THE THOMAS IRON COMPANY.

Source: Lambert & Reinhard A History of Catasauqua, 1914

 

Eighteen interested people attended an initial meeting called to discuss plans for the organization of an Iron Company. This meeting was held February 14, 1854, at Mrs. White's tavern on Centre Square, Easton, Pa. The building is now used by the United States Government as the Post Office of the city of Easton. A resolution was adopted calling the Company "The Thomas Iron Company" in honor of David Thomas who projected it, and in recognition of his work as pioneer in the successful manufacture of iron by the use of anthracite coal.

 

The capital stock was fixed at two hundred thousand ($200,000) dollars, steps taken to procure a charter and a committee appointed to select and purchase a site for the works. David Thomas was authorized to purchase the Thomas Butz farm situated on the west bank of the Lehigh River, about a mile above Catasauqua, as the most eligible site for the works. The farm contained 185 acres 90 perches and the price paid for it was $37,,112.50. The deed passed July 7, 1854.

 

The Board of Managers resolved, March 14, 1.854, to construct two blast furnaces, known as Nos. I and 2. Contract for the mason work was given May 10th to Samuel McHose of Allentown, Pa. Samuel Kinsey was employed as the first bookkeeper and his services continued for twenty-four years.

 

A contract for the first two boilers was made April 7, 1854, at a cost of $9,353 on the wharf at Brooklyn; and for two beam blowing engines on boat at Cold Springs, N. Y., at $42,600. The engines had steam cylinders of 56 inches diameter, and blowing cylinders of 84 inches diameter by nine feet stroke.

 

At a meeting of the Board of Directors, June 8, 1854, the name of the place of the furnaces was selected and adopted. The suggestion had been made to call it Coplay-the town above it being called "Schriber's" at this time. But after some discussion the suggestion of Hokendauqua, by David Thomas, was adopted.

 

"Hokendauqua derives its name from a small creek which empties into the Lehigh on the eastern side, about half a mile above the village. It is an Indian word, 'Hockin' in the Delaware Indian language signifying 'Landing.' The name, in fact, was not given to a, stream of water, but was an exclamation used by the Indians at the time the first Irish settlers located there in 1730. It was probably made use of in speaking to the surveyors; a large portion of the streams were named in this manner by the surveyors." (See Henry's "History of the Lehigh Valley," page 300.)

 

On November 9, 1854, the town was laid out, and the streets named. Homes were built in 1868 for the General Superintendent, the Superintendent and other members of the staff. Rows of brick houses were also erected for the employees of the Company. The town has been supplied with spring water, pumped from a spring on the river bank, since 1855. The Company also donated land for a school house and for the Presbyterian Church.

 

 

THE THOMAS IRON COMPANY PLANT.

 

The following list shows the date when each of the six furnaces at Hokendauqua first produced pig iron (list made in 1904).

 

               Furnace                       Date                             Present Size

               No. I                            June 3, 1855                17 by 80 feet

               No. 2                           October 27, 1855        Abandoned

               No. 3                           July 18, 1862              17 by 80 feet

               No. 4                           April 29, 1863             Abandoned

               No. 5                           September 15, I873     17 by 60 feet

               No. 6                           January 19, 1874         17 by 60 feet

 

The Thomas Iron Company owns furnace properties whose values run into millions. Besides Hokendauqua, plants are located at Alburtis, Pa., Island Park, Pa.; Hellertown, Pa.; and their holdings in ore lands and lime stone beds are almost endless. They own properties in New Jersey, and in Pennsylvania near Hellertown, Rittenhouse Gap, Red Lion, Bingen, and in North and South Whitehall, Salisbury, Upper and Lower Macungie and Longswamp Townships. They own the Ironton Railroad which is noted in this volume. The Thomas Iron Company also subscribed 40 per cent. of the original cost of the Catasauqua and Fogelsville Railroad.

 

At the opening of the current century, the iron market was good. Nine furnaces were in full blast, producing an output of 260,000 tons. At present but one furnace is in operation in Hokendauqua. The affairs of the Company have always been well managed. Thomas Iron Company stocks have been considered gilt-edged investments. During the first fifty years of its history, the Company paid dividends amounting to 560.91 per cent.

 

In Hokendauqua the Company established a Church, gave $3500 towards the erection of a building and donated the land. At Alburtis they donated property for a church and $1000 for a cemetery. They also gave $500 toward the Hokendauqua parsonage. In honor of five employees who gave their lives for their country during the Civil War, the Company made a generous gift of money toward the soldiers' monument erected in Fairview Cemetery. The war tax on pig iron alone paid to the United States Government from July, 1864, to July, 1866, was $200,423.83.

 

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Further details of the formation and operations of the Thomas Iron Works can be found in Dale Wint’s A History of the Iron Industry and Allied Businesses of the Iron Borough, Catasauqua, Pennsylvania  by clicking here.

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Historical information on the Thomas Iron Works also appears in the Proceedings of Special Meeting of Stockholders held on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the company.  This publication consists of records of speeches delivered at the meeting and of newspaper articles published in conjunction with the holding of the meeting.

The Board of Directors and Company Officials at the 50th Anniversary Meeting

 

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Engraving from State Archives, date unrecorded.

 

 

 

Another postcard view

 

Postcard – date unknown

 

The following are 6 photographs of Thomas Iron Company's Furnaces at Hokendauqua, PA taken in 1938, prior to their demolition by the Bethlehem Steel Co., to whom the buildings were sold, and by them wrecked and scrapped. The originals of the photographs are found in Lehigh University’s online digital library, “Beyond Steel.”

 

30 tons of pig iron shipped to The McKee Fuller Company in 1882

 

Click here for Enlargement

 

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Rev.October, 2011