Greenway ExpansionFuture Expansion Plans
Planning for the Future of the Greenway
The Town of Luray and the Hawksbill Greenway Foundation are working together to plan for the future expansion of the Hawksbill Greenway
No plans have been developed yet, but we are in beginning phase of expanding north to Yager’s Springs.
Here is a summary of what has been accomplished thus far.
Greenway Expansion Proposal – Redwell / Isabella Furnace Yager Spring Historic Park and Trail
February and March Meeting(s)
Greenway Next Phase Expedition
- Redwell/Isabella Furnace Yager Spring Historic Park, Rod shared photos, renderings, and historical info
- Trail from the north Greenway from Green Loop to park site, Bill Dudley reviewed 2 possible trail maps
- Potential Funding Sources, Margaret and Ken reviewed a list of possible grant sources for the expansion
- Action Plan, Gladys and Jim reviewed the action plan that outlines the steps from conception to completion
- Next Step, Rod will conduct a historical tour of the proposed park with Council & Foundation Members
- Next, Tour Hopewell Furnace National Historical Park in PA a sister furnace to Redwell in May or June
- Feasibility Study, Requested approval to begin feasibility study concurrent with Redwell & Hopewell Tour
- Town Council enthusiastically engaged with the presenters and expressed great interest in pursuing the Greenway Trail Expansion and the Redwell Historic Park
- Town Manager, Steve Burke, invited Greenway Foundation Board representatives to meet in the Town Office to discuss possible next steps.
- Greenway Foundation receives a $25,000 grant to proceed with the feasibility study for the future expansion project.
Photos and renderings are courtesy of Shenandoah Heritage Village at Luray Caverns.
Historical Highlights of The Redwell-Isabella Furnace – Page County Virginia Rod Graves
1785-1796 Redwell Furnace – Derrick Pennybacker and 1802-1808 – Benjamin Pennybacker
- Derrick Pennybacker was born in 1737 and grew up in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
- He became a wagon master by trade. He had to understand metallurgy quite well to be in this profession.
- He apprenticed under ironmaster Mark Bird at the Hopewell Furnace in Elverson, Pennsylvania; refining his iron-crafting skills.
- Around 1784-85 Pennybacker moved to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia when he was approximately 47 years old.
- He established a new slitting mill and forge called The Pine Forge. It was along Smith Creek which is a tributary of Shenandoah River.
- He also began setting up an outpost east of New Market to the Luray Valley area. There he developed Spring Forge on the Hawksbill Creek
Records lead us to believe, Pennybacker purchased land from Emanuel Ruffner, a son of Peter Ruffner Sr., around 1785 to create Spring Forge.
- From 1785-1787 Pennybacker operated Spring Forge while having a blast furnace built on the property.
- 9/21/1787 the furnace was fired for the first time. He then renamed the property and its operations Redwell Furnace.
- The most special feature of the site is the Yager Spring because of its breathtaking beauty and abundance of raw energy.
- Pennybacker chose the spring to power the furnace bellows, grist mill (grain), saw mill, and his two “Speedwell” forges.
- The spring is a major tributary to the Shenandoah River about four miles downstream.
- When harnessed Yager Spring served as the main power source for the entire Redwell-Isabella Furnace property.
- The spring produces about eight million gallons of water per 24-hours; spilling into the Hawksbill Creek & then to the Shenandoah.
- At that time in our history iron furnace operations were often self-sufficient and were called iron plantations.
- Redwell encompassed 1,500 acres of land. A very modest amount for the size of the operation & the many types of quality products produced.
- There were at least six stone residences, grain mill, saw mill, slitting mill, cafeteria, dairy, blacksmith shop, barns, and storage sheds.
- The Blast Furnace was most likely 35-feet tall and operated by a bellows powered by the water of Yager Spring.
- Redwell Furnace had many families from diverse ethnic backgrounds living on the property.
- There was a school on the property for the children of the workers. The school was located across the creek from the furnace.
Redwell was operating at peak performance in 1795; producing massive quantities of pig iron. Jacob Shealor was the ironmaster.
- The Furnace casted some of the most important specimens of decorative cast iron that became known as southern folk-art in America.
- Various ethnic communities of craftsmen developed the land, built the buildings & furnace, and crafted the important necessities of life with artistic flair. Most notably were the stoves to heat homes, cook meals, heat water for bathing, etc.
- The markets for the Furnace products were Charlottesville, Staunton, Fredericksburg, Shenandoah Valley, & communities in the western part of VA.
- Redwell Furnace received orders for pig iron from Harpers Ferry Armory to manufacture guns for our national armory and arsenal.
- Heavy Road Wagons were built to haul the heavy iron. Wagons took iron by roadways to the markets & to Bixler’s Ferry or Sandy Hook to be shipped on the Shenandoah River to Harper’s Ferry.
- It has been said that Redwell-Isabella Furnace was THE most advanced coal-fed-furnace in western Virginia from 1787 to 1812.
A variety of important iron stove plates were cast at the furnace, many are in private collections and in fine folk-art & history museums
- The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem NC, Mercer Museum Bucks County Historical Society, PA. and
- The Luray Caverns Shenandoah Heritage Village Museum, Luray VA.
1796-1799 Pennybacker leased Redwell Furnace to Richard Patton & David Golladay and it continued to operate as Redwell Furnace.
- The lease was not successful. Pennybacker’s son Benjamin took over the Furnace and formed a new partnership with George Mayberry & Company.
1802 Derrick Pennybacker at 65 years of age fell from his horse, struck his head, died instantly, and was buried on the furnace property.
- 1802-1808 Benjamin Pennybacker lead the Redwell Furnace operation.
- 1808-1811 Isabella Furnace – Benjamin Blackford and John Arthur and 1812-1815 Benjamin Blackford and Thomas T. Blackford
- 1808 Benjamin Pennybacker sold the furnace operations and property to Benjamin Blackford and John Arthur.
- John Arthur was the ironmaster. Blackford, Arthur and Company modernized the equipment and operations.
- 1810 Blackford renamed the Redwell Furnace and property. He named it Isabella Furnace to honor one of his daughters.
- He also named his other 3 furnaces in Shenandoah and Page County to honor his other daughters, Katherine, Elizabeth, and Caroline.
- Isabella Furnace crafted: stoves, mill parts, skillets, gypsy pots, grave markers, andirons aka firedogs, and many similar iron products.
- The Jefferson University Rotunda window weights were smelted at Isabella Furnace by special order. Jefferson authorized his agent, Mr. Higginbotham to purchase various types of iron stoves from Isabella Furnace for Monticello.
- Blackford employed free blacks, indentured servants, enslaved persons, immigrants, and white workers. All the employees were extremely skilled. Many skilled men and women contributed to the success of Isabella Furnace.
- Nicholas W. Yager was hired as the clerk for the Isabella Furnace operations.
1815-1841 Isabella Furnace – Nicholas W. Yager and Thomas T. Blackford and 1841-1870 – Nicholas W. Yager
- Thomas T. Blackford assumed ownership from his father Benjamin and operated Isabella Furnace.
- Nicholas W. Yager was the ironmaster of Isabella Furnace for 25-years. Continuing to produce high quality products in large demand.
- In 1841 the furnace went out of blast and shut down. There is no written explanation as to why. A theory is that it formed a salamander.
- A salamander is when molten iron solidifies in the crucible of the furnace chamber and ceases the mechanics of the furnace operations.
- The blast furnace was dismantled over a period of years and repurposed for building foundations in Luray and Page County.
- Around 1841 Nicholas W. Yager bought the property.
- The forge continued operating through the 1850s and the end of the Civil War in 1865.
- 1850–1870 a woolen mill operated on the property. In the early 1870s a fire destroyed the mill.
2022 Luray’s Vision – Redwell-Isabella Furnace Historic Park Located at Yager Spring on the Luray Hawksbill Greenway Trail
- The Redwell-Isabella Furnace Community gave birth to the Town of Luray as the population and skilled workers increased beyond agriculture.
- Luray was incorporated in 1812 and became the Page County seat in 1831.
- The Town of Luray plans to acknowledge & honor The Furnace, the subsequent businesses, and the various ethnic communities of employees.
- Consequently, Luray is extending the northern tip of the town’s Greenway to create an educational trail leading to the Redwell-Isabella Furnace core site.
- The trail will culminate in an educational park on the furnace site that is so rich in environmental, cultural, industrial, and archaeological history.
Redwell-Isabella Furnace Historic Park
Located at Yager Spring on the Luray Hawksbill Greenway Trail
The Town of Luray Virginia is extending the northern loop of the town’s Greenway to create an educational trail and park rich in environmental, cultural, industrial, and archaeological history.
Redwell-Isabella Furnace 1787 – 1841
Redwell-Isabella Furnace drawn by Kate Schultz is part of Dr. Gene Comstock’s article in the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts Journal 1981
Drawing and article are based on Archaeological Data of physical evidence and historical documents.
The Redwell-Isabella Furnace Historic Park and Trail will preserve the unique natural and historic resources while sharing the compelling history of the blast furnace site and its significant impact in the development of Luray and its national contributions.
Values – Goals:
1- Creatively extend the northernmost section of The Luray Greenway; blending wellness and history. Construct an historical-period pedestrian bridge to cross the Hawksbill Creek. The trail and the Redwell-Isabella Furnace Park will have environmental & historical information signage to enhance the individual’s experience, as they cross the second bridge at the Yager Spring dam & enter the park.
2- Honor the various ethnic communities of artisans, craftsmen and all individuals who contributed to the success of the Furnace operations. They developed the land, buildings & furnace, and crafted the important necessities of life with artistic flair, as recognized by The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. Preserve & restore the integrity of the historic resources. This will be achieved by archeological & historic research data of the many operations once on the site. Focusing on the Furnace period, and when possible, with accuracy restore/preserve the relevant remaining structures.
3- Recognize, respect, and sustain the ecological significance of the karst spring on the park’s site. Preserve Yager Spring for future generations, for its beauty, historical relevance and most importantly for its valuable water resource for the Town of Luray citizens.
4- Educate the public in the park atmosphere by identifying and interpreting the significant & diverse history of the Redwell-Isabella Furnace site. Emphasizing how this early industrial site built the foundation that developed the Town of Luray. Sharing the significant role that the Redwell-Isabella Furnace played in our Virginia and National story is valuable now and for future generations.
Redwell-Isabella Furnace Tribute Mural at The Luray Caverns Shenandoah Heritage Village Museum – Artists Keeler Chapman and Rod Graves 2010