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Chapter 2

Pictures by Dale Thomas. Thanks Dale.
a jrd page on 1/4/14
Airdrie Foundry

Airdrie Hill is a local historic place that has seen better times. It is a difficult place to visit and thus, has very few visitors of the human kind. This unique place would be easy to forget unless a person had actually been there. It played such a big part in local history and is a shame that it was left alone for the elements of nature to take it back down to the ground. It has been years since I have visited, but I will never forget as long as this old brain can remember much of anything. Actually, guess that I had thought that most others had forgotten about Airdrie. Well, it turns out that Airdrie is still in the mind of some local citizens. Dale Thomas and Gary Durham have visited Airdrie recently and have sent a few pictures. They have shared some of their pictures with me and in this "Airdrie Hill" section of the Rockport/Echols Web Site, I will share with you. I hope that you will enjoy them. Some of us seniors are getting to the age now where an actual "Hands On" visit may not be possible, thus a trip down memory lane, in pictures, can be presented because of people like Dale and Gary. Thanks you two. It will not necessarily be a virtual reality trip, but one that most of us can visualize and reminisce about a time in history that most of us consider a time and place like Mayberry.

Let me refresh the memory or those of you that have been to Airdrie Hill and to present a little information on those of you that have never had the pleasure of going to this century plus old relic of the past. Shirley Smith, in her book titled "History Of Rockport And Echols", has dedicated a partial chapter on Airdrie Hill. Interesting reading if you have access to her book.

In the year of 1850, Lord S. C. A. Alexander, a Scotchman, invested $350,000 in a dream of his to build an iron ore foundry. He purchased several hundred acres of Muhlenberg County land and proceeded to turn this wilderness area into a working iron ore foundry. He selected an area, on the Green River, that held enough raw materials to build the foundry, as well as a supply of iron ore, and a coal seam with more than enough coal to fire the furnace and the powerhouse. The rock formations in that area were plentiful and all that was needed was manpower to transform the raw material into an iron ore smelter. Lord Alexander persuaded some two hundred or more hard working and talented Scotchmen to join him in his endeavor. A lot of these hard working Scotchmen were from an area in Scotland called Airdrie and thus, this bluff area, above Green River, became known as Airdrie Hill. For two years, or so, these miners, masons, carpenters, machinist, smelters, and other craftsmen, needed for this unique undertaking, worked as a team and turned this vast wilderness into a place where raw material could be mined and transformed into iron.

Some two years after construction started, a powerhouse, an iron ore furnace, an equipment building, a large rock wall with rock steps from the base of the wall to the top, and several houses were built on this site in Muhlenberg County, some four miles above Rockport. Once construction was complete, it was time to fire the furnace. The furnace failed to work correctly and after several attempts to fire this new furnace, a section of the furnace wall, near the top, blew out. The furnace was repaired and other attempts were tried to make this a working foundry. It was just not to be and the foundry was shut down. With any new plant or manufacturing process, some alterations, modifications, or process changes need to be made. Instead of trying to make this process work, Lord Alexander became disinterested and quit this dream to move to Lexington, Kentucky.

Where one failure occurs, an opening is sometimes left for another's dream. Airdrie was just such a place. It was a beautiful place on the Green River. It was also a failed project. When Lord Alexander relinquished his dream and moved on, an area on the Green River would open for another man to pursue his dreams. It would be only a few years later before a famous Union Army General would retire from the army and move to Airdrie.

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jerry durham

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jerry durham
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