Tour the site:

The town of Oregon was established in a region with abundant mineral resources. A high grade marble seam runs through the area and the vicinity is rich in iron ore deposits. Between 1840 and 1870, the resident workers of the company town of Oregon were involved in mining these "ores" for the production of pig iron. This product was ultimately used in the manufacturing of railroad rails, barrel hoops, and wagon wheel rims, and items such as cast iron stoves, frying pans, and trivets. By the mid-19th Century, there were approximately 50 such pig iron furnaces operating on the Eastern seaboard between New York and Washington. Their hay-day marks an important point in the "American Century" when the country was developing its industrial prowess. This stage of the iron industry’s development ended with the growth of monopolistic companies such as Bethlehem steel.

1864 Land plat of Oregon Town augmented with labels and photographs. Original structures are marked in red . (Lower left to top right: marble quarry, well, row of eleven tenant houses, water race, two boarding houses, blast furnace, forge, iron ore quarry, boarding house, spring house, ore washing station, Iron Master/ Manager's house, Barracks, barn, stables, company store.)

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Oregon town workers quarried marble for architectural purposes and for use as a "flux" ingredient in the processing of the iron ore to make pig iron. The iron ore was quarried out of approximately 48 open pit mines located along the ridge south of the town. Today, after a century of erosion and forest growth, these pits appear as small, wooded ravines although some remain quite large including one that functions today a swimming hole. Several structures from the town remain standing as ruins including two boarding houses, the Iron Master/ Manager's house, a spring-house (reconstructed), and portions of the barnyard wall and company store building. All that remains of the blast furnace is the crucible base (salamander), some isolated fire bricks, and a few pieces of cut stone from the outer walls.

View North of the Manager/Iron Master’s House (in the middle distance, through the trees) and the current excavation site (blue tarp visible through the trees). The springhouse is adjacent to the roadbed. One of the town's three boarding houses is visible on the left.

(Top left) Ruins of Iron Master/Town Manager’s House.
(Top right) Iron Master/Manager’s House showing the region of the current archaeological excavation.

(Bottom) Current Archaeological Excavation site, sand bagged for protection from flooding by the nearby creek. The site under investigation is a domestic structure that dates to the earliest years of Oregon Town, circa 1840-1850.


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(Top) Boarding house ruins, 1999, and (bottom) circa 1870. Three such boarding houses were built at Oregon town in 1850. These structures each housed between 14 and 20 bachelor workers. These workers paid the company $1.75 a week for room and board. Their annual salary was around $200.

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tour5.jpg (23133 bytes) (Left) The Company Store, 1999 and (right) circa 1860. Today this structure houses a restaurant.

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(Top) ) One of the iron-ore quarries used today as a swimming hole.
(Bottom) Reconstructed tenant house (white, two story building). This structure serves as a museum and is the office for the ’Center for Archaeology'. 
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‘The Avenue’, once the main thoroughfare through Oregon town. This roadway was once traversed by 20-ton wagons pulled by workhorses, mules, and oxen. This roadway was paved with slag (a blast furnace waste material).