| Would it surprise you to know there was a thriving
village at the foot of Chiques Hill less than one hundred years ago?
Except for the remains of a few foundations and some remnants of ground
cover, there are few signs of it to be found. It was a "stop
station" on the Columbia branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad near the base
of the rock and was called Chiques (Chickies or Chikis) for
Chiquesalunga, reportedly the Indian word for crayfish,
their name for the nearby creek.
Near the village, on the same flood plain, were the two Haldeman Ironmaster's mansions. The settlement itself was composed of the blast furnaces and associated buildings, a post office, general store, and homes of furnace workers.
Besides men employed at the furnaces, there were tenant farmers who might live some distance from the furnaces, wagon and coach makers, wood choppers, teamsters, blacksmiths and other required workers.
Their cottages were wooden, scattered over the plain near the # 1 furnace, sometimes in a row of 4, sometimes as high as 12. They were small and painted barn red or brown. It was, as were all other furnace localities of this period, somewhat "feudal" in nature, exemplified by the personal interest, responsibility and solicitude of the ironmasters and their wives for the tenants and their families.
There was much sickness, and frequently poverty in those cottages. Many workers were first generation immigrants and education was a concern as well. Most of the laborers at the other five furnaces also lived in rows of houses built of brick or lumber. The upkeep was always at the Ironmaster's expense.
There were company stores where the workmen purchased the ordinary necessities of life. Generally they had their own schools supported by public taxation, and their own chapels.
Catholic workers walked along the river to Columbia to attend the church at St. Peter's until their own was built in Marietta at the instigation of Dr. Samuel Haldeman in 1879. The church was closed in 1994 after 125 years, and its members transferred to a new Mt. Joy parish.
The farms which raised the produce to supply the workman's wants also were owned by the Ironmasters. The farm animals used for hauling wood, coal and iron ore needed to supply the furnaces were stabled in the barns of the tenant farmers and those barns were built in the furnace district.
Besides Chiques, another important settlement grew up around Watts Station, about a half mile up the river. At Watts, the most westerly of the furnaces, there were three rows of furnace cottages; Brick Row, Irish Row and Frame Row. Irish Row was covered with plaster and painted aqua. It stood on a footpath, facing the river. Frame Row, painted brown, stood to the east of Irish Row. They were built so close to the railroad that burning coals occasionally spewed from the engines and set them on fire.
Over the years, they were all destroyed except Brick Row, later called Furnace Row. This one is still standing. It was owned until the mid 1960's by Mrs. Samuel Simons and has recently been converted to privately owned homes and renamed Donegal Place.
Still standing, as well, are some of the manager's homes. Two of the three houses standing together on Furnace Road and the picturesque stucco farmhouse at the mouth of Chiques Creek.
All the furnace and villages between Marietta and Columbia were on the low land ( or "flat") adjoining the river. This was the flood plain which geologists say was the ancient course of the river.
In 1896, Horace L. Haldeman wrote, "Owing to the various changes in modern production of pig iron, to the excessive canal and freight charges and to the low tariff on foreign pig iron, all of the blast furnaces have been torn down or sold for scrap iron except for those built by Mussleman and Watts in 1868"
The furnaces originally were built along the (now dismantled) Pennsylvania Canal between Chiques and what is now Clay Street because the coal could be received and iron shipped on the waterway.
Starting at Chiques and extending west to the furnaces were: Chikis #1, Chikis #2, Donegal, Marietta #1, Marietta #2, and Vesta. The earliest iron- smelting furnaces dated to 1845. Chikis #2 is the last to survive and a small part remains in 1997, a portion of the power house to which additions were made after world war II. It was active in the manufacture of boilers for household fuel-oil furnaces until 1983. It now houses the "Nibble Nook" snack food company and is also used for other storage.
Also standing, and in need of restoration, is the office of the old Vesta furnace at the foot of Haldeman's Hill (Clay St.). Ironmasters other than the Haldemans occupied mansions built on the top or on a slope of a hill with terraces down to the furnaces and village below. These will be the subject of a future article by Claire Lombard.
by Claire Lombard - in The Marietta Traveler