Evan & Elizabeth Davis
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Settling down: IndustryBy the 1850s a great many Welsh settlers were doing quite well for themselves in southeast Ohio. Most of them were farmers but soon something happened that would change the nature of the rural community. In August 1853 the railroad arrived in Jackson and went straight through the land owned by the Welsh and this exciting new development provided them with an opportunity to venture into industrialization. The railroad supported the iron furnaces of "The Hanging Rock Iron Region" which reached from Southern Ohio into Northern Kentucky.
The Welsh soon realized that they had an opportunity to become part of this new industry and there were many factors in their favor too. The raw materials needed to develop the industry were available: hardwood, iron ore and limestone. In addition to this, many of the Welsh already had experience of the iron industry therefore they had the necessary skills to succeed.
In 1854 a group of Welshmen from this area decided to build their own furnaces.Three iron furnaces were established in Jackson County - Jefferson, Cambria and Limestone. Cambria and Limestone did not succeed but Jefferson however became very successful despite many ups and downs.
The outbreak of the American Civil War heightened Jefferson's success. The high quality iron from the company was used for canon production and armor plating. By the 1870s the Jefferson stockholders were the wealthiest members of their society but they were shrewd and wise and providing housing for the workers was just as important as organizing and running the furnace. An entire village of log homes provided shelter for the workers of Jefferson Furnace and the company store was an integral part of the village as was the school. The Jefferson Furnace School was provided by the company for the children of their employees.
Jefferson furnace is considered to be the mother of all the other industries which developed in the area because the furnace's stockholders invested their money and business skills in other local industries in Oak Hill such as the brick works. In turn, those companies became very successful and at one time Oak Hill was called the brick-making center of America.
The Welsh who settled in this area were hard and industrious workers who were determined to succeed. They were instrumental in building industry in Oak Hill and the surrounding area, providing work for the Welsh already there as well as immigrants from Wales and other countries. They, along with other Welsh-Americans, made a notable contribution to the industrial growth of the United Stated throughout the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries.
Settling down: Industry - Digital story | Exercise 1 | Exercise 2