No comments yet

Kirkland Iron Ore

In 1945 an estimated 150 million tons of Clinton hematite ore still lay near and 60′ to 80′ under the surface of the ground in the Town of Kirkland. That’s a lot of ore that provided the basis for iron ore mining, iron blast furnaces and forges, paint and mortar pigments, roofing materials, and hard fill for driveways between 1797 and 1998 over 200 years of economic activity using the red ore (oolitic ore) which carries the chemical identity of Fe203, ferric oxide. First settlers came to the Clinton area to stay in 1787 from Plymouth, Connecticut and engaged in a small subsistence economy of farming and the gathering of wildlife to feed their families. If farming was the first and oldest industry in the Town of Kirkland, the mining and local use of Clinton hematite ore must be the second oldest industry.


Many, many years ago (300 to 400 million) this area of central New York was covered by a low lagoon called the Silurian Sea. The ore was originally limestone which was replaced by iron compounds from streams high in the Adirondacks that ran to Kirkland. The ore is still found at outcrops and among strata of limestone, shales, and sandstones 60′ to 80′ underground. Clinton hematite is 45 to 50 percent iron but also contains silica, calcium carbonate and small amounts of magnesium and aluminum. When mixed with charcoal it produces a 50 percent iron product and with anthracite coal a 40 to 45 percent iron product. 2 and 1/4 tons of hematite result in 1 ton of iron.

The Clinton hematite formation of ore was first discovered in the Town of Kirkland and named for this place where it was first found in 1797. It is known by geologists throughout the world by the name, Clinton hematite.

The outcrops east and west of Clinton on the sides of the Oriskany valley are at approximately the 700′ above sea level mark. This formation of ore extends east into Herkimer County and dwindles away at Cherry Valley, New York. It can be seen in Frankfort Gorge and Ilion Gorge.

This belt of Clinton hematite goes west throughout New York State and ends in the Province of Ontario west of the Niagara Falls area. It is visible in the Genesee River gorge in Rochester and was mined in an open-trench operation for years by the Furnaceville Iron Company in Ontario County New York. This ore is also found in Wisconsin, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, and Missouri. It was used in the iron industry at Birmingham, Alabama and at Chattanooga, Tennessee. Similar ores are also located in. Luxembourg and Lorraine in Europe.


The main use was for pig iron, and the Clinton hematite made fine castings for ornamental purposes, stoves, and window weights. Glendale stoves and Fairbanks scales (made in St. Johnsbury, Vermont) were two companies which used the ore commercially. It failed to be strong enough for rails unless mixed with other ores. Later on it found a role as a red pigment for paints and mortar coloring.

The Clinton hematite was blended with local quarried limestone, local charcoal and, after the Chenango Canal was opened in 1836, with Pennsylvania coke and anthracite to make the pig iron.

By 1907 (which signaled the end of the blast furnace in Franklin Springs) over two million tons had been taken from the Town. Early in the 1800’s as little as 3,000 tons a year were extracted, but when the blast furnaces were going full tilt, 60,000 tons was the yearly amount taken. Although mining didn’t cease until 1963, Hamilton College geology professor Nelson C. Dale estimated in 1945 that 150 million tons of iron ore lay below the surface in the Town of Kirkland. The tonnage used after the blast furnace closed in 1907 went to the manufacture of red paint which required much less than pig iron.


Local farmer James D. Stebbins’ hired hand is credited with finding Clinton hematite as he plowed the Stebbins’ fields off Utica Street in the late 1790’s. However, the first mining of the ore found near the surface took place at the Norton mine off Bristol Road about one-half mile north of the College Hill Road on the Benton or Rogers farm property, as it was known by those two owners’ names in the first half of the 20th century.

During the first half of the 1800’s local teamsters and their wagons hauled 3,000 tons a year from the Bristol Road and Utica Street areas to blast furnaces in Hecla, Taberg, Constantia and forges in Walesville and Forge Hollow (Town of Marshall). Two-horse teams would pull wagons with four inch wide iron strips on the wooden wheels; the red ore spilled over the sides causing the roads to be dusty red or muddy red depending on the season.

Between 1845 and 1850 the Scranton Iron. Company took Clinton hematite ore from the Elliott farm outcrops, off Utica Street, to Pennsylvania on the Chenango Canal. These early mining operations were at the outcrops or near the surface and can be referred to as open trench, strip mining, or open cutting. Laborers would use pick and shovel and perhaps some crude horse-pulled equipment to extract and load the ore.

The first underground mining in. the Town of Kirkland and the only place in New York State where it ever occurred dates from 1885 when Franklin Iron Manufacturing Company opened a mine entrance directly into the side of the hill just east of Brimfield Street or Willow Hill on the former Elliott property. Other underground tunnels and shafts were just off New Street and the last one was sunk in 1927 on Brimfield Street just east of Dawes Avenue.

The Clinton Metallic Paint Company of 1927 shaft on Brimfield Street was lined with cement and went down 70′ or so to various corridors or tunnels. Miners shoveled the red ore onto carts which then was pulled to the top in buckets on a pulley arrangement. Earlier at the Willow entrance the ore was loaded on small wagons on a narrow gauge track and pulled out to the entrance by mules.

The Paint Company mine had its own gasoline-powered electricity generator which turned the pulley and provided lights for the tunnels. On top were an engine room, a shower building for the miners, and offices. Air compressors ran the drills, and fans drew smoke and foul air up the shafts.

Timbers and mining debris were used to support the ceilings which had a height of three to six feet, and the temperature stayed at approximately 60 degrees all year underground.

Miner Harold Thurston recalled in an April 1998 visit of being covered with red dust and having a red “ring around the collar” after his daily shifts underground and how the lights went off to signal when to take the lunch break. He related how fast the time went in the mines in his job as a blaster. Thurston and 10-12 other miners had to climb up and down a 65′ ladder arranged in 10 foot sections.

The company collected rain water in cisterns for the miners’ showers at the end of the day. One miner would separate the ore by hand at the top of the shaft and put the “hard rock” or inferior ore in a pile for dumping. The good ore went to the paint plant in Franklin Springs. Harold “Mickey” Thurston lives at 8007 Brimfield Street just across the road from the paint mill shaft and worked there in the late 1930’s.


The Clinton hematite ore (sometimes called red flux or oolitic ore) occurred at outcrops at approximately the 700 foot above sea level elevation. It extended locally from Chadwicks on the west side of the Sauquoit Creek north to Tibbitts Road in the Town of New Hartford and west parallel to Tibbitts Road over present Route 12 and down the south side of Brimfield Street. At Mud Creek the outcrop crosses to the north side of Brimfield Street and swings south at Willow Hill parallel and just east of New Street. Then the outcrop goes over Fountain. Street at South Street to Furnace Street in Franklin Springs where it heads west and crosses the Oriskany Creek to just west of Harding Road (Route 233). The outcrop goes north parallel to Bristol Road (State Route 233) to Kirkland Hill on Route 5 where it extends to Lairdsville, Hecla and then west to Canada.

On the east side of the Oriskany Valley the early mining area was on the Stebbins and later Butler and Elliott farms in the vicinity of Utica Street and Brimfield Street (Willow Hill). John E. Elliott owned the mining operations there by the late 1860’s and 1870’s and is listed in the Utica City directories as a dealer in iron ore during that era.

Specifically, this area is just behind the current Lutheran Cares Ministries Network complex of buildings to the rear of the former Lutheran Home which, since 1919, has cared for infirmed and physically challenged residents. The Franklin Iron Manufacturing Company whose blast furnace was in Franklin Iron Works (earlier name of Franklin. Springs) had extensive mining operations from the 1870’s to about 1907 in the area bordered by New Street, Brimfield Street, Dawes Avenue, and Kellogg Street.

In 1892 William Sanford reopened the ore mine on the old Kellogg property adjacent to Mulberry Street then owned by Rev. Charles Jerome; this was a strip mining operation.

Up Brimfield Street strip mining took place on the Ellinwood farm (Hoffmeister in 1998) and at various other Brimfield locations including an area just east of Cleary Road and an open pit off Route 12 opposite Tibbitts Road. Farmers still see Clinton hematite ore as they work their fields, and several depressions still exist some now water-filled. It is assumed that iron ore was scooped from these depressions years ago.

On Willow Hill mining proceeded originally at the outcrop on lands owned by Butler and later John Elliott and also a Mr. Bronson, and, in 1885, the site of the first underground tunnel.

Early in the first decade of the 20th century Charles A. Borst purchased the mines and modernized the operation. He died in 1918, and it is unclear to what extent the Borst mines functioned after that as it was not until 1927 when the Clinton Metallic Paint Company bought the Borst properties and dropped the last shaft on Brimfield Street just east of Dawes Avenue. Where exactly the paint mill got ore between 1918 and 1927 is not documented, but we can assume that it or some other operators supplied the needs of the paint mill from the former Borst mines on Willow Hill during this period.

In 1880 200 men worked in the mines east of the village where ore was loosened by blasting and wheeled out on trucks or barrows; 50-60 tons a day were taken this way.

The Franklin Iron mines adjacent to New Street and Dawes Avenue closed in 1907 when the blast furnace concluded its operations.

To sum up then, mining at the outcrop took place on both sides of the Oriskany Valley between 1797 and the 1880’s at the above-mentioned spots. From 1885 on the mining was underground from Willow Hill (Elliott, Butler, Bronson, and later Borst) operations, the Franklin Iron Works mines off New Street, and the last shaft which was dropped just east of Dawes Avenue on Brimfield Street by the Clinton Metallic Paint Company in 1927.

By looking at the 1907 New Century Atlas one can easily see the extent of hematite mining on the east side of the valley. Two railroad spurs off the New York, Ontario, and Western are shown: one crossed Utica Street near Beatty Avenue and followed Sherman Brook across New Street and into the Franklin mining area; the other was a switchback that went over Utica Street between the village line and the Lutheran Care Ministries Network buildings and then curved south to a spot just west of New Street. The rails then headed east towards the Borst mines at Willow Hill across Brimfield Street.

On the west side of the Oriskany Valley the old Norton strip mine on the Rogers farm was situated west of Bristol Road, and some mining near the surface occurred at Clinton Mills, an area north of Norton Avenue and east of Bristol Road near the Oriskany Creek although the exact spot is uncertain.

In the Town of Westmoreland ore was mined at Kirkland Hill and the old plank road (Route 5) off the Pryor (Pryer) farm.

Limestone came from local quarries particularly at the location of Hanover Road and Post Street in the Town of Marshall and at some quarries on Skyline Drive, too, as well as from the Oriskany Falls area. In 1998 the Benchmark Company still quarries stone just north of Oriskany Falls.

The Franklin Iron Manufacturing Company, the largest and longest-running furnace in the town, held numerous leases and outright ownership of real estate and mineral rights on lands in the towns of Kirkland, Marshall, Westmoreland, and New Hartford.

What is the status of mineral rights in 1998? Paul Drejza, owner of Leatherstocking Title and Abstract Company lives on Kellogg Street, has reported that some are owned by the holders of the property, merged to the titles over the years. Other mineral rights are stilled owned by out of the area individuals. An abstract of title provided by Mr. Drejza details this situation.

In 1879 when the Franklin furnace was still active, but operating intermittently depending on the business climate and demand for pig iron, the City Bank of Oswego foreclosed on the furnace’s mortgage. The title was then sold to James J. and Anna G. Belden of Syracuse who, in turn, sold it back to the Franklin Iron Manufacturing Company for $125,000.

In April 1938, 25 years after the furnace was dismantled, the company sold remaining mineral rights to the Franklin Springs Land Company, and in 1943 that was passed to Willis and Holden Hills of Dewitt and Fayetteville, New York, as surviving trustees of the Franklin Springs Land Company.

One of the Hills still lives in Florida, and Mr. Drejza occasionally contacts him to sign off on the remaining mineral rights that he still owns. Property on which mines were located or on which the iron company or paint company had mineral rights changes hands readily today as the abstract and title companies can resolve the old mineral rights issues quite readily in most cases.


Who were these men who worked the outcrops, the shafts, tunnels, and the furnaces.who drove the wagons, the locomotives, the trucks who sweated in the blast furnaces as the molten liquid was poured offlighting up the entire night sky for miles around? Off-season farmers and farmhands, local workers, and many immigrants. The foreigners were an eclectic, ethnic mix from Ireland, Poland, Hungary, and Wales for the most part.

Working conditions were harsh compared to the 1990’s but typical for the earlier times. Six day weeks and 10 hour days were the norm. Salaries also reflected the period, and in 1882 a door tender got 80 cents per day and a mule driver 70 cents per day. The top pay went to the blaster who earned $1.90 per day.

Underground miners usually worked in teams or gangs of three to seven men, and a veteran seven-man gang could extract up to 22 tons of ore per day. Equipped with little protective clothing and a carbide lamp the miners toiled daily for minimum wages in potentially dangerous positions, in many instances on their knees or crouched in the low tunnels..

Not all was hard work though as several saloons opened near the mining sites on New and Kellogg Streets and around the blast furnace in Franklin Iron Works for after-hours imbibing and camaraderie. Three homes in 1998 were miners’ saloons in the late 1800’s one on Kellogg Street at New Street owned by Peter and Donna Goodfriend and one on the east side of New Street which was run by Billy Ashcroft and now owned by Vincent Romanelli. In addition the house across Kellogg Street from the Goodfriend’s was also a tavern.

Miners and furnace workers lived in tenant houses on Furnace Street, boarded in private homes, and, for a few years in the early 1890’s, occupied the former White Seminary building at the top of Williams Street on Chestnut Street. Other miners lived in a house at Dawes Avenue and Brimfield Street owned by Thomas Britcher. A large wing was torn down in the 1920’s and some of the framing lumber was used by Britcher to construct the house at 6 Taylor Avenue in Clinton. Henry Britcher related that the house itself was taken down in the 1970’s.

The Borst company provided a recreational area for the employees called Elliott Park which was just east and on a knoll from the main buildings off Willow Hill. It was a slightly elevated area with many cedar trees (still there in 1998) which gave nice shade for picnics and outings for the families.

Safety concerns had not reached the sophistication of the present; 0. S.H.A. was not a federal law, and accidents did happen in the mines particularly from explosions. Several workers were blinded, maimed, lost limbs, and one account of a death was reported in the Clinton Courier in 1871 which stated that a Patrick O’Toole was killed at the Ellinwood farm on Brimfield Street and left a large family. No doubt other deaths occurred over the years.

Labor unrest also hit the mines when the workers walked out on a strike in 1881 asking $.25 a day more than their $1.50 wage. The Borst mines were struck in 1916 as the miners wanted a 50 cent per day increase in wages from the average pay then of $12.50 per week.

Names of a few of the miners have survived from the old city directory for 1890 which listed: Barney Burns, Chestnut Street, Joseph Burns, 38 Kellogg Street, James Byrom,, 24 Mulberry Street, mine engineer, Martin McCormack, Kellogg Street, miner, Hugh McDonald, Willow Hill, miner, and Patrick Morgan, Water Street (Kirkland Avenue) contractor mines.

Harold “Mickey” Thurston recalls some of his co-workers in the late 1930’s: Art Burns, Steve Youngs, Roger Burns, Pat Burns, Ed Buckley, Dave and Pinky Appel, and two black brothers named Ebo, who lived on South Mulberry Street. Bonaparte Ebo, one of them, was buried in Sunset Hill Cemetery.

So far this narrative has covered the chemical properties of the hematite ore, the extent of the strata in the country and world, the uses and quantity available locally, where specifically the local mining occurred, the status of mineral rights, and miners and furnace workers’ housing and conditions. Now this report will turn to a discussion on the five major commercial enterprises in the Town of Kirkland that used the Clinton hematite ore.


In 1850 the Kirkland Furnace Company started to construct the first blast furnace in Franklin Springs just 2 miles south of Clinton on the Deansville (now Deansboro) road with a capacity of six to ten tons a day. $16,000 in capital stock was subscribed by several people including Lester Barker, Miss Louisa M. Barker (prominent Clinton female seminary teacher and principal who herself started the Home Cottage Seminary on Chestnut Street and the Cottage Seminary on Chenango Avenue and College Street), John E. Elliott (owner of strip mines off Utica Street), H.H. Kellogg (founder of a female domestic training school at Mulberry and Kellogg Streets), Morris S. Wood, Thomas J. Sawyer (Principal of the Clinton Liberal Institute), Rollin Root, Fred Tuttle, John R. McConnell, and John Owaton. Jonas Tower was the superintendent for the construction of the works.

These original stockholders shortly gave way to a new company formed by prominent Utican Alfred Munson and others in 1852 with $48,000 in stock called the Clinton Anthracite Steam Furnace. Samuel A. Munson, Alfred’s son, was treasurer through the late 1850’s.

Correspondence from Samuel A. Munson in the manuscript collection of the Oneida County Historical Society contains many interesting letters one which he wrote in 1854 said that “the furnace is doing very well making 12-14 tons a day.” The Oneida Chief, a predecessor to the Clinton Courier, reported in 1853 that “the ore is rich as any in the country and the supply is inexhaustible.”

These two cheerful comments in the first decade of the blast furnace prompted much enthusiasm and optimism for the iron works that, unfortunately, did not continue for long.

During the Civil War demand must have been good for iron as the Franklin works was reorganized again in 1864 with more money ($100,000) and a new company as the Munson interests must have sold out to a group consisting of O.B. Matteson, president, E.B. Armstrong, vice-president, Delos Dewolf secretary, Charles H. Smyth, treasurer, and H.S. Armstrong, managing trustee.

By January 1865 the local newspaper reported that the “works were at full capacity.” The next few years seem to have been the boom times for the furnace as a new furnace that could produce 26 tons a day was built in 1870 and, by 1872, 8000 tons a year of pig iron was the furnace output. The Clinton Courier reported in 1870 that 40 teams of horses carried ore around the park from the Brimfield Street mines to the Franklin furnace).

Franklin Iron Works, as the community was then called, got its own post office in 1867 and by 1872 the furnace employed 200 men whose families were housed, in part, in 24 homes for workers on Furnace Street. Three saloons ran along with a chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (an Irish club) and two public schools.

No churches ever graced the hamlet of Franklin Iron Works or Franklin Springs through the years. One school originally served the local farming families, but when the furnace started, friction evidently developed between “farm kids” and “furnace kids” so the local school district built a second school just for the workers’ children.

Also in 1872 the company store opened to the general public featuring Rio coffee for 25 cents a pound and 10 cents for a bar of Babbitt Best Soap. Unfortunately the early 1870’s also signaled the beginning of the end of the blast furnace as the recession and ensuing depression after 1872 devastated the demand for pig iron.

Despite the poor economy the Clinton Courier mentioned in December 1873 that the furnace “paid off their men last Saturday which is evidence of business prosperity and financial soundness to notice in these hard times.” The Franklin furnace shut down in 1876 and reopened in 1878 which gave joyful news to poor laborers who have experienced much difficulty in obtaining a living for themselves and their families.”

In the fall of 1879 the works were foreclosed by the Honorable Holden of Syracuse, and it was announced that it would be put in operation as soon as repairs can be made. General superintendent was General Charles H. Smyth, and the president was E.L. Hedstrom of Buffalo, treasurer was E. F. Holden of Syracuse, and Delos DeWolf of Oswego held stock.

The early 1880’s saw a return to activity with the Western Union telegraph being installed at the furnace and glowing reports in. the Clinton Courier that the furnace was “running like a top” and that, at no time since 1852 had the furnace “been in so prosperous condition as at present.” Between 120 and 160 men were on the payroll during this period with about 100 at the mines and about 55 at the furnace. In 1882 output was increased to 800 tons a week with 100 men in the mines and 54 hands at the furnace. In 1884 the Franklin Iron Manufacturing Company took over the furnace with E.L. Hedstrom, president and E.F. Holden, treasurer.

In the 1890’s the Mesabi Range iron ore deposits came on the raw material market and began to be used with the additional benefit of Great Lakes shipping to the furnaces in Cleveland and Pittsburgh causing severe financial strains on inland facilities dependent on railroads for coal . Even though the iron ore was locally available, coal was not, and the local furnaces’ days were numbered.

By 1899 also lithia water had been discovered off the Dugway Road and another economic chapter started for Franklin Iron Works residents. Describing the new economic reality was the change of the post office’s official name to Franklin Springs from Franklin. Iron Works that same year.

However, one last breath of life came to the furnace also in 1899 when Marcus A. Hanna and Company from Cleveland leased the idle works. Hanna was an U.S. senator from Ohio and very active in Republican party politics of that time and was instrumental in getting Theodore Roosevelt nominated as McKinley’s vice president for the 1900 presidential elections.

Rumor had it that the G.O.P. chieftains in their smoke-filled rooms wanted Roosevelt out of New York where he was governor, and thought that he’d fade into obscurity as the vice president. Of course, when McKinley was shot and died in Buffalo in 1901, Roosevelt became president and engaged the country as an activist president through 1908.

In any event the Hanna operation brought an optimistic fervor over the valley as the blast furnace was fired up in September 1899 after a seven year hiatus. A full-page article in the Clinton Courier expressed the community’s delight in having the furnace back on blast as it employed 250-300 men in the mines and the furnace with a $10,000 to $12,000 payroll per month.

As the nation also enjoyed a return to prosperity, the local revival of the pig iron business was a cause for celebration by all in the community.

The initial refiring of the blast consumed three cords of seasoned wood, 30 tons of coke plus limestone and Clinton hematite ore, nearly 500,000 pounds of material. The N.Y.O.&W. committed a heavy locomotive and 30 special cars to take the iron ore from the mines off Utica Street by rail to Franklin Springs. The railroad also carted limestone from Oriskany Falls at that time and coke from Utica. The furnace could produce 125 tons of pig iron per day.

This revival was shorted-lived as the iron market turned down, and the furnace shut off in October 1900 only 13 months after it was refired and put into blast again by the Hanna company. In July 1902 the furnace again reopened, but ran on and off again until a final closing in 1907 thus ending the manufacture of pig iron in the Town of Kirkland.

The complex in Franklin Springs was quite extensive in the end with several brick buildings containing the foundry, stack house, and elevator along with rail spurs and 24 workers’ houses on Furnace Street. It was a self-contained energy operation as the gas produced by the combustion was used to run equipment and to make steam to heat the blast.

The buildings lay idle until 1913 when on July 22 the 90′ brick elevator tower was dynamited to a pile of bricks which were sold to local customers including Hamilton College which used the brick to build a new library (James),a builder for a house next to the American Legion in Franklin Springs, and the former Nichols Garage (Jack Lane’s self-storage facility in 1998) in back of West Park Row. No doubt other bricks found their way into many chimneys and fireplaces around town.

Pollack and Son of Pottstown, Pennsylvania bought the complex and sold the steel to scrap dealers as well as the brick as noted above and salvaged all of the equipment for resale, too.

Special mention should be made about Charles H. Smyth who came to Clinton from Oswego in 1876 to live. However, he was listed as treasurer of the Franklin Iron Manufacturing Company as early as 1864, and his obituary indicated that he had been superintendent as well from 1864 to 1898. He was born in 1839 in Oswego and died in Princeton, New Jersey in 1908.

Smyth became extremely active in various Clinton affairs in addition to the iron works. He ran a coal business at College Street and Chenango Avenue, he was a Village trustee, he was a trustee of Hamilton College, he was a warden at St. James’ Episcopal Church, and had the fire department’s hook and ladder company named after him in 1888. Obviously a pillar of the community and an influential person.

He also built in 1881 the Smyth, Sherman, Schaffer house at 19 Chestnut Street. One of his sons, C.H., jr. graduated from Hamilton College in 1888 and became a geology professor there eventually earning a doctorate from Columbia University. He wrote technical articles about Clinton hematite ore for scholarly journals and worked as a chemist in 1892 at the Franklin Iron Manufacturing Company.

Before this part of the iron ore story is finished readers should know that the Franklin hamlet was mentioned in early newspaper accounts as “Sodom and Gomorrah” although the reason for this unkind name is unclear. Those two cities were in ancient Palestine and were considered evil because unnatural sexual activities took place there. They are referred to in Genesis 19:24 thusly… “then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” The cities were destroyed due to the depravity of the inhabitants.


The second iron blast furnace in the town occupied the former Manchester Manufacturing Company site just south of the Seneca Turnpike and west of the Oriskany Creek in the hamlet of Manchester (now Kirkland). The latter company was a cotton mill from 1815 to 1854 when it burned.

The new blast furnace had $100,000 in capital and listed as officers and major stock holders: Theodore W. Dwight, Sidney.A. Bunce, A.D. Dunbar, Simeon Hackley, Theodore Avery, H.D. Pixley, A. Fake, A.. Peck, Reuben Sweet, and B.S. Platt, superintendent.

Dwight was an 1840 Hamilton College graduate and organized the Columbia Law School in New York City in 1858. Bunce and Dunbar opened a bank on East Park Row in 1870, and Augustus Fake was a prominent Clinton merchant whose store was on the site of the North Park Row fire house.

Similar in appearance to the Franklin Iron Works this site had a 90′ elevator, a 48′ stack house, a cast house 110′ by 50′ made of brick, and a 40′ by 36′ wheelhouse. It’s capacity was 15 tons per day. The Oriskany Creek was damned by a dyke and water was directed through a sluiceway to the furnace; a waste water weir crossed under the turnpike and back to the Oriskany Creek just north of the turnpike. The turbine could generate 144 horsepower.

The Rome and Clinton Railroad laid a spur to the furnace to bring in raw materials and transport the finished pig iron to market. Unlike the Franklin Works, the Chenango Canal did not go through Manchester so the railroad plus horse-drawn wagons were the main transportation medium.

Construction began in 1872 with about 80 men involved in the task. It was put into blast in January 1874 just after the country went into a depression. The furnace suspended operations in 1876 although capital stock had been increased to $125,000.

The iron ore came from the Pryer (Pyror) farm on Kirkland Hill in the Town of Westmoreland, from the mines of H. L. Barker, and from the Clinton Mills strip mines in the vicinity of Norton Avenue and Bristol Road. Limestone was obtained from the quarry at the top of Post Street in the Town of Marshall and coke came by railroad from Pennsylvania.

In 1882 the Kirkland Iron Company purchased mineral rights on five different farms east of Clinton covering over 105 acres so some ore came from that side of the Oriskany valley.

Officers changed often as in 1874 the annual report listed president A.J. Williams, and trustees: Irwin A. Williams, Linus Clark, Henry Roberts, Augustus Fake, Reuben Sweet, and Anthony Peck with John C. Devereux as secretary. Devereux was a prominent Utica family some of whom founded the Savings Bank of Utica..

In 1878 the property was sold at the Utica Court House (assuming a foreclosure action). This included 42 acres of land, water privileges and dwellings. A bid of $25,000 was made by mortgage bondholders Henry Roberts of Utica and John Hoefter of Illion, and a week later was resold to Irwin A. Williams of Utica and Honorable Theodore W. Dwight of New York City.

Never successful the Clinton Iron Works struggled after the 1870’s although an 1884 entry in a County history listed it as the Kirkland Iron Works, Theodore W Dwight, president. Perhaps it was reorganized with more capital under that name.

The Clinton Iron Works (Kirkland Iron Works) closed for good in 1893 and stood idle for many years until it was dismantled in 1913 the same year as the Franklin furnace was scrapped.

When under construction in May 1873 the Clinton Courier reported, “Anyone passing through the formerly quiet hamlet of Kirkland would be surprised if not startled at the wonderful change in affairs. For seventeen years “Manchester” has been dead. Grass has grown in the streets, moss has grown on the houses, buildings have gone to decay, and dilapidation was everywhere apparent. But 1873 has opened with new life for the deserted village. Where cotton was dethroned, iron is to sway the scepter, and the new furnace, which is to be, has already blossomed out in the inauguration of a prosperous era. The road is blockaded with timbers and lumber, huge piles of stone and brick appear and a small army of workmen are busily engaged. The tenement houses are being repaired, buildings removed and buildings erected and a good degree of progress made on the main works.”

Both furnaces gave employment to many area men as miners and furnace workers throughout those years, but the economic realities of the times unfortunately could not sustain such operations in the township, and that era of local industry ended.


The next industry to use the hematite ore was the paint plant located adjacent to White Creek in the hamlet of Franklin Iron Works, later Franklin Springs. Incorporated in February 1886 this company’s founders were Frederick D. Smyth, James A. Armstrong, and John Myers, who also started the Clinton Pharmaceutical Company (later Bristol-Myers Company) in 1887. In an 1888 booklet The Industries of Utica the officers were as follows: James A. Armstrong of Virginia, president; John Myers of New York, vice-president; William M. Bristol, secretary; and Fred D. Smyth, treasurer and general manager. Bristol and Smyth lived in Clinton.

The plant covered a considerable area consisting of three buildings one of which was three stories and measured 60′ by 40′. In addition there was a 40′ square factory and a 100′ by 30′ warehouse. The plant had six mill stones for grinding paint, crushers, and rollers for breaking the iron ore, etc. Two engines supplied the motive power of 175 horses. A 600 foot railroad spur came from the nearby Delaware and Hudson Railway (later the NYO&W).

The firm had offices at 229 Pearl Street in New York City and was represented in Boston by Fiske, Coleman, and Company as the products were shipped to all parts of the country, and an export trade was anticipated by the founders.

William MacLaren Bristol was born in Clinton in 1860, a member of that family who were amongst the early families in the Town of Kirkland (then Town of Paris) who had a role in the beginnings of Hamilton College in 1812. He died in 1935.

John Ripley Myers, also a Hamilton College alumnus, passed away in 1899 at age 35. Both Myers and Bristol left the paint business after a few years presumably to devote their entire energies to the new Clinton Pharmaceutical Company, the forerunner of Bristol-Myers Company, now Bristol-Myers- Squibb, a leading drug firm.

The firm used the Clinton hematite ore as a red pigmentation to manufacture mortar colors, cement colors, plaster colors, red brick and red paint. The paint factory also made roof cement, stucco coloring, and dry paint pigments. Red was not the only color for the products. A color chart, still in the files of the Clinton Historical Society, indicated that other colors available were browns, greens, blacks, greens, blues, buffs, and yellows.

A 1908 statement for five gallons of Dixon’s graphite at $1.35 per gallon survives in the Society’s archives; it was billed to the Clinton Cemetery Association. In 1893 this company received the “Highest Award” at the World’s Columbian Exposition.

Frederick DeWolf Smyth was born in Oswego in 1862 and moved to Clinton in 1876 with his father, Charles H. Smyth, who was an officer at the Franklin Iron Works. Frederick Smyth attended the Clinton Grammar School on College Street and graduated from Hamilton College with the class of 1882.

In addition to his part ownership of the Clinton Metallic Paint Company Smyth served St. James’ Church as a warden, and in 1887 married Gertrude E. Hastings. It appears that Smyth left the paint plant and moved to Utica in the 1890’s. The 1904 Utica City Directory showed Smyth living at 17 Plant Street (near Oneida Square), and running a company at 20 Broad Street, called Smyth-Despard Company, which made leather belting and mill supplies.

The exact situation of Smyth leaving Clinton and the paint plant for Utica and the new firm there is unclear from available records. Whether or not he retained an ownership interest in the paint mill is also unknown.

Inspection of other directories listed Mrs. Fred D. Smyth at 17 Plant Street in 1907 as Mr. Smyth passed away that year.

Smyth had two brothers: Charles H. Jr. who was mentioned earlier, and Delos DeWolf who worked at Smyth-Despard Company. Delos also graduated from Hamilton College with the class of 1890 joining his two brothers as Hamilton alumni. In 1906 Delos Smyth lived at 35 Summit Place in Utica.. In 1998 Smyth-Despard is still operating at 51 Wurz Avenue in North Utica.

Ownership of the Clinton Metallic Paint Company changed hands in the mid-1920’s according to an account in the Utica Daily Press of January 21, 1928 which stated that the firm had been acquired two years previously by “financial interests located in New York and Washington, but is still under the supervision of John Mott, who has been associated with the company for many years.”

The newspaper item further stated that Mac L. Baker, formerly with the Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company, New York, was now the sales manager for the paint plant.

The Clinton Metallic Paint Company bought the mines and mineral rights from the Charles A. Borst estate in 1927 and opened a new shaft on Brimfield Street just east of Dawes Avenue. This mine was the last shaft used to take Clinton hematite from the ground and was about 65-70′ below the surface. It contained 1500′ of shafts and tunnels and employed 8-10 men.

It was said for years that “a little bit of Clinton was on every red barn in the country.” The paint mill changed hands in 1945 when C.K. Williams and Company from Easton, Pennsylvania bought control and installed Gettysburg College alumnus Bruce M. Bare as the mill superintendent. Clinton attorney 0. Gregory Burns held a directorship prior to its merger with C. Pfizer.

The paint operations continued throughout the 1950’s on a small scale with 8-10 miners and a few employees at the plant. One memorable scene was the firm’s red Brockway truck which ran back and forth all day between the Brimfield Street mines and the Franklin Springs plant. The plant used about 10,000 tons of Clinton hematite per year.

Charles Pfizer and Company purchased the firm in 1963, closed the mine on. December 7, 1963, and shut down the plant in 1964. Why a drug company (Pfizer) would buy a paint mill and end the operations within one year remains unknown. The old paint mill stood idle for several years until Chipman Walker moved his Clinton Labs operation from former Clinton Canning Company buildings off McBride Avenue there in the early 1970’s. Walker had started the production of powder to grind lens there in the early 1950’s. Local sculptor John von Bergen had his studio in part of it in the early 1980’s.

Since then the James H. Rhodes and Company, a division of Universal Photonics, Inc., has specialized in the surfacing and polishing needs of the electronics industry. Its electronic surfacing materials product line has been developed to address specific applications in the disk, silicon wafer, and IC production process. The Universal company has had over 70 years of polishing experience and employs about 15 workers in the old paint plant. Among the many men who played a major role in the iron ore industry was Charles A. Borst, who was born in 1852 and died in Clinton in 1918. He attended the male department of the Clinton Liberal Institute at the corner of Utica and Mulberry Streets in the mid-1870’s and edited the school’s monthly publication, The Record.

Borst went to Hamilton College and earned a degree in 1881 as well as a Phi Beta Kappa key. He stayed on at Hamilton in roles as assistant to the treasurer, teacher of astronomy, and was an assistant to Dr. C.H.F. Peters, professor of astronomy and director of the Litchfield Observatory during the late 1880’s.

He then turned to the mining of the Clinton hematite ore by taking over the former Butler and Elliott beds east of Willow Hill. One source said that this was in 1890, but another delayed his mining venture to 1902-03.

In any event all sources agree that he built a model mining plant on the property and supplied the paint plant and the waning local furnace operation in addition to some Pennsylvania furnaces with the red ore.

In 1905 the Clinton Metallic Paint Company had a contract to provide electricity to the Village of Clinton, and in 1910 Borst got the contract.

Borst also ran a mine one mile east of Washington Mills near the Herkimer County line called the East Hill opening. The hematite there was about six to ten feet underground.

In 1916 100 miners went on strike demanding 50 cents per day more in pay; their average daily rate at that time was $2.50 per day.

The Borst years ended suddenly when he died in his office in 1918; his widow, Grace Borst survived him and sold the mines and the mineral rights to the Clinton Metallic Paint Company in 1927-8.


After the molten blast cooled and the pig iron was drawn of the residue from this industrial process that remained was a rough grey colored hard material called “slag.” It was dumped unceremoniously adjacent to the blast furnace in Franklin Iron Works. The Commonwealth firm built a complex just off state route 12-B and the southern-most end of Furnace Street in the early 1900’s which ground the slag to be used as a roofing material.

Old Utica city directories provide some clues about the roofing company. It was first listed in 1901 as the Utica branch of the Commonwealth Roofing Company located in the Clarendon Building in Utica with the main offices at 100 William Street in New York City. It boasted of $500,000 in capital. An advertisement listed “Ehret’s Slag Roofing” and the firm’s slag crushing plant in Franklin Springs.

The last listing in the directory was for 1912 when it was on 638 Bleecker Street in Utica and at 17 Battery in New York City, G. A. Kennedy, District Manager..

A bill from Commonwealth to the Clinton Cemetery Association in 1901 for 23 loads of slag dust cost $.40 per yard.

Since the 1940’s Elmer and now son. Robert Peck have run the slag operation and sell it mainly for hard fill for driveways, etc.

What remains at the turn of the new century of the Clinton hematite ore industry? Nothing!!

There is no mining and no manufacturing. Just limited sales of the slag. The former economic impact was, indeed, significant with from 200 to 300 workers employed at various times plus the teamsters and railroad workers and the businesses that serviced the mines and the blast furnace.

This industry gave the Chenango Canal and the New York Ontario and Western Railroad much traffic, and, like the hematite industry, they are also long gone.

Millions of tons of Clinton hematite ore remain under the Town of Kirkland and will probably stay there untouched forever. For over 160 years Clinton hematite provided a major although varying economic impact upon the Kirkland community; today it is but a memory to old-timers and practically unknown to those recent residents and anyone under 50 years of age.

Chronology of Iron Ore Mining and Manufacturing Town Of Kirkland 1797 to 1964

1797 – Hematite ore first found and mined; discovered on James D. Stebbins’ farm. off Utica Street; first removed from Norton mine ½ mile north of College Street on Bristol Road
1800 – Blast furnace in Clayville setup by Town of New Hartford founder Judge Jedidiah Sanger 1805 – Clinton ore used in Hecla (Town of Westmoreland) furnace
1809 – Clinton ore used at Taberg furnace
1836 – Chenango Canal completed through Clinton (Utica to Binghamton)
1845-50 – Scranton, Pennsylvania Iron Company mined hematite ore off Utica Street and shipped it to Pennsylvania on the Chenango Canal
1850 – 3000 tons of hematite ore a year were taken from Kirkland to furnaces at Hecla, Constantia, Taberg, and forges at Walesville and Forge Hollow
1850 – Franklin furnace construction begun
1852 – Franklin Iron Works reorganized and opened
1867 – Franklin Iron Works post office opened
1867 – Utica, Clinton, and Binghamton railroad reached Clinton 1870- New furnaces at Franklin produced 26 tons a day
1871 – Charles H. Smyth was named superintendent of Franklin furnaces; he had been an officer since 1864 and formerly lived in Oswego, New York
1872 – Franklin Iron Works had 200 miners, 24 workers’ homes, 2 boarding houses, 3 saloons, the Ancient Order of Hibernians; the company store was opened to the public
1872 – The Clinton Iron Works in Kirkland (Manchester) was organized and construction was begun
1873 – An economic depression hit the country hurting the iron blast furnaces
1874 – The Clinton Iron Works were finally in blast; local mines output was 35,000 tons a year
1876 – The Clinton Iron Works suspended operations and only ran on and off until 1893
1876 – The Chenango Canal closed ending 40 years of money-losing operations
1878 – The Clinton Iron Works property was foreclosed and sold for $25,000
1879 – The Franklin Iron Works’ mortgage was foreclosed by the City Bank of Oswego
1881 – A miners’ strike occurred
1884 – The Franklin Iron Manufacturing Company took over the Franklin furnaces with E. L. Hedstrom, president
1885 – First underground mining done in Town of Kirkland off Willow Hill
1886 – Clinton Metallic Paint Company formed using hematite ore as pigment for paint and mortar
1888 – New mining of hematite ore in the Clinton Mills area just west of Oriskany Creek and north of Norton Avenue
1890’s – Old White Seminary on Chestnut Street used as a dorm for “foreign miners”. 1893 – Last blast of Clinton Iron Works
1899 – Franklin Iron Works post office renamed Franklin Springs
1899 – Marc A. Hanna Company leased the Franklin furnaces
1900 – Franklin furnace shut down
1901 – Commonwealth Roofing Company started a crushed slag roofing materials business at Furnace Street and State Route 12-B
1902 – Franklin Iron Works started again
1903 – Charles A. Borst opened mining operations on the former Elliott ore bed at Willow Hill, Brimfield Street
1905 – Village of Clinton contracted with Clinton Metallic Paint Company for electricity 1907 – Franklin Iron Works closed for last time
1908 – Borst mines produced 5000-10,000 tons a year for paint manufacture
1908 – General Charles H. Smyth died; former officer and superintendent at Franklin furnace, Clinton coal dealer and civic leader
1910 – Borst supplied electricity to the Village of Clinton
1912 – Commonwealth Roofing Company closed Franklin Springs slag crushing plant
1913 – Both Clinton iron Works and Franklin Iron Works were dismantled and scraped
1916 – Borst miners went on strike for a 50 cents a day increase in pay
1918 – Charles A. Borst died; widow retained ownership of mines and mineral rights
1927 – Clinton Metallic Paint Company closed Borst mines (Willow Hill), purchased mineral rights from Mrs. Borst, and opened a new shaft on the south side of Brimfield Street just east of Dawes Avenue
1945 – Clinton Metallic paint Company bought by C. K. Williams Company of Easton, Pennsylvania
1963- Mining ends in Town of Kirkland as Charles Pfizer Drug Company bought the Paint Company; plant closed in 1964
1970’s and currently- Clinton Labs, John von Bergen, and James H. Rhodes and Company occupied the Paint Company buildings and site in Franklin Springs
1940’s to currently (1998) – Peck’s Slag Beds sell waste products of blast furnace as hard fill for driveways just east of the Oriskany Creek at Route 12-B south of Franklin Springs

New York State Museum Bulletin #345 – June 1953
Geology of the Oriskany Quadrangle 173

kirkland Ore Map







Figure 38 Plan of long wall mining at the Clinton hematite mines. A composite map sketched from property and working maps provided through the courtesy of Clinton Metallic Paint Co. Stripping operations carried on entirely prior to 1897 are omitted, but followed the 700 foot contour in general.

Information in this article is as correct and factually accurate as possible. If you notice a fact that you believe is incorrect, please let us know. Comments are always welcome.

Post a comment