading supplier of lime calcining Plants, including rotary kilns, preheater and coolers, a status they still hold today. 

1942 At the outset of WWII, K.V.S. started the ordnance department which made mortars, mortar shells, armor piercing shells and other projectiles from 60mm to 105mm until 1971. In 1950 the department was relocated into the former buildings of the Danville Stove Works.

1961 to 1989 KVS was operated as a subsidiary of McNally of Pittsburgh . In 1989 KVS became part of Svedala Industries of Sweden and today it is part of Metso Minerals, Inc. of Finland. 

1999 Allis Mineral Systems, formerly the Mineral Procession Div. of Allis -Chalmers of Milwaukee, also a division of Svedala, was closed and merged into Svedala's Danville Office.

Thank you to Mr. David Richards for supplying the information on the KVS site

Danville Stove and Manufacturing Co (Beaver Stoves)

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Seven shareholders formed a corporation in 1882 with a capital of $20,000 and named it the Danville Stove and Manufacturing Co. Thomas Beaver became a major shareholder soon after the company was founded but he was not one of the original seven. Their motto became "Beaver's the Best".

Many of the models of stoves cast at the Danville Stove and Mfg. Co. carried the Beaver name and were shipped all over the world. 

The U.S. Post Office cast iron mail boxes, one of their products with the familiar beaver logo, could be found throughout this country. Today there is one located at Disney World in Florida. Production ceased in the early 1940's and the property became part of the K.V.S. complex in 1951.

Danville, Pennsylvania ~ An Iron Town was written by Helen 'Sis' Hause and Lynn Reichen. The Editor was Jean Knouse.