Elizabeth Furnace Forest Camp
This photograph, taken from a 1944 postcard, shows the entrance to what was then known as the Elizabeth Furnace Forest Camp.
In 1836 this area had been home to Elizabeth Iron Furnace. This was one of many small iron producing furnaces that existed throughout Fort Valley and Shenandoah County.
Elizabeth utilized the power provided by waters of Passage Creek. Initially the furnace was only open seasonally. Operations were conducted during the winter months when the local slave population was idle and available to be used as a labor force.
Later, as demand increased, the furnace operated around the clock. Shifts of approximately 50 individuals operated the furnace. This work was often difficult and dangerous. Laborers worked long hours, medical care was non-existent, and wages were low.
A community emerged around the furnace. Over time a company office, store, post office, barracks, carpenter shop, blacksmith, stables, and company houses were constructed. Often immigrant furnace workers mingled with, and married into, the local community.
The furnaces would not operate long after the Civil War. Larger more efficient iron furnaces emerged in other areas of the United States and small producers were forced to close.
In 1913 the site became the property of the Federal government. The Elizabeth Furnace Recreation area was opened in 1960 on the site of the forest camp pictured above. It is home to the educational “Pig Iron Trail” which interprets the history of the area’s iron furnaces for visitors.