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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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Gift ideas for new retirees

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Are you looking for the perfect retirement gift to offer a co-worker, employee, or loved one? Here are some ideas to inspire you.

• A designer accessory such as a wristwatch, necklace, or purse

• A gift basket filled with chocolates, teas, jams, and cookies

• A backpack, walking stick, or a pair of binoculars for outdoor activities

• A gag gift such as a coffee mug or T-shirt with a funny inscription

• A rocking chair or recliner, so they can put their feet up

• A set of tools or an assortment of craft supplies

• A kitchen gadget like an espresso machine or stand mixer

• A subscription to a magazine or monthly gift box

The key to choosing a great retirement gift is to consider the person’s interests and what hobbies they might take up after retirement.

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Are you cut out for the night shift?

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If you need a job, you may be considering a position that requires you to work nights. While an evening schedule certainly makes it harder to get enough sleep and maintain a social life, many people enjoy and even prefer to work nights. Here are some perks that typically come with working the late shift:

• A higher salary than you would get for working the same job during the day

• More days off during the week by working longer shifts

• Plenty of free time during the day to run errands and enjoy leisure activities

• Less time spent commuting since you avoid rush-hour traffic

• A quieter and therefore less stressful work environment

• It’s easier to connect with international clients and business partners

If these advantages seem interesting and you’re willing to make a few lifestyle adjustments, working the night shift may be right for you.

The night sky’s the limit!
Night jobs are as numerous as they are varied. Included are the roles of hotel receptionist, security guard, nurse, corner store cashier, orderly, warehouse clerk, firefighter, flight attendant, baker, and more.

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Interesting Things to Know

Are you cut out for the night shift?

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If you need a job, you may be considering a position that requires you to work nights. While an evening schedule certainly makes it harder to get enough sleep and maintain a social life, many people enjoy and even prefer to work nights. Here are some perks that typically come with working the late shift:

• A higher salary than you would get for working the same job during the day

• More days off during the week by working longer shifts

• Plenty of free time during the day to run errands and enjoy leisure activities

• Less time spent commuting since you avoid rush-hour traffic

• A quieter and therefore less stressful work environment

• It’s easier to connect with international clients and business partners

If these advantages seem interesting and you’re willing to make a few lifestyle adjustments, working the night shift may be right for you.

The night sky’s the limit!
Night jobs are as numerous as they are varied. Included are the roles of hotel receptionist, security guard, nurse, corner store cashier, orderly, warehouse clerk, firefighter, flight attendant, baker, and more.

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Don’t chicken out on this poultry pop quiz

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September is National Chicken Month, an annual celebration of America’s favorite low-calorie, high-quality protein. To help you get primed for the occasion, here is a fun and easy quiz about storing, cooking, and eating chicken.

1. Poultry is considered cooked when the leg of a whole bird can be easily removed, the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear without blood. At what temperature is chicken safe to eat?

a) 145 F
b) 155 F

c) 165 F
d) 175 F

2. In 1960, the average American ate 28 pounds of chicken. What’s the approximate per capita amount of chicken consumed annually in the United States today?

a) 40 pounds
b) 60 pounds
c) 80 pounds
d) 100 pounds

3. True or false: you should always rinse raw chicken before cooking it?

4. Raw chicken should be stored in the fridge at 40 F for no more than:

a) One to two days
b) Two to three days
c) Three to four days
d) Four to five days

5. True or false: the average chicken breast has approximately 300 calories, 50 grams of protein and six grams of fat?

6. True or false: no artificial or added hormones are used in the production of poultry in the United States?

—————————
Answers:
1. c
2. d
3. False! Rinsing raw chicken spreads bacteria around and can contaminate kitchen surfaces.
4. d
5. True! Chicken is an excellent source of low-fat protein.
6. True! Food and Drug Administration regulations prohibit the use of hormones.

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20 farm-safety tips for 2020

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The harvest can be a particularly busy and dangerous time for farmers, which is why National Farm Safety and Health Week is held every fall. This year, the campaign takes place from September 20 to 26 and promotes the theme Every Farmer Counts. To help you assess your habits, here are 20 tips for safer farming.

Personal
1. Learn basic first aid including CPR and emergency response skills.

2. Use personal protective equipment as needed including gloves, boots, hearing protection, face masks, and respirators.

3. Teach everyone who lives and works on your farm, as well as visitors, the appropriate safety procedures.

4. Avoid wearing loose clothing when working in confined spaces such as grain bins, silos, and hoppers.

5. Get plenty of rest, and be sure to stay hydrated and nourished throughout the day.

Tractors
6. Perform safety and maintenance checks on tractors and other machines before every use.

7. Install a rollover protection structure on each tractor.

8. Use a seatbelt when operating farm equipment.

9. Prohibit additional riders on tractors.

10. Drive safely both on and off the farm.

Chemicals
11. Be cautious around dangerous chemicals such as anhydrous ammonia, carbon monoxide, methane gas and hydrogen sulfide.

12. Store farm chemicals away from children and livestock.

13. Make a list of all chemicals on the premises for firefighters to reference in the event of an incident.

Livestock
14. Treat livestock with respect and caution.

15. Understand the flight zones of the animals you handle.

16. In confined spaces, make sure you have an exit strategy.

Grain
17. Keep bins, beds, and wagons of grain safely covered and out of the reach of children and animals.

18. Make sure no grain is flowing before you enter a bin, and always have a rope, safety harness, and two people with you.

19. To prevent fires, make sure areas with grain dust are properly ventilated and limit potential ignition sources.

20. If someone becomes submerged in grain, call 911, and don’t attempt to go in after them.

In addition to these 20 tips, be sure to have an emergency response plan specific to your operation. It should include shutdown procedures, emergency contact information (local fire department, police, etc.), and lockout procedures.

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Job hunting: 3 ways to make employers take notice

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If you want to land a job in a competitive field, you’ll need to make an effort to stand out from the crowd. Here are three ways to set yourself apart and make employers take notice.

1. Cultivate industry connections
In addition to compiling a list of references from previous employers, you should build relationships with other professionals in your field. Attend networking events and participate in training workshops to gain recognition. This will increase your chances of getting a referral and hearing about new positions. Plus, you’re more likely to be considered for an interview if the recruiter recognizes your name.

2. Create an online portfolio

If you’re an expert in a particular area of your field, consider publishing regular blog posts that showcase your knowledge. Additionally, you can share and comment on articles about the industry through social media. This allows you to develop an online reputation and ensures that if a potential employer searches your name, they’ll find plenty of evidence to validate your qualifications.

3. Make the most of interviews
Keep in mind that when you’re up against a strong field of competitors, small details can often make the difference in an interview. While you should be thoroughly prepared to discuss your experience and qualifications, you should also ensure your attire, facial expressions, tone, and posture demonstrate confidence and professionalism.

Finally, rather than submit a generic cover letter and CV, take the time to tailor each application to suit the position. Highlight your most pertinent experience and explain why you would be a good fit for that particular company.

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