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Clear Creek Furnace (Clear Creek Recreation Area, Daniel Boone National Forest

Clear Creek Furnace

Site ID: 15Bh53, 15Bh180, 15Bh185, 15Bh312, 15Bh313, 15Bh316, 15Bh317, 15Bh318

Iron Furnace
Kentucky Archaeological Survey
Unless specified, we cannot provide site location information.


​​​​​The Clear Creek Iron Furnace was established ca. 1839 along the banks of Clear Creek in southern Bath County. Early furnaces had to be located near streams to power the bellows that forced air into the furnace. The Clear Creek Furnace operated until 1857, when many water-powered iron furnaces closed. It was rebuilt in 1872 as the Bath Furnace, which used steam power, and it continued to operate​ until 1875, when it was abandoned.  

Like many furnace operations, Clear Creek was organized as an iron plantation, consisting of large tracts of land with iron ore deposits and vast stands of timber that were needed to make the charcoal that fueled the furnace. The furnace stack, where the iron ore was processed, was the center of the plantation.​ A number of buildings surrounded the furnace and supported its operation, such as a casting shed, repair shops, stores, houses for workers, and small farms to supply the workforce. Upwards of over 100 people worked at the furnace. Skilled laborers operated the furnace, while unskilled enslaved laborers mined iron, cut timber, made charcoal, transported these materials to the furnace, and transported the​​ iron "pigs" (​small impure iron ingots) to the forges for remelting.    ​​

Today, Clear Creek Furnace retains many elements of the original iron plantation:​ remains of the furnace stack, support buildings, worker’s houses, the original road, mining trenches, and charcoal kilns.  

A close-up view of the Clear Creek Iron Furnace (Clear Creek Recreation Area, Daniel Boone National Forest).


​Archaeological investigations at Clear Creek Furnace included surveys of the furnace and surrounding area, and more intensive excavation of one of the worker’s houses. These studies identified 13 stone mounds associated with collapsed house chimneys and fireplaces; a large cellar for a house or store; foundation stones for one of the houses; the foundation of the charging deck for loading the furnace; a charcoal kiln; and remnants of the original road to the furnace. 

Investigations targeting buildings located near the stack produced nails, but no domestic artifacts (ceramic dishes and jars, and glass bottle fragments). This suggests that these buildings were linked to furnace operation activities​. In comparison, investigations in a nearby large cellar recovered nails and domestic artifacts, suggesting the presence of a store, food storage activities, or housing for higher-status workers.  

Investigators recovered rather low numbers of nails and domestic artifacts from around the chimneys, which suggested that they were the remains of houses occupied for relatively short periods of time. Most of these artifacts dated from the late 1800s to early 1900s, suggesting that some of the houses were linked to the 1870s restart of the furnace operation and/or to local farmers' reuse of the buildings after the furnace closed.

Furnace-related artifacts consisted of large quantities of glass slag and an iron hanger (a piece of iron stuck to the inside of the furnace that at some point during the furnace operation, blew out of the top of the stack). Slag is a byproduct of iron production, created from the impurities in the iron ore. These impurities accumulated as glass on the inside walls of the furnace and had to be removed to keep it in good working condition. The possible hanger - a large hunk of iron - was found about 75 yards from the furnace.  

Examples of glass slag.

A large hunk of iron - likely a “hanger” - that was blown from the furnace.

What's Cool?

​Good Luck Charms

Some of the glass slag recovered from the the Clear Creek Iron Furnace site had been reworked to create spiral-shaped objects. They were most likely made by the workers operating the furnace, who shaped some of the molten glass slag into spirals. 

The fact that the spirals were found at two house sites suggests that workers kept them for some purpose. Many people during the 1800s were superstitious and often made or collected objects for good luck. Perhaps these glass spirals served such a purpose.​​​

Glass spiral.

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