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The village that time forgot

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In 1732, John Branson obtained a 1,000-acre grant from George Bowman along Cedar Creek. He sold a parcel of land sometime later to John Kountz. In August of 1745, Lewis Stephens, a local land speculator, and developer, purchased a 195-acre property from Kountz on Cedar Creek. The tract lay on both sides of Middle Road (State Route 628), about seven miles to the southwest of what is now Stephens City and 5 miles northwest of Middletown.

18th century hexagonal ice house of unusual design, also known as Stephens Fort. Photos courtesy of Nancy Gunderman

Around 1755, Stephens built a house and a water-powered grist mill on the property at the confluence of Cedar Creek and Fawcett Run. His mill successfully ground wheat, rye, oats, and barley into flour and meal.

Sometime in 1752, before the French and Indian War (1754–1763), Stephens constructed a unique hexagonal-shaped stone powder magazine adjacent to his house and mill. Local lore maintains that the building, which still stands today, was “Stephens Fort.” This structure is mentioned in accounts of frontier happenings, many of which included Stephens’s offering protection and shelter for neighbors during several Native American raids. The building has limestone walls that are eight feet high, one foot thick and measure fourteen feet across the center. From the ground level, the cellar floor lays nineteen feet below and has a circular limestone foundation. Troops from Washington’s Regiment were garrisoned in a stockade here in the fall of 1757. The building was later used as an office or counting-house, a lodging room, a storeroom, and an ice house.

After the war, Stephens contracted for one furnace and forge, named New Work Furnace and Forge, to manufacture pig and bar iron on his tract at Cedar Creek. These crude production units produced basic commodities like frying pans, nails, hinges, musket barrels and agricultural implements during the early 1760s.

The foundation of a covered bridge that burned in 1930 is evident on both sides of Cedar Creek.

Stephens continued to live on this tract and work on the iron furnace, however, he gradually found his debts too excessive and had to form partnerships to share his costs. In 1767, Stephens sold his 195-acre tract and ironworks share to ironmaster Isaac Zane. Zane subsequently bought out his associates in 1768 and began to make significant improvements to his Marlboro Furnace and Iron Works. He retained the old forge and furnace established by Stephens but immediately began building a modern and sophisticated complex. This forge and furnace would become Zane’s most significant achievement.

The Shenandoah Valley had an abundance of the three ingredients needed to make iron: rich beds of brown hematite ore, abundant tracts of woodland and huge deposits of limestone. Limestone, iron ore and charcoal were layered into the furnace. There was a wood fire at the bottom to get things going, then a layer of charcoal, a layer of iron ore and a thin layer of crushed limestone. The limestone acted as a flux. A colonial furnace produced heat of iron once a week.

Zane built a two-story stone mansion, bathhouse, stone ice and spring houses, orchards, barns, and stables. Nearby were the forge, furnace, a two-hundred-gallon whiskey still, stone mill, sawmill, blacksmith and stone smith’s shops, company store and counting-house. In addition to the mining and industrial activities, Marlboro was also a prosperous network of farms producing wheat, barley, oats, clover, and timothy.

Just east of Middle Road, an unplanted field bounded by Cedar Creek is the site where Marlboro Furnace Towers once stood.

By all accounts, Zane’s furnace and the forge were the largest operations of its kind in the Valley. As he expanded his holdings, a small village named Marlboro (due to extensive deposits of marl that are found there) developed within close proximity of the ironworks. Marlboro became a bustling community with a steady stream of settlers (furnace men, colliers, blacksmiths, wood wrights, timbermen, and other skilled workers) searching for a better life. Near the location of the Cedar Creek Church was the Marlboro waterfall, a 25-foot cascade which tumbled down from Marlboro Spring into Cedar Creek and provided an enormous and continuous water flow. In colonial times, this water was piped east from the top of the fall by gravity to the village below. This natural water source contributed to the growth, health, and well-being of the Marlboro area. Marlboro had private homes, two churches, a mill, a country store, a post office, and two blacksmith shops. Marlboro was a mini-village and as a colonial ironworks was the most developed industrial system of its time. Zane’s colonial iron plantation supplied the village with stored goods, iron wares and agricultural products.

By 1772, the ironworks produced hundreds of portable ten-plate heating stoves and plate castings for the large open fireplaces common in colonial times. The forge and blacksmith shop also produced cooking pots, salt pans, tea kettles, skillets, mortars and pestles, ovens, stove plates, and flat irons. The 10-foot-square furnace roared, the two-hammer forge pounded, the water wheels groaned and the cacophony carried across the entire industrial complex. The operation ran 24 hours a day with laborers working 12-hour shifts. An acre of hardwood was needed to feed the furnace for each 24-hour period. At night the brilliance of the furnace illuminated the sky for many miles. The products of this industry were hauled by wagon to Alexandria on the Potomac and Falmouth on the Rappahannock and sold through merchants in Philadelphia.

The Marlboro Iron Works transitioned from casting iron ingots for export to casting full-size cannon to support the fight for American independence on land and sea. During the Revolutionary War, Zane’s Marlboro Iron Works became a munitions factory and evolved into one of the largest suppliers of ordnance to the Continental Army and Navy producing four and six-pound cannon, boxes of shot, swivel balls and chain shot. Shipments also included everything from cooking utensils, camp kettles, and stoves to a caboose (a free-standing deck house where seamen cooked meals in a galley). The Marlboro Furnace was the life-blood of the village as the ironworks peaked at 200 employees.

The iron furnaces and other production facilities that had geared up to manufacture munitions in 1776 reverted back to civilian production after 1782. The production of iron commodities at Marlboro Furnace became greatly diminished due to the declining health and death of Isaac Zane in 1795. The downsizing had an immediate effect on the blacksmiths, wood wrights, wagon wrights and other skill-mixes employed there. History reflects that some of the families from the Marlboro community later became directly associated with the wagon-building industry in Stephensburg (now Stephens City).

In 1810, Marlboro Iron Works was still being operated by Zane’s executors. However, in 1812, the furnace was transferred to a group of well-known investors and iron makers. These owners managed more modern ironworks like Columbia Furnace near Edinburg and these facilities eventually led to Zane’s Furnace becoming obsolete and abandoned in 1828.

Mill operations situated on the partial foundation of earlier mills continued to ground feed at this location until the 1950s in spite of at least two fires that seriously damaged the facility, one in the late 1800s and the other in 1930. The fire on May 15, 1930, did heavy damage to the mill and burned the covered bridge that connected Frederick and Shenandoah Counties. Mill owner L.L. Link rebuilt the mill and offered the remaining stone from the ancient furnace to the State Department of Highways for rebuilding the bridge in 1932. The current concrete bridge on Middle Road is located slightly east of the former covered bridge. All that remains of the legendary smelting furnace stack are small piles of rubble that lay alongside this rugged and historic stream.

During the height of the American Revolution, the Marlboro Furnace and surrounding village became one of the most important industrial centers in the Valley, benefiting both Frederick and Shenandoah counties. But by the mid-twentieth century, the village had faded into a quiet stop on Middle Road and the centuries-old buildings only footnotes in our valley history. The once prominent village of forge, furnace, mills, and farm became lost to time, a remnant of our colonial past.

Mark P. Gunderman
Stephens City, Virginia

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4 facts you may not know about bullying

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Contrary to what some people think, bullying isn’t a normal part of childhood. Here are some other realities about this harmful behavior that need to be acknowledged.

1. Kids don’t grow out of bullying
Unless children face meaningful consequences and learn that bullying is unacceptable, this behavior is likely to persist through adolescence and into adulthood. It can also evolve into dating violence, workplace harassment, and domestic abuse.

2. Fighting back makes bullying worse

While children should be encouraged to stand up to bullies, retaliating with violence, insults or other aggressive behavior can lead to more persistent and severe bullying. Assertive responses and reporting bullying to an adult are more effective strategies.

3. Peers can stop bullying in seconds
Most bullying incidents happen when peers are watching, and their reaction plays a major role in reinforcing or stopping the behavior. In fact, research shows that when peers intervene, more than half of the time the bullying stops within 10 seconds.

4. Bullying can cause serious harm
Bullied children are more likely to experience headaches, stomach aches, anxiety, and depression. They’re also at greater risk of long-term mental health problems and suicide. Additionally, children who bully are more likely to use drugs and engage in criminal activity.

It’s only by dispelling myths about bullying and teaching children to develop healthy relationships that the issue can be properly addressed and bullying eradicated for good.

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3 extraordinary marriage proposals to inspire you

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Have you decided to ask your partner to marry you? If you’re wondering how to make sure the moment is perfect, here are three incredible stories of how people popped the question. (Spoiler alert: they all said yes!)

1. Filmmaker Lee Loechler took his high school sweetheart, Sthuthi David, to a special screening of Sleeping Beauty in the Boston area. Toward the end of the film, as the prince approached the sleeping princess, the animation changed to feature characters who resembled Lee and Sthuthi. After waking her with a kiss and holding out a ring, the cartoon prince Lee tossed the ring box off-screen for his real-life self to catch. Lee got down on one knee and, in front of friends and family members who’d been sitting at the back of the theater, he asked Sthuthi to marry him.

2. Politician Tim Wilson delivered a speech on the floor of the Australian parliament in favor of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill had passed the senate the previous week and was being debated in the lower house. As the member of the parliament concluded his speech, he turned his attention to the public gallery where his long-time fiancé, Ryan Patrick Bolger, was sitting. The couple had been engaged for nearly a decade but were unable to make it official. Tim looked up at Ryan and proposed once again. The bill passed and, three months later, the couple married.

3. Inspired by videos of flash mobs she’d seen online, Isabelle Marin put together an elaborate performance for her partner, Jean-François Dumais, at a shopping mall in the Quebec City region. A violinist serenaded him in the food court and a dance troupe performed in the atrium. Friends and family members emerged from the gathering crowd to hand Jean-François roses. Then, as a local singer (and friend) Mélissa Bédard belted out a ballad, Isabelle made her entrance on an escalator and got down on one knee.

If there’s one thing to take away from these stories, it’s that you can be as creative and theatrical as you want during a proposal — the important thing is to give it your personal touch.

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6 ways to protest against racial injustice

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As the leader of the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. organized a number of peaceful protests throughout the 1950s and 60s to end racial discrimination and segregation in the United States. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which falls on January 18 this year, here are six ways to protest against the ongoing racial injustice in this country.

1. Educate yourself using the abundance of books, articles, podcasts, and movies available on racism and racial justice, and learn how you can affect change.

2. Volunteer for a local organization that seeks to address issues in your community that disproportionately affect African Americans such as food insecurity and under-funded schools.

3. Sign petitions demanding racial justice, write to your local officials to advocate for policy changes, and start conversations about race with the people in your life.

4. Attend a demonstration calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism. You can also join an aid group that provides supplies and assistance to protestors.

5. Donate money to bail funds and organizations led by people of color that are pushing for change. If you’re an artist, you can sell your work and donate the proceeds.

6. Support black-owned businesses to help shrink the racial wealth gap and foster job creation for people of color.

For more information about how you can fight against racial injustice in your community, reach out to local organizations.

Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest. — Martin Luther King Jr., 1967

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Martin Luther King, Jr.: Those who knew him grow old; the promise lives

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The people who heard Martin Luther King, Jr. speak in person, or live on the television or radio–those people have grown old.

Is time that those old people ask the young: Have you heard his speech? Have you read about Martin Luther King’s dream? Did you read his Mountaintop speech?

Any of King’s speeches evoke spirit and truth, but one speech shines out for its hopeful and, in retrospect, its chilling words.

That is the Mountaintop speech, given April 3, 1968, at the Church of Christ in Memphis, Tenn.

In this speech, King mused that if given any time in history, he would have chosen that moment, that very day above all others. He spoke about the great and pivotal hour for the country and the world as all confronted injustice.

Then, he remembers his brush with death years before when he was stabbed and how close he came to missing that day.

And then he proclaims that he has seen the Promised Land:

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop… Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But
I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!”

The next day, on April 4, 1968, King was assassinated.

King’s words, later recalled, send a shiver through hearts and minds. Those words are worth recalling even 53 years later, that one was led by God to the mountaintop, and he saw the promised future of his people fulfilled.

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Ice fishing: tips for a successful day

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Ice fishing is a great way to relieve stress, reconnect with nature, and enjoy your own company or that of your fishing buddies. Whether you’re ready to go or still waiting for the ice to thicken, here are a few tips that will help guarantee you have a good experience.

Check the regulations
Before you head out, make sure you have the necessary permits and that you’re allowed to fish in the intended area. You also need to be familiar with the catch and possession limits for various species. Having this information will allow you to avoid unpleasant surprises and ensure that your activities are legal.

Check the conditions

Take into consideration the weather and ice conditions before you decide if you’ll be fishing in a shack or simply out on the ice. Mother Nature can be unpredictable, and without the right gear, you may have to turn back before you make your first catch.

Check your equipment
Many parks and lodges offer all-inclusive ice fishing packages. In this case, all you need to bring are your warm clothes and plenty of enthusiasm. However, if you have your own equipment, you’ll want to assess its condition before you head out. Visit hunting and fishing shops in your area if any of your gear is damaged or needs to be replaced.

Following these tips will ensure that once you drill your holes, you’ll be able to relax, unwind, and fully enjoy the ice fishing experience.

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How to safely watch wildlife in winter

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If you spend time exploring the outdoors this winter, you might cross paths with hares, foxes, deer, and other wildlife. Here’s how you can observe these creatures safely (and comfortably) without disturbing them.

Act appropriately
It’s important to always treat wildlife with caution and respect. If an animal reacts to your presence, you’re too close. Since these creatures need to conserve energy to stay warm in winter, startling them causes undue stress. In fact, keeping your distance is as much for their safety as it is for yours.

Dress appropriately

It’s best to wear layers and opt for breathable fabrics when you engage in outdoor winter activities. Keep in mind that you won’t produce as much body heat when you’re standing still to watch wildlife. You’ll also want to have binoculars or a camera to make the most of your sigh-ting. However, keep in mind that drones shouldn’t be used around wild animals.

If you want to reconnect with nature this season, look for places where you can hike, snowshoe, and cross-country ski in your area.

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12:30 pm Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Jan 29 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
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Save a Life: Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education January 29th The Northwestern Prevention Collaborative and Northwestern Community Services Board will offer a free virtual REVIVE! Training on January 29th from 12:30 pm to[...]
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2:00 pm Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
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Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
We will paint these beautiful camellias on Saturday, January 30th at 2 pm at The Studio. This will be the first in a series of floral paintings we will do over the course of 2021.[...]
6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
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Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
6:00 pm Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
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Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Known in medieval Celtic culture as a storyteller, verse maker, and composer, the word ‘Bard’ has become synonymous with the world’s greatest poets. However, few are as celebrated as Scotland’s own ‘National Bard’, Robert Burns,[...]
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10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
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The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
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6:30 pm Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
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The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
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6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Feb 13 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
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Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
Feb
15
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9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Feb 15 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
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Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]
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10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
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Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
17
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9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Feb 17 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]