Appendix B. Additional Notes by Robert Louis Benson
on the Maryland Iron Industry and the Rewards of Mine Searching
(Benson, Written Communication, 1996)
|The Snowden Legacy
The Snowdens' Patuxent Furnace, located on the Little Patuxent River, Anne Arundel County (near the present-day Tipton Airfield, Fort George G. Meade) was another important iron production center. It ran for over a hundred years, from at least 1734 (though possibly much earlier) until 1856. The Snowden family, probably descended from that Richard Snowden who had been transported to Maryland in 1658, operated the furnace until 1831, selling it to Evan T. Ellicott who rebuilt it. The unpublished business ledgers of the Snowdens, located at the Maryland Hall of Records in Annapolis, covered the period 1767-1801, and minutely describe the operation: the people, methods, production, transportation routes. We read in those journals, for example, that most of the workers at the furnace and nearby forge were African-Americans, slave and free; we learn that much of the pig iron produced at the furnace was hauled overland to Indian Landing, at the head of the Severn River, for shipment to England and to other points in Maryland. The Snowden complex on the Patuxent included not only furnace and forge, but also a gristmill, warehouse and store where local people could purchase hardware of course, but also flour, seed, clothing, rum and brandy. And to rescue some long-ago names from the tattered pages of the journals: "Negro Forge Harry" and his wife Nann worked at the furnace for more than 30 years; William Holmes was a bookkeeper; James Rawlings a master ironworker, Samuel Davis repaired the walls of the furnace in December 1768, but unfortunately "finding himself in rum. . . ." the rest of that entry is obliterated.
Rewards of Mine Searching
The dinosaur hunter today, if not rewarded in that search, can find some other fossils and minerals of interest at the clay pits and other exposures: abundant fossil wood, sometimes as silica (opal or chalcedony), more often as siderite, hematite or lignite. The iron ore-associated minerals at various Cretaceous sites include crystalline siderite (very small crystals, however), marcasite (a "fool's gold"), crystalline gypsum, and rarely, specular (shiny/ glassy) hematite, and even vivianite, an unexpected blue mineral, sometimes earthy, sometimes with attractive needle or bladed crystals.
And for the archaeologist, there is one great, untouched opportunity: the Snowden furnace site at present-day Fort Meade was one of the most important commercial enterprises of Colonial Tidewater Maryland; the ruins of the mill dam can be seen; otherwise the site awaits excavation and interpretation.