RICHLAND FURNACE STATE FOREST
RICHLAND FURNACE STATE FOREST
Wellston, Ohio 45692
Richland Furnace State Forest is a reflection of days-gone-by. Located in the wooded hills of northern Jackson and southern Vinton counties, is evidence of two past eras in the history of Ohio. The oldest is the existence of flint outcrops that were used by the Native Americans prior to the Europeans arrival to the area. If you explore and look close, one can find these outcrops. The more recent reflection of the past is the evidence of the industrial revolution of the mid-1800s. During the 19th century, the Hanging Rock Iron Region was the second largest producer of iron for our young nation. The stone remnant of the old Richland iron furnace still stands on private property just north of Richland Furnace State Forest and is adjacent to Vinton Township Road 6. The town of Richland, which is still listed on most maps, is gone but a keen eye can detect where many of the homes once stood. Furnaces of this era usually employed up to 100 people and most lived in the small crossroads "company" towns such as Richland. These furnaces were operated on the resources from the surrounding area. The required iron ore was mined by oxen from the underlying sandstone and limestone. The trees were cut and burned to produce charcoal to fire the furnace. The old ore pits are still quite noticeable near the ridges throughout the state forest. With the development of the ore fields in Missouri and the Lake Superior region at the end of the 19th century, the Hanging Rock iron industry quickly faded away. Even though the furnaces are gone, their impact on the resources of the area will remain for many years to come. The Division of Forestry manages the Richland Furnace State Forest under a multiple-use concept. This means the forest is being managed for wildlife habitat improvement, recreation, watershed protection, forest products, and aesthetics. Richland Furnace State Forest is open to public hunting and contains one of the four All-Purpose Vehicle (APV) areas operated by the Division of Forestry. Note: The AVP area is open from April 2 through November 30.
Richland Furnace State Forest, located in Vinton County, Ohio, has a rich history that dates back to the 19th century. Here is a brief overview of its history:
1. Iron Industry: The forest takes its name from the historic Richland Furnace, which was established in the mid-19th century. The furnace was built in 1853 by T.C. Mendenhall and Company, and it played a crucial role in the local iron industry. The furnace produced iron from locally sourced iron ore and charcoal made from the surrounding forest.
2. Production and Operation: The iron industry was booming during the mid-19th century, and Richland Furnace played a significant role in supplying iron to various industries, including the construction of railroads. It operated for many years and had multiple owners during its existence.
3. Community: The operation of the furnace also led to the establishment of a small community around it, known as Richland Furnace or Richland Village. The community consisted of workers and their families who lived in close proximity to the furnace. They worked in the furnace and supported its operations.
4. Decline and closure: Due to changes in the iron industry, including the shift to more efficient iron production methods and a decline in demand, Richland Furnace began to face challenges in the late 19th century. The furnace eventually closed in 1870, and the surrounding forest reclaimed the area over time.
5. State Forest: In 1961, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources acquired the land surrounding the historic furnace and established the Richland Furnace State Forest. The primary purpose was to preserve the natural forest ecosystem and manage the land for recreational activities like hiking, hunting, and camping.
6. Preservation and Restoration: Over the years, efforts have been made to preserve and restore the history of Richland Furnace. The original furnace stack and remnants of the community can still be seen within the state forest. Interpretive signs provide information on the history of the furnace and its importance to the iron industry in Ohio.
Today, Richland Furnace State Forest stands as a beautiful natural area with historical significance, attracting visitors who appreciate both the forest's natural beauty and its ties to Ohio's industrial history.