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Concord's Iron Works

With all the focus nowadays on Concord's national and literary history, we're apt to forget that there were other historical happenings that made their impact on the economy of the town and surrounding areas. One of these was the business of the early Iron works. Concord's first major arm and hammerindustry dates back to 1658 when the Iron Works Farm was established by the falls of the Assabet River where Damon Mill Square stands today on Route 62 in West Concord.

The Saugus Iron Works was the first in America, established 1646 in Saugus MA. It was looking for more sources of iron deposits for their business, so sent prospectors out into the surrounding countryside searching for good areas. They found an adequate source of bog iron here in the swamps and wetlands along the Assabet River. In 1658 they bought 1600 acres of land which covered areas that are now Acton, Sudbury and Concord.

Three of their expert hammersmiths were sent here from Saugus to set up a forge on the north bank of the Assabet, which consisted of dams, ponds and watercourses, two hearths and two hammers -- quite an impressive setup. This produced the "sows," or bars of iron, which blacksmiths would work into horse shoes, door hinges, wheel rims, nails, fire tongs, cooking and farming implements, and more for inhabitants' daily needs.

One of the three iron workers originally sent here in 1658 to establish the Iron Works was Joseph Jenko. He is also the same man who became the first inventor in the colonies to be granted a machine patent in 1646.

This establishment lasted for nearly 35 years and houses were built for the workers and their families. Michael Wood was granted a license from the town "to sell strong liquours to the labourers about the Iron Works for their necessary releef and to no others." No man was hired until he had passed inspection from the mother plant in Saugus. Many tons of iron bars were shipped down the Assabet to waiting markets along the sea coast, as well as the settlements along the way.

By 1694, the natural bog iron had been exhausted, so the land where the Iron Works had been was sold to a farmer from Beverly, Lot Conant. He built a substantial house over one already existing there, which is still standing today, known as the 1775 house.

Find Out More

What is bog iron and how is it formed? Find out here.

What does "fulling" mean? Here some methods are discussed.

The Saugus Iron Works still operates as an National Historic Site.

The date of Conant's house would have been probably 1698 or 1700, so by the day of April 19, 1775, this house needed repairs and an addition. The story goes that carpenters working on the renovations that day got the message from Concord Center that the British were invading the town. At that news, they all laid down their tools to fight for their cause. As the war ensued, they were disbursed to other areas, and it was several years later that they returned to finish the job -- the nick-name of "the 1775 House" has stuck to this day. It is now the Col. Roger Brown House, a bed and breakfast for tourists' use.

Lot Conant built a grist mill to augment his farm income, and in turn, sold the place to Roger Brown, a clothier who built and operated the first cloth fulling mill in town. Thus began the next phase of the wool and cotton manufacturing factory on the same premises, and the introduction of the Damon family to Concord's enterprising industries.

Artwork: ArtToday.

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