Sunday, July 5, 2020

A Little About Bog Iron

Bog Iron was mentioned by Captain John Smith in 1608 and it was mined in the Laurel – Delmar - Mardela Springs area from the early 1700s through the 1870s.

Early settlers made use of the trees and oyster shells to process Bog Iron.  They created pig and wrought iron and it was fashioned into everything from cannon balls to pipes to kettles.  Items made from bog iron stand out because they do not rust instead they oxidizes to a dead black surface.

Bog iron is created when rainwater soaks throw fallen pine shats and leaches iron from our sandy soil.  The dissolved iron resurfaces in local streams to form a rust colored scum that will cement to river sands and gravel and create a sandstone like substance called bog iron.   

The deposits created were about six to seven feet thick composed of; one to two foot of “loam ore,” three feet of “seed ore” and the remained “hard ore.”  Once the “hard ore” was broken through the pit would fill with water as the hard ore held it back until it was broken. 

Unlike “regular” iron ore, Bog Iron is a renewable resource.  After an area has been mined it will renew itself after about thirty years. 

Since Delmar was not created until 1859 which was near the end of the mining of bog iron, I have found no references to bog iron mining in Delmar.  However given the nearness of both a bog iron furnace in Laurel and the mining of bog iron around Mardela Springs there is no reason not to think that people from the Delmar area did not work in the industry. 

There was Chipman’s iron furnace on Broad Creek between Laurel and Trap pond operating in the 1830s.  The furnace obtained the bog iron from Little Creek two miles south of Laurel.

   Barren Creek Springs was a well known place where bog iron was mined. A Joshua Bratten would mine it and ship it to the western shore in his schooner the “Chesapeake Trader”.  Later members of the Bratten family would mine the iron and ship it by rail to be sold at three dollars a ton.

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