Iron Industry and Deforestation


Shane Shuma ’22, Staff Writer

A talk presented by Andre Weltman, chairman at the Friends of Pine Grove Furnace State Park, drew in a crowd of about 70 members of the Dickinson and Carlisle communities alike.

Weltman discussed the effects of the Pennsylvania Iron Industry on the South Mountain region’s landscape in the area surrounding Cumberland County. He also explained his research analyzing charcoal production and GPS data to show the impact of the iron industry on the geography of the South Mountain region.

Late 19th century iron companies deforested and smelted iron in the region, according to a post by Weltman on the Cumberland Valley website. Starting in 1878 the coal industries even set aside 30 acres in the now Pine Grove Furnace State Park for an amusement park and camping area, he wrote. Visitors could ride a steam car to see the nearby industrial operation. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased the company lands in the 1900s at the tail end of the iron industry and the trees then slowly grew back. 

Students in attendance said Weltman’s research related to what they have learned in classes. Lucy Sowerby ’19, an archaeology major, said she first encountered charcoal parts and the iron industry when her archaeological methods course went to Camp Michaux in Cumberland County. “I felt this was a very interesting insight about the sorts of issues there and the region,” she said. 

Katie Knothe ’19, who was in same archaeological methods course, agreed with Sowerby’s sentiment. “I am currently doing research on hearths. A lot of this was confirmation of what I’ve already researched and a couple things I haven’t found out yet, so it was really helpful,” she said. 

Jessie Scarlett ’22 and Ben Brandeis ’22 helped manage the event. According to Scarlett, Katie Barker, lecturer of chemistry, helped sponsor the talk and asked students in her class to help with the event. Brandeis said that he found the talk “extremely interesting” and that the class heard most of Weltman’s talk during a trip to Pine Grove State Park. 

“Charcoal, Hearths, Collier Hurts, and Haul roads: Traces of the Iron Industry across South Mountain” was held on Tuesday, April 16 at 7 p.m. in ATS. The event was co-sponsored by Barker, Noel Potter, professor of Earth Sciences, and South Mountain Partnership. The talk was part of the Partnership’s 2019 speaker series promoting environmental and social issues in the South Mountain region.