America’s Sterling Research
Lady Mary R. Sinner-Hendrickson
29 February 2000

James Sterling

Iron King of New York

A Sterling History
Lady Mary R. Sinner-Hendrickson

James was my great-great grandfather. He was born in 1800 on 25 January, at Norwich, Connecticut, though no official birth record has ever been located. I felt searching in other states with towns of the name Norwich was warranted, just to be certain the birthplace was not incorrect. Another reason for searching in Vermont was there is a census for Jefferson County, New York which listed James’ birth state as Vermont. We all are aware, however, that census records often have misinformation. Those searches in the other states did not reveal any records pertaining to James’ birth, nor any records of this particular Sterling line. His parents were Daniel and Mary Bradford-Sterling. Daniel’s parents were James and Hannah May-Stirling, and recently proof of ancestry to Stirling, Scotland, and the castle there, was found. (Hannah May-Stirling also has Mayflower connections). The surname at the time of immigration to the United States was Stirling, not Sterling. In the family papers of the Stirlings of Keir between 1160 and 1677, their surname is spelled in no less than 64 different ways. Mary Bradford-Sterling was a direct descendant from Governor William Bradford and Alice Carpenter-Southworth-Bradford of the Mayflower Pilgrims. The Bradford’s were my 10th great grandparents. Mary Cleavland, who was the wife of my 2nd cousin 6 times removed, William Bradford (not the Governor), was the 32nd great granddaughter of Charlemagne. This connection to Charlemagne, of course, is not direct for myself, however, with the recent discovery of James Stirling of Cornwall, Connecticut ancestry, there are many, many royal and otherwise, notable ancestors which I do descend. In fact, on my paternal line, surname of Sinner (yes, I said Sinner), and my maternal line, surname of Sweeney, I do descend from Charlemagne. And, to top it all off, my husband was knighted into a military ordre in August of 1991; thus our titles of Sir and Lady. But, as everyone who knows us are aware, we are still down to earth folk, and would have it no other way.

James Sterling, on 9 October 1826 married Miss Annis Coleman, daughter of Mary Richardson Bullock-Coleman-Slater. In 1860, Mary was living in James’ household. Recently, I was sent an e-mail listing the ancestry of Mary: Richard Bullock, Samuel Bullock, Seth Bullock, Shubal Bullock born 1746/47, in Rehoboth, Bristol, Massachusetts. Shubal married Mary E. Richardson, and these are the parents of Mary. I have not personally documented this line, but thought it favorable to include here, for future researchers.

James and Annis had several children, one of whom was my great grandfather, Rochester Hungerford Sterling. He was born 4 July 1844, in New York, and through common law marriage, had with Hattie Belle Dillon, several children. Though this was eventually ruled a common law marriage, Rochester and Hattie Belle did have a wedding ceremony, and was known to friends and those who lived around them, as husband and wife. One of their children was my grandmother, Mamie Rachel Sterling-Sinner-Earl. Grandma married first to Peter Sinner, at Pond Creek, Indian territory, Oklahoma, and had several children, one who was my father, Richard David Sinner (SR). Mamie and Peter moved to California, Kern County, where my Dad was born in Bakersfield, 26 October 1919.

Dad married first to Naomi Arvilla Campbell, who passed away at an early age. He married second, to Mary Louise Sweeney, my mother, on 5 September 1954. I am the second oldest of eight (one miscarriage) children. I first married Ronald C. Reed, and had four children. My second, and present marriage is to Benjamin Sherman Hendrickson, III, born in Monmouth county, New Jersey.

It was in 1986 my mother first asked me to assist her in obtaining an official copy of her birth record. I have been interested in family research, professionally, and for my family members ever since.

This work is a compilation of existing publications, and personal research relating to James Sterling, known as the Iron King of New York. At the end of this tome, is a section about the workings of an iron mine, such as James owned, and was involved. There are accounts of his physical appearance, his kindly demeanor, and his love of family.

The Life of James Sterling

Physical Characteristics of The Iron King

At the age of 10 months, it is reported he weighed 40 pounds, and 200 pounds at age 14. No doubt this robust body, at this young age is why he was made Corporal in a local militia company during the War of 1812. As William Allen recalled James, he said “A most remarkable man, and I remember him well. Like his father, he was a very large man. I can see him now, as he drove along the road. He had a buck-board on which were hitched two horses. He filled the entire seat and the wooden supports of the buck-board seat – the long springy timbers that went each side of the rig, would settle almost to the ground with his great weight. He stood six feet and three inches and was said to weigh 396 pounds. A regular giant, you see.”

“The joke I want to tell you about was at one Fourth of July celebration of years ago. At that time the dinner was the big part of the celebration. Everybody made a big fuss about that. When the landlord looked out and saw James Sterling coming in, he thought he would have a little joke on his famous guest. So, he told the waiter to put an entire roasting pig upon a platter and put it at Mr. Sterling’s plate as an individual dish for him alone. He figured it would cause no end of merriment among the other guests at the table. The waiter did so, and Mr. Sterling, as sober as a judge, started his dinner as if nothing unusual had taken place. And he actually got away with that entire plate of meat, for he knew he was being watched, and that the landlord thought he had him stuck. And, when the plate was cleaned up, Mr. Sterling asked the waiter if he could have another portion of meat like the first, and then the joke was on the landlord.”

“Now, I was only a boy when this reported incident took place. I never saw it happen and I have always thought there was much fiction worked into the story. However, there must have been some foundation for this story which was much told at that time. Overdrawn as it probably was, it was about a man who did a great deal for the north country.”1

Folklore has it that he put a four pound iron weight in his pocket to make it an even 400 pounds. He was so large that Watertown’s Hotel Woodruff had a chair made especially for him.2 James had one old horse which he had ridden for many years. Sometimes he would return home from a journey, carrying the saddle on his arm and leading the animal by its halter strap.3 Now, I call that compassion!

Personal Research

I’ve collected several newspaper articles and county history biographies over the past few years, concerning James and his involvement with the iron industry. He was certainly a man who brought only good to the Jefferson county, New York area. With the iron and lumber businesses, he employed more than a thousand men during the early 1800’s to early 1860’s. Much of his young life was spent on the farm, and clearing land in the setting of the town of Antwerp. Without much formal education, his mind grew, always searching to improve his life and those around him, which he certainly achieved through his businesses. No doubt his enthusiasm for life was partly due to his being descended from `splendid New England stock’, as one report reads, being descended from Governor William Bradford.4 He was good humored and kind, and popular with all, especially the poor, whose necessities and bodily ills were a source of constant care with him.5

James, between the years 1856 – 1863 was a Trustee for Saint Lawrence University in Canton, New York6. I have been told he was instrumental in the establishment of the university, supporting it heavily with his personal finances. Though the only record the university has listing his involvement is the position of Trustee, there is no doubt in my mind that he did contribute funds. James donated the land, which the Sterlingville church stood. The church was built in 1838, but in the winter of 1885, it was moved across the frozen ice of the creek and into the village. A mile south of St. Mary’s cemetery, and on Plank Road is the Protestant cemetery. In Everts and Holcomb’s 1878 “History of Jefferson County” it is referred to as the Town Burying Ground, but by Fort Drum it is listed as Gates Cemetery because it is believed to have come from farmland owned by the Gates family. However, one acre was originally purchased from Adam Comstock in 1850. This cemetery served burial places for several denominations, and is where James is buried.

This family has demonstrated much compassion for all. What an honor to descend from such primogenitors. The following information was obtained from encyclopedias, newspaper articles, county biographies, family stories, and other various sources. I will try not to be redundant, but want to be sure to include as much information of James, his ancestry and vocation, as possible. At the end of this compilation will be a section titled `Iron Ore Mining’, where you can read about the steps used to mine iron ore, and a special `recipe’ for making iron.

Following, is an article written of James Sterling and his mines, composed by his daughter in-law, Hattie Belle Dillon-Sterling. This article was received from the Sterlingville historian.

Antwerp Iron Mines and James Sterling
by Hattie Belle Sterling, Antwerp, Jefferson County, New York
James Sterling, the son of Daniel and Mary Sterling, decided to start farming for himself when he was about twenty-six years of age. He bought a farm in 1836, and it was on this land that iron ore was discovered. In that year, he began working the mines from which later thousands of tons of ore were to be taken. The raw red substance was transported by wagons drawn by horses to the furnaces which were built at Sterlingville, Lewisburg, Philadelphia, Carthage, and Rossie. It was not an unusual sight to see 200 wagons loaded with ore pass a single point in a day. Mr. Sterling bought large timbered acreages so as to have wood to burn for charcoal to feed the furnaces. In the days of his greatest activity, he was said to have had a payroll of one thousand men. Much help was required to operate the mines, drive the teams, cut the wood, burn the charcoal and do many other necessary jobs.
In the Antwerp area many mines were opened but none were as successful as the Sterling mine. In 1869, the Sterling mines were sold to the Jefferson Iron Company. These mines were active for several years afterward, but in the early part of the twentieth century, the mines ceased to operate. The closing of the mines was due to several factors, namely the nearness to markets of the other companies, and the ores discovered in the Great Lakes section was nearer the surface. There is still much valuable ore left, and it is hoped that some day in the future, the mines may operate again.
During the years when the mines were operating, the village of Antwerp boomed. The population in 1820, was about 1300 residents. About 1850, when the mines were operating at their peak, the population was figured at 3000. This figure included the village and the remainder of the township. Shortly after 1890, the population began to decline due to the closing of some of the mines.
Ernest G. Cook Articles

In articles by Ernest G. Cook, one titled James Sterling, One of North’s Great Pioneers, a reader gains insight and knowledge into the life of James who was the founder of the rich mining industry at Sterlingville. Mr. Sterling gave a spark to the whole iron ore development in the Philadelphia and Antwerp sections. The members of this prominent clan lived up to the meaning of its name which means highest in quality.

Mr. Cook kindly gave us some directions to the cemetery where James and Annis are buried. Traveling west out of Sterlingville, over a dirt road for about a mile, one comes to a cemetery, hidden until you are almost upon it, where pioneers are sleeping. It was in 1836 that the work was started on the first furnace near Black creek in Sterlingville, and Caleb Essington just a century ago this summer erected a forge at Sterlingville where he manufactured refined iron. (Caleb Essington, it is believed was the father of the first wife of Rochester Hungerford Sterling, son of James and Annis).7

In this Sterlingville cemetery section, there is a row of monuments for the following ancestors:

The stone at the head of the row has this inscription:

James Sterling was born at Norwich, Ct., Jan. 25, 1800. Died July 23, 1863.

The next stone at the left:

Annis, his wife, died the 9th of April, 1875, aged 65 yrs, 10 mos. and 13 days.

There is another stone in this row that bears an important name of the Sterling family. This stone reads:

Daniel B. Sterling, born May 27, 1847, died Feb. 2, 1879.

This Daniel was named for his ancestor, Daniel who came from Norwich, Connecticut about 1802, and who married Mary Bradford, a lineal descendant of Governor William Bradford, thus some of the Puritanic stock found its way into northern New York. I have a copy of one of the first deeds recorded in the town of Antwerp in the name of Mary Sterling.

In 1836 he purchased the Hopestill Foster farm and soon found rich ore. In 1840, he organized the Philadelphia Iron Company, and this was the beginning of the blast furnace at Sterlingville. The iron from this furnace became famous in the markets as “Sterling iron” and was a product of the cold blast charcoal method. In 1844 he established his second blast furnace at Sterlingburg, and later purchased the furnace property at Wegatchie. It was in 1852 he purchased the property which later became Sterlingbush. By this time, his payroll often reached as many as 1,000 men. Many a farmer of the other years was heard to say that he was able to pay for his farm because of the teaming he was hired to do by James Sterling in transporting iron ore to the smelter from the mines.

During the crowning years of his life, the Watertown Reformer, in its issue of 22 January 1857, had this to say of James Sterling: “He is truly one of the most useful great men in the Empire state, and one of whom the Empire state may well be proud. It is such men as Mr. Sterling that raises the state to its proud position among the sovereign states of the Union. He takes from the earth that which is worthless in its primitive state, and converts it into the most useful of metallic substances.”8

In another article by Mr. Cook, concerning the town of Lewisburg, he says the town had, at one time, one of the chief ore furnaces of the north. If you turn right off the state highway when traveling from Harrisville to Carthage, just as you are entering Natural Bridge, you will be on a county highway that leads directly to Lewisburg. You should watch for the turn before reaching the bridge, and with the turn safely made, it is an easy trip to the ancient community of Lewisburg.

There was still standing, in 1939, an old furnace by the banks of the Indian river. In the early days of this furnace, the Indian river provided power to operate the fans which sent billows of air into the raging furnace to make combustion. James Sterling did much for this place, being later known as Sterlingbush. It was Mr. Sterling who brought his name to Sterlingville where he had the famous cold blast charcoal furnace that produced the famed Sterling iron which had a high reputation all through the eastern United States. This was his most favored spot to live. The other project which bore his name was just above Antwerp on the Indian river, where he established a blast furnace. This place was known as Sterlingburg. The 4,500 acres of land he purchased from Isaac K. Lippencott is what is known as Lewisburg, which included the village. It is during this time that the business was at its all time high.

Mr. C. Reed, a miner, shared with Mr. Cook some of the events that happened in Sterlingville. Mr. Reed was born at Cattail Corners, which was off Sterlingville way. There was not a community of its size that sent more men to the front during the Civil war than Sterlingville.

Sterlingville had the big Sterling furnace, the Essington foundry, carriage shops, saw mills, shingle mills, and several other manufacturing plants. Remember the old Northern Farmer stove? It had the oven up high at the rear of the stove, with the pipes going up to it to permit the heat to circulate around the baking place. That stove was made in Sterlingville by Essington. Most likely the stove in the Protestant church in Sterlingville was made by Essington.

The water power was great. In the 1930’s, there was more water going through Black creek at Sterlingville than in the Indian river at Woods Mills in the summer time. The Black creek is fed by springs from the Pine Plains, and keeps up the flow of water.

The furnace was a wonderful thing in the early days. It was located on the side of the village that Mr. Reed lived, known as Furnace Hill. That is where the Forth of July celebrations were held, and John Rhubart had his arms blown off.

A business survey taken just after the Civil War revealed the following

  • Peter Pratt Basket Making
  • William Rhubart/David Seaman Blacksmiths
  • Lewis H. Mills Boots and Shoes
  • Palmer Hatch Butcher
  • Robert E./Fletcher Odbert Carriage Makers
  • Eleazar Gates/William Murray/John Myers/George Salisbury/Lewis H. Mills Butter and Cheese Handlers
  • George Salsibury Cheese Box Factory
  • Lyman E. North Chair Shop
  • Vincent Smith Cooper
  • Martin Porter Pumps
  • Lewis H. Mills Maker and Seller of Clothes
  • Miss T. Gill Dressmaker
  • Frank Comstock/James Shurtliff Livestock Drovers

There were four sawmills, one being operated by Caleb Essington; another by Elbridge Hatch; George Salisbury and James Sterling had mills. The grist mill was operated by Caleb Essington, and was down the stream from the furnace. Joseph Essington manufactured the iron from the furnace into different articles. Christopher Mosher did mason work, and Fletcher Odbert was the painter. The doctors of the community were Hopkins and Waful. Eldbridge Hatch ran a shingle mill, Lyman E. North had a wood turning business, and Elijah P. Dailey had a clock repair shop. It is easy to see the village with a population of more than 300 was a very active place.

R. A. Oakes

In this County of Jefferson history, Mr. Oakes incorrectly listed James’ line through William Sterling of Haverhill, Massachusetts and Lyme, Connecticut. We know this because our true lineage has recently been proven otherwise. Most likely, Oakes took what had always been accepted for this family, and did not personally do research to see if the information was correct, or not. However, I will say, all of the information written about the Sterlings of that time, helped us in confirming our heritage, regardless if some of the research was incorrect.

[Editors Note
DNA evidence has now shown that James IS very closely related to William Sterling of Haverhill and Old Lyme 11/02/2004]

Mr. Oakes had this to say about James, the Iron King: “He engaged in lumbering and built a blast furnace, and employed many hands. He bought and developed an ore bed in Antwerp, near his father’s farm, from which he took out more than one hundred thousand dollars worth of ore, and which is still being mined, and ultimately owned and operated three mines and had furnaces at Sterlingville, Wegatchie, Sterlingbush and Lewisburg. The slump in the iron business robbed him of most of his hard-earned possessions, and ill health overtook him in his last days.”

The author also reported on the life of James’ brother, John Riley Sterling. I include some of the entry, for it relates to work James did. Oakes wrote: “In early life he (John Riley) was associated with his brothers, James and Daniel, and Welland Ward, in executing improvement contracts, chiefly in Canada, such as making roads and clearing lands by the acre”9.

The Sterlingville Furnace
By Haddock

This New York biography10 reports the first furnace in Philadelphia was owned and operated by James in 1836 for the purpose of working the ores from the Sterling bed in Antwerp, which he had just purchased from David Parrish. It was completed in 1837, spring time, and was in blast in June. The first blast was three months, and produced around 155 tons of iron, bog ore being used with that from the Sterling mine. The Shurtliff and Fuller ores were used in limited quantities as a flux. In the fall, James associated with him Messrs. Orville Hungerford, George Walton, Caleb Essington and George C. Sherman, and organized, October 31, 1837, under the general law, as the “Sterling Iron Company,” with a capital of $20,000.00, in 200 equal shares. A second blast was put on and continued for five months, during which the daily production was not materially increased over that of the first blast. The third blast, using hot air (cold air having been used in the first two trials), was started on the 10th of September, 1838, and continued for the (then) unusual period of 54 weeks and two days, at the end of which the company complimented its employees by a public dinner.

In 1840, the Sterling Iron Company went out of business, and a new one was formed under the name of “The Philadelphia Iron Company.” This was composed of Ephraim Taylor, Fred. Van Ostrand, George Dickerson, William Skinner and John Gates. The date of their incorporation under the general law was May 19, 1840. This company rebuilt the furnace, and, having operated it for some time without much success, ceased to exist, and was succeeded by Samuel G. Sterling, a brother of James Sterling, who was the father, and under all the different proprietorships continued to be the master-spirit of the enterprise until 1859, when he retired from active life, and died in 1863.

The furnace was destroyed by fire in 1849, and rebuilt about two years later. The size of the furnace, when erected was twenty six feet square, thirty-two feet high, with an inside diameter of seven feet. It was lined with sandstone from Louisburgh, Antwerp, and Theresa. The yield of Sterling ore was forty to forty-five percent, and the product of the furnace was from four to five tons daily (1854). From 1859 to 1869 it was under the proprietorship of A. P. Sterling, of Antwerp, then sold to the Jefferson Iron Company, Edwin B. Bulkley, President. This company also owned the Sterlingbush furnaces in Diana, Lewis county, which, when in operation, ran on the ore of the Sterling mine, of which the company was the proprietor. The Sterlingville furnace is now cold, and there is little probability that it will again be in blast.

In 1941, after a century of service the post office in Sterlingville was closed, due to the expansion of Pine Camp military project which wiped the village of Sterlingville off the map. In 1802, John Petty located in the town of LeRay, and in 1804 moved with his family to the town of Philadelphia, and built his house near what was Stricklands Corners. This was near the village of Sterlingville. John was the only settler to remain through the winter of 1804-1805. Later he sold his land to John Strickland.

A settlement grew when James Sterling organized the blast furnace near Black Creek about 1835. Also, products produced from the Essington forge were of the best, and the indications were that Sterlingville grew to be an important industrial center. It was about this time the post office was established with George Walton as the first postmaster.

Also, in 1941, M. J. Hoover, the present postmaster, obtained a list of all former postmasters of the community. They were:

George Walton, Frederick VanOstran, James Sterling, Ezra Skiff, George O’Leary, Amasa M. Barbur, Lewis Mills, George W. Clark, A. Pinney Sterling, Edward L. Proctor, Elijah P. Dailey, Frank D. Bigarel, Sherman Corbin, Michael D. Malone, Charles B. Corbin, Michael D. Malone, Charles B. Corbin, Michael D. Malone, Earl L. Mosher, and Mr. Hoover. As you read, some served more than one time as post master.

Mr. Hoover described where the post offices were located, and remarked that the Corbin store, where the office was in 1941, was a busy place years ago. On Saturdays, farmers would crowd into the store. But, with the coming of the auto, roads were improved and a decrease in population resulted.

30 March 2000

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kathy, who made it possible to include the photograph of the furnace, so we may have a visual idea of what a furnace looks like.11 Some additional information was received from Professor Gordon Pollard12, and Steve Penney13. One person who deserves recognition, is my `cuzzin’, Plynn Sterling. He provided much information, which definitely helped in compiling this biography. As many of you know, Plynn passed away recently, and I’d like to say thank you to him, by way of his family. He is missed.

Reference by J.P. Lesley

Alexander Pinney Sterling, of Antwerp P.O., Jefferson county, New York, at one time managed the Sterlingburg cold-blast charcoal furnace, located on the south bank of the Indian river, one mile east of Antwerp, built in 1846. It was nine feet across the bosh, by thirty-three feet high and in 1854 made in thirty-eight weeks 1,222 tons of iron out of red hematite ore from the Sterling mine. The forge once occupied this site14.

James Sterling, of Sterlingville P.O., Jefferson county, New York, owned and managed the Sterlingbush cold-blast charcoal furnace, which was situated in Diana township of Lewis county twelve miles south-southwest of Antwerp, on the west bank of Indian river, built in 1848. It was nine feet across the bosh by thirty-three feet high, and in forty-two weeks of 1855 made 1,322 tons of iron out of red hematite ore from the Sterling mine. An old furnace once occupied this site.

James Sterling, of Sterlingville P.O., Jefferson county, New York, owned and managed Sterlingville cold-blast charcoal furnace, which was situated in the village, on Black creek three miles above its entrance into Indian river. It was built in 1837, rebuilt in 1857, and was nine feet across the bosh, by thirty-three feet high, and in a six month period in 1855 made 700 tons of iron out of red hematite ore from the Sterling mine.

“The Sterling mines also in Monroe are about a mile south-west from Crossway mine at the south end of Sterling Pond at the north end of Sterling mountain, and opened for three miles along the outcrop of the vein of rich, granular, compact, cold-short ore associated with crystallized green hornblende, sahlite, green mica, fleshy feldspar and octahedral iron, between granite and coarse sienite greatly disturbed, but dipping northeast and east conformably, alternating with the ore a number of times not determined. The ore lies naked about fifty rods wide by 150 yards in length; in many places its surface is even and polished as if ground off by the sliding of the rocks. Prof. Mather says drift-scratches traverse it, he thinks from north to south. A sketch of the mines and lake is given from memory in plate 30 fig. 4 of Mather’s Report. The first mine was discovered in 1750 and named after the proprietor Lord Stirling, and a blast-furnace erected in 1751 by Ward and Colton, since when up to 1842 about 140,000 tons had been taken out. It then averaged 2,000 tons per annum. The ore is neutral, fusible, strong, and largely used for ordnance casting and bar iron. No dykes are seen. The ore as seen is from 10 to 20 feet thick, inclining 30?, on a smooth grey granite rock, 3 feet thick, under which is a bed of soft pure rich ore, and under this again Dr. Horton pronounces positively to exist a third “immense bed.” The ore is exposed on the mountain slope facing the lake, 301 yards along and 150 yards up and down, with 500,000 tons in sight in 1842. Some of the ore is pyritous. It is evident from this description and from the sketch, that we have here a double or triple sediment curving around the ends of shallow anticlinal issuing from the end of the Stirling mountain.”15

From another reference book, the following is included:

STERLING IRON WORK. Mrs. A. Sterling, owner; James Sterling, agent and superintendent; R. H. Sterling, founder (person who makes metal castings); Sterlingville, Jefferson County.

Furnace was built in 1837. It is 30 feet high, 8 1/2 feet across the boshes; tunnel-head about 20 inches in diameter; blast is cold; it is driven through one 3-inch tuyere; power is obtained by means of a breast-wheel of 20 feet in diameter, and 12 feet face. Water privilege is fair. Product is about 4 tons per day. Iron is used for car-wheels and other purposes; it is shipped from Philadelphia, the nearest railroad station, which is 4 miles west of the furnace.

Furnace was out of blast from 1858 to 1862, inclusive. In 1863, it produced 780 tons; in 1864, 720 tons in 31 weeks; in 1865, 1098 tons; and in 1866, 700 tons.

Ore is about seven-eighths Sterling, and one-eighth Shurtleff. They are both red oxides, the former yielding about 50 per cent, and the latter 33 per cent. About 2 1/2 tons of ore yield 1 ton of iron. Sterling ore is hauled 11 miles; Shurtleff, 7 miles. The Sterling mine is owned by the Sterling family. The Shurtleff ore is purchased for mixing, as it renders the ore more readily reduced; it contains considerable limestone. Limestone is hauled about 5 miles; charcoal is hauled 4 miles on an average. It costs about 7 1/2 cents. About 150 bushels are used to the ton of iron. In mining, furnace, teaming, &c., about 100 men are employed.

The Sterling mine is an extensive open quarry. It has been worked for many years. The quantity of ore is very great. The stripping is not heavy. There is some rock through the ore, which, however, is readily separated by hand. The mine is in the town of Antwerp. It is about 2 miles from the line of the railroad, and about 4 miles from Antwerp station. The ore is similar to that of the other mines in this section; it is rich. In 1866 the ore only went to the Sterling Iron Works and the Sterling Bush Furnace. Probably about 5000 tons were mined. Some twelve years ago the product of the mine was 10,000 or 15,000 tons.

The mine has been worked for a number of years. It was owned by James Sterling. He built and at one time ran 4 furnaces in this section. In 1857 he failed, and the Wegatchie and Sterlingburg Furnaces were abandoned. He died in 1861, leaving several sons, who now run the furnaces at Sterlingville and Sterling Bush. The mine, the two furnaces, and considerable property are still held by the family.

STERLING BUSH IRON WORKS. A. P. Sterling, Lessee, Sterling Bush, Diana, Lewis County.

Furnace was built in 1837. It is 30 feet high, 9 feet across the boshes; has one 2 1/2-inch tuyere; blast is cold, and driven by means of a breast-wheel about 18 feet in diameter and 9 feet bucket. Water privilege is good.

Ore is from the Sterling mine. It is hauled 11 miles in winter, and 14 in summer; it is mixed with one-tenth Shurtleff ore, hauled 16 miles. Both these ores are red oxides. (See Sterling Iron Works, above). Charcoal is hauled 2 to 4 miles; limestone about 1/2 mile. Furnace is situated about 12 miles S.S.E. of Antwerp, which is the nearest railroad station, and 9 miles E. of Sterlingville. This furnace is one of several built by James Sterling.16

One thing I’ve noticed in some of the sources used in this writing, is a difference of dates of the establishment of the various furnaces, though this is not a problem. The years reported are within the right time frame, but thought it worth mentioning. You read one source stating James died in 1861. This year is incorrectly listed, as he passed away in 1863.

Another interesting observation is the given names of two of James and Annis’ children. It seems most likely they were named after business partners of James. The business partners were Orville Hungerford, and George C. Sherman. The children were named Rochester Hungerford Sterling and George Sherman Sterling. Business partner, George C. Sherman was a banker, and would certainly be an asset to the business.

hope you have enjoyed reading about my great great grandfather, James Sterling, Iron King of New York. As his progenies, we are very fortunate to have available to us newspaper articles, county biographies, family knowledge, and such, to learn of his livelihood, and feel a little closer to him.

Enjoy reading about iron ore mining, which follows. Lady Mary R. Sinner-Hendrickson [email protected] All e-mails welcome.

Iron Ore Mining

As of 1963, iron and steel were considered the most useful and least expensive metals. Machines made of iron and steel produce so many things we use today – paper, lamps, clothes, food, housing, and trains, planes, and automobiles. It is easy to take iron and steel for granted, after all, they are such a common part of our daily lives. Case in point, in colonial times, families spent their evenings making a few nails by hand. How often have we bent a nail while hammering, and simply thrown that bent nail away, and grabbed for another? Times certainly have changed over the years, haven’t they?

Poets and musicians have written about iron. Richard Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold is one example. Another is Rudyard Kipling’s poem Cold Iron:

“Gold is for the mistress-silver for the maid- Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.” “Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall, “But Iron-Cold Iron-is master of them all.”

What Iron Ore Is

Iron ore is the basic material from which iron is taken. Iron makes up about 5 percent of the earth’s crust. It is believed the formation of some iron ores began over a billion years ago-long before life of any kind existed on earth. Volcanoes spouted dust into the air and this fell into streams and rivers. The chemical-laden waters dissolved iron out of rocks with which they came in contact. These iron-bearing waters flowed into the oceans. Here the iron slowly fell to the bottom. Great beds of iron oxide, sand, and silt drifted in piles hundreds of feet thick on the ocean floor. Heat and pressure formed these beds into rock. Later, earthquakes and the shrinking of the earth’s crust brought these rocks to the level of the water. Here other changes occurred. Great glaciers, thousands of feet thick, moved down from the north. These moving ice sheets gouged and tore at the rocks and sediments and with their great pressure caused other changes. When the ice melted, rivers formed that cut grooves in the rocks and deposited sands and gravel, called glacial moraines, over them. Iron bearing rocks contain 20 to 35 percent iron in the form of oxides, carbonates, and silicates. They occur in large quantities in the northern part of the world across the United States and Canada, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and Manchuria. They contain too little iron to be used for steelmaking but are the mother rocks from which much of the iron ore comes. In some places, waters seeping through the rock have dissolved out much of the worthless sand, leaving the iron ore behind. In some areas, the slow cooling of molten volcanic rocks produced iron-ore deposits. In other areas, the action of tiny organisms living in the water caused, and is still causing, iron oxide to form.

Kinds of Ore

Hematite: Usually occurs as a red-colored mineral. About 85 percent of the iron ore mined in the United States is Hematite. In its purest form, it is about seven-tenths iron.

Limonite: A yellow-brown mineral. It is the source of only about 1 percent of the iron used in the United States.

Magnetite: A black mineral that has magnetic qualities. About 1- percent of the iron ore that is mined in the United States is Magnetite ore.

Siderite: Commonly a gray-brown mineral, is sledom mined in the United States. But, it is an important iron source in Germany and Great Britain.

Taconite: Rock which contains iron in fine specks and streaks. Much of it contains about one-fourth iron.

How Iron Is Mined

Open-Pit Mining

When the iron ore lies close to the surface, it often can be uncovered by stripping away a layer of dirt. Huge power shovels scoop up large bites of the ore. The wide holes in the ground are the open pits. The shovels often dump the ore directly into railroad hopper cars or trucks. Most Lake Superior iron ore is dug by the open-pit method, and is shipped to iron and steel mills by ship or rail.

Shaft Mining

Iron-ore deposits may lie deep underground. Then a shaft must be dug from the surface, and an elevator, or hoist, installed. Miners then cut tunnels branching out from the shaft along the vein of ore. Cars or other conveyors are used to carry the ore to the shaft. The cost of mining iron ore by the shaft method is higher than that of open-pit mining, for obvious reasons.

Iron “Recipe”

The iron-maker starts out with a basic material, iron ore. He adds coke and limestone. Then he cooks all these together in a furnace into which a great blast of hot air is blown. He uses water to cool the outside of the furnace. The recipe for making one ton of iron calls for about 1 3/4 tons of ore and other iron-bearing materials, 3/4 of a ton of coke, 1/4 of a ton of limestone, and 4 tons of air.

Coke serves two purposes as it burns with the air blown into the furnace. 1 – The gas produced changes the iron oxide in the ore into pure iron; 2 – The heat produced melts the iron and also all the impurities. The impurities float on top of the iron because they are lighter. At intervals, the impurities are drained from the furnace. At longer intervals, the iron, which contains some carbon, is removed. Coke is made by heating coal in tall, narrow coking ovens.

Limestone helps remove impurities. Many of the impurities in the ore ordinarily do not melt at temperatures as low as the melting point of iron. When limestone is mixed with heated iron ore, it acts as a flux. This flux combines with impurities and causes them to melt at lower temperatures than usual. The impurities that float to the top of the melted iron are called slag, or cinder. Dolomite is sometimes used in place of limestone as a flux.

Air is used in large quantities in iron-making. The oxygen from the air combines with carbon from the burning coke to form carbon monoxide. As the hot carbon monoxide flows through the iron ore, it combines with oxygen in the ore to form carbon dioxide. This frees the iron from its chemical prison in the iron-oxide ore.

Water is important in keeping an iron-making furnace from becoming overheated. About 11,000,000 gallons of water are used each day to cool a furnace which makes 1,000 tons of iron.

How Iron Is Made In A Blast Furnace

(The type James Sterling owned and operated)

The iron recipe described above is cooked in a blast furnace. A blast furnace is a large cylinder made of steel and lined with heat-resistant brick. Some blast furnaces are taller than a 15-story building and more than 30 feet wide at the base. The furnace gets its name from the steady blast of air which is forced into the lower part of the furnace to burn the coke that produces the heat to melt the ore.

When the blast furnace is first lighted, it is filled with more coke and less ore than usual. The bottom of the furnace is filled with wood to start the coke burning. Once the furnace has been lighted, it is kept operating day and night continuously until the brick lining wears out and must be replaced. A blast furnace may run two or more years.

The materials used in the blast furnace to make iron are called the charge. Therefore filling the blast furnace is called charging. The blast furnace is filled at the top. Five to ten-ton cars shuttle up and down tracks on an inclined ramp, called a skip hoist. At, or below, ground level, each skip car is filled with a carefully weighed load of limestone, coke, or iron ore. The car is then pulled up the ramp until it reaches the top. There it is upended to empty its contents into the furnace. As one skip car rises to the furnace top, the other descends to be filled. In this way, charges are added to the furnace to keep it full.

Each blast furnace has several giant stoves. These are towers as high as 125 feet, and are lined with firebrick. Blast-furnace gas is burned in the bottom of the stoves. After a stove has been heated very hot, air is pumped through it, heated, and then blown into the blast furnace at a rate of up to 100,000 cubic feet a minute. While one stove is being blown, others are being heated. This blast of air acts in the blast furnace the same way as the air you fan into a camp fire to make it burn faster.

The hot air enters the furnace near the bottom through nozzles, or holes, called tuyeres. The blast of air causes the coke to burn. The terrific heat-from 2800 degrees f. to 3000 degrees f. – causes the raw materials to be added at the top. The melted iron, freed from impurities, trickles down to the lowest part of the furnace, called the crucible, or hearth. The slag containing the impurities floats on top of a pool of iron four or five feet deep.

Every four or five hours, molten iron is drawn off, or tapped, from the hearth of the furnace. When the furnace is tapped, a plug is burned out at a point called the iron notch. The hole is almost level with the floor. A white-hot stream of iron rushes out of the furnace with a shower of sparks. It flows through a trough in the cement floor to ladle cars, also called bottle cars or hot-metal cars, that hold from 40 to 160 tons of molten iron. Up to 400 tons of iron are tapped from the furnace at a time. When the tapping is completed, the furnace is re-plugged.

The slag is tapped from the furnace oftener than the iron. It is drawn off through a hole called the cinder notch, located above the level of the iron in the hearth. The slag also flows through troughs in the floor and is carried away by ladle cars. The entire tapping operation is controlled from the cast house. This is a steel and concrete building at the base of the furnace.

Pig Iron

All the iron made in blast furnaces is called pig iron. This is because the iron is cast into bars called pigs, when it is to be shipped long distances from the furnace. To cast these bars, the molten iron is carried by the ladle cars to a pig-casting machine. There the molten iron flows into molds which move around the ladle. The name pig comes from an early method of running the hot iron into small sand molds arranged around a main channel like a litter of small pigs around their mother. The central channel was called the sow.

However, today most of the pig iron tapped from blast furnaces is not cast into pigs, but is used to make steel. This molten iron is carried by the ladle cars directly from the blast furnaces to huge heated tanks called mixers. Each mixer holds about 1,000 tons of molten iron. The mixer keeps the iron in liquid form until it is used by the nearby steelmaking furnaces.

Pig Iron as it comes from the blast furnace is not pure iron. It usually contains about 95 percent iron, from 3 to 4 percent carbon, and smaller amounts of manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, and other elements.17

Requirements To Run A Mine

To run your typical mine in 1777, at the time of the Revolution, the following was needed. Since this was wartime, it was difficult persuading the powers-that-be to allow these men to work the mines, and not to order them to war service.

For the furnace:

20 men, wood cutters 4 master colers 16 helpers (for the colers) 3 men for raising oar 2 men for carting oar 7 men carters for hauling coles 2 men for stocking coles 1 banks man 2 men burning oar 2 mine pounders 2 fillers of furnace 2 founders 1 gutterman 1 blacksmith 1 carpenter 1 manager 1 clark

For the Forge and Anchory:

20 men for cutting wood 3 master colers 12 helpers (for the colers) 5 men carters for hauling coles 2 stocker of coles 10 men for making iron in five fires 10 men for making anchors, three fires 1 carpenter 1 blacksmith 1 manager 1 clark

For the Steel Works and Forge:

15 men for cutting wood 3 master colers 12 helpers (for the colers) 4 men carters for bringing the coles 1 stocker for coles 1 man to cart pigs 6 men for making steel, in three fires 4 men for making iron in two fires 1 carpenter 1 blacksmith 1 man to manage the business18

End Notes

1 Watertown Daily Times, April 1931 2 New York Times, Joanne Johnson, Vanished Past: Village Cemeteries of Fort Drum 3 A Sterling Genealogy, Albert Mack Sterling, Grafton Press, 1909, New York, page 900 4 Cook, Ernest G., Interesting People, Events and Places (from a New York newspaper, date unknown.) 5 Cook, Ernest G., Interesting People, Events and Places 6 Saint Lawrence University General Catalogue, 1856-1925, Officers of Administration and Instruction, page 34. Contact: Ann Gilmore, Office Manager, St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York 13617 (1996) 7 Mary Sinner Hendrickson, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Lady Mary Hendrickson 8 Ernest G. Cook, New York Times, James Sterling, One of North’s Great Pioneers by Ernest G. Cook September 25, 1939 9 Genealogical and Family History of the County of Jefferson, R. A. Oakes, 1905, page 1278 10 The Growth Of A Century, Haddock, page 660 11 Courtesy of Furnace Town Historic Site12 Gordon Pollard, Professsor and Chair of Anthropology, Plattsburgh State University, Plattsburg, New York 13 Steve Penney, Hewitt, New Jersey. 14 Lesley, J.P., 1856 (1866 edition) “The Iron Manufacturer’s Guide to the Furnaces, Forges and Rolling Mills of the United States…”, New York: Wiley, John, publisher. Entry 635, pages 143-144, entries 636-637 15 Lesley, J.P., 1856 (1866 edition) “The Iron Manufacturer’s Guide to the Furnaces, Forges and Rolling Mills of the United States…”, New York: Wiley, John, publisher. Page 411 16 Neilson, Wm. G., 1867, “Charcoal Blast Furnaces, Rolling Mills, Forges and Steel Works, of New York in 1867.” Compiled for the American Iron and Steel Association, page 249| 17 World Book Encyclopedia, 1963, Book I, Volume 9. 18 Vanishing Ironworks of the Ramapos, page 186