Categories
Roadside America

Catoctin Iron Furnace in Frederick County, Maryland

For over a century, the Catoctin Iron Furnace smelted iron, its forges spewing smoke and burning red hot. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it fueled the machines of war. Much of this backbreaking work was done by slaves.

Catoctin Iron Furnace is a historic iron forge along U.S. Route 15 from Frederick to Thurmont in Frederick County, Maryland. Though forges were present when the ironworks were operational, there is currently no forge at the site. But you can still tour the grounds and the ruins of the “Isabella forge” casting shed and the owner’s mansion.

In 1774, four brothers: Thomas, Baker, Roger, and James Johnson, built Catoctin Furnace to manufacture pig iron from locally-mined hematite. The oven produced cannonballs for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, including shells fired during Yorktown’s siege. Some claim it also provided cannon and produced plates for the USS Monitor during the Civil War, but researchers consider that improbable.

On the eve of the American Revolution, the Johnson brothers eyed the Monocacy River Valley’s industrial potential. They acquired land under Catoctin Ridge and erected an iron furnace. The original Johnson Oven burned until 1776, producing useful tools and household products including the famous “Catoctin Stove,” also called the “Ten Plate Stove” and the “Franklin Stove”.

Categories
Mysterious America Photography

James Eldred Home

The James J. Eldred home in Greene County, Illinois is a grand, Greek-Revival ranch house that has stood abandoned since the 1930s. During the 1860s and ‘70s, James and his wife Emeline had a reputation for hosting grand parties at their “Bluff Dale Farm.” But life was harsh living along the Illinois River. The three Eldred daughters, Alma, Alice, and Eva, all died of illness at home in their beds. Both Alice and Eva were 17. Alma was only four years old.

In 1999, the home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in recent years the Illinois Valley Cultural Heritage Association has made great strides in restoring it to its former glory. While there are no specific ghost stories about the property, its owners list “phantom footsteps,” “phantom knocking at the front door,” “giggles of a young lady,” and “small shadows moving in the nursery” as phenomenon experienced there.

Categories
Photography

Contemplation of Justice

Statue outside the U.S. Supreme Court, 1 First Street NE in Washington, DC. ‘Contemplation of Justice’ by sculptor James Earle Fraser depicts a female figure in meditation while holding a book of law in one hand and a figure of Justice in the other. Fraser also sculpted the Frederic A. and Florence Sheffield Boardman Keep memorial at St. Paul’s Rock Creek Cemetery, among other famous works.

Categories
Mysterious America Photography

Belle Isle Power Plant

Belle Isle, in the James River in downtown Richmond, Virginia, opened as a public park in 1973. During the American Civil War, it was a prison camp for Union POWs. Disease, starvation, and exposure took a toll, and as many as 1,000 prisoners died on the island. In the twentieth century, the Virginia Electric Power Company operated a hydroelectric power plant on Belle Isle. The ruins of the power plant and the nail factory can still be seen to this day. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

Categories
Photography

Vice and Crime

Detail of a bas relief sculpture representing Vice and Crime at the U.S. Supreme Court, 1 First Street NE in Washington, DC.

Categories
Historic America

Aldie Battlefield in Loudoun County, Virginia

This little-known Civil War cavalry battle in northern Virginia played a key role in the Gettysburg Campaign’s opening phase.

The Battle of Aldie was fought on June 17, 1863 between Union cavalry commanded by Brig. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick and Confederate cavalry commanded by Col. Thomas T. Munford in Loudoun County, Virginia during the American Civil War. An inconclusive prelude to the Battle of Middleburg, the Battle of Aldie was part of the Gettysburg Campaign and resulted in approximately 424 casualties.

On June 1, 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia slipped away from the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, and headed north to invade Pennsylvania. Lee entrusted his cavalry commander, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, to screen his army’s movement from the enemy. Stuart’s cavalry fanned out across the Loudoun Valley in northern Virginia.

Categories
Photography

Fairness

Detail of a bas relief sculpture representing Justice or Fairness at the U.S. Supreme Court, 1 First Street NE in Washington, DC.