Northern Central Railroad
Hereford Volunteer Association, Inc
Trail History - Ashland
With the beginning of the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad in 1828, industry boomed along the Gunpowder River. In 1844, the Ashland Iron Works commenced operations with the building of its first furnace about 16 miles north of Baltimore City. Ashland was named for the Kentucky estate of Henry Clay, a prominent statesman of the period. A second furnace was completed in 1847. The iron works prospered during this time and throughout the Civil War period. The advent of railroads contributed to the boom days of iron manufacturing. Originally the Ashland Iron Works produced about 10 tons of pig iron per day. By 1864, with the completion of a third, larger furnace capable of producing 50 tons per day itself, Ashland had become one of the top producers of pig iron in the country.
At the height of its operation, the Ashland Iron Works employed more than 200 workers. Many of them had emigrated from Ireland, Germany, and Italy to escape from famine and military service. The men worked 12 hour shifts for $1.00-$1.50 per day. The furnaces ran 24 hours per day. Company officials owned the town and rented houses to their employees for $1.50-$2.50 per month.
The company also built a one-room school house and a Presbyterian church for the use of the workers. $1.00 per month per child was deducted from the worker's salaries to pay for their children's education.
The development of the Bessemer steel process in 1866 spelled the end of pig iron and the Ashland Iron Works closed for good in 1884.
Renovated 1860 era buildings that can still be seen on Ashland Road include the general store, post office, iron works office, stone row, and schoolhouse.
The Maryland Journal, Dec 2, 1865
"The Ashland Iron Furnaces, situated on the Northern Central Railroad, are again in full operation, and are manufacturing iron said to be superior to any they have made for four or five years past. This company, when in full operation, employs 250 men, 200 railroad cars, 80 to 100 horses and mules, and produces 200 tons of iron per week."