In August of 1840 William Henry, Seldon and George Scranton, and Stanford Grant noted abundant outcroppings of coal and iron ore while prospecting in the Nay Aug Ravine. The wealth of raw material prompted them to purchase 503 acres in the area, and by September they had begun construction of a blast furnace, marking the birth of industry in Scranton. At the time the area, known as Slocum Hollow, contained only a schoolhouse, gristmill, sawmil, cooper shop, the Slocum house, and five dwellings.
Early Days of Production
The first three attempts to "blow in" the huge furnace ended in failure. Finally on January 18, 1842 the furnace was started and produced 75 tons of pig iron before it was shut down five weeks later. Local coal was found to be a good fuel, but the iron ore was of inferior quality, necessitating the importation of ore from Danville. Limestone, used as a flux in the smelting process, was hauled from lime ridge, fifty miles away.
The Early Route to Market
Iron from the Scranton plant was shipped to New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Products destined for New York were carted to Carbondale by mule team, shipped to Honesdale via the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company's gravity railroad, then carried by canal and railroad to the city. Other iron goods were hauled by teams to Port Barnum near Pittston, and shipped down the north branch of the Pennsylvania Canal to Philadelphia, or on down the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal to Baltimore. The incorporation of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company in 1853, and the completion of the railroad to Scranton in 1855, gave the firm the first of a series of rails outlets for its products.
Construction of the Mills
Construction of the first blast furnace began September 11, 1840. Power for the blast machinery was provided by the waters of Roaring Brook. Water power was later abandoned in favor of stationary steam engines to supply the high blast pressures needed to smelt the high blast pressures needed smelt iron ore with anthracite coal. During the next two decades four additional furnaces were built. The addition of two rolling mills in 1846 and 1867 made the plant one of the largest producers of iron in the nation. Over 5,000 men were employed during the years of peak production. In 1901 the plant was removed to Lackawanna, New York, nearer to ore supplies, and in 1902 these Scranton mills were closed.
A Railroad is Saved
In 1846 construction of the New York and Erie Railroad had stopped and the line was faced with bankruptcy. The state of New York offered to release its claim of $3,000,000 if the road were completed to Binghamton within a specified time. the task seemed impossible since the company could only purchase the needed iron rails from England. The firm, then known as Scrantons and Platt, contracted to deliver 12,000 tons of "T" Rails within two years. Although the company had never made such a product, machinery was brought from Philadelphia, and iron "T" Rails were rolled here on July 23, 1847. These were among the earliest rails rolled in the nation. The New York and Eries completed its contract four days before the deadline. In 1875 production of steel rails was begun and by 1890 the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Co. was one of the foremost steel plants of the country.