Penryn author celebrates Ironmasters

By on October 15, 2014

Take a walk down memory lane with Dick Martin while reading his third book, “The Ironmasters of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania,” and learn all about the wilderness area of the county and the plantation lifestyle of the Pennsylvania Ironmasters and their employees.

The book notes that iron ore was found in a rock in 1692. The finding of ore opened the era of ironmasters and their businesses. A song by Tennessee Ernie Ford tells the story of the life of workers.

Part of the lyrics state, “I owe my soul to the company store.”

Clothing, groceries, and other items needed for life on a virtual frontier were purchased by a debit and credit system. Lancaster County was, back then, truly wilderness living with a few farms and homes in the area.

Martin’s interest in local history concerning ironmasters took him to 37 places for information and photographs. He tried to visit all the sites, however, some are very well hidden such as the Mt. Hope Furnace.

Martin was interested in writing, as a relative of his was a collier who lived in a teepee-shaped hut and was paid in cash. The exception of the debit-credit workers who received the barter exchange used to purchase items from the company store.

Martin writes all about the South Mountain overlooking the village of Penryn being stripped of forest woodland, as approximately one acre of forest would yield 25 cords of wood. Almost one acre of forestland was used each day to run the furnace. While reading the book, look to the South Mountain and imagine an area stripped of timber. This is a scary thought for this correspondent.

The ironmasters’ lifestyle was likened unto that of a plantation owner. Workers included a mix of people &tstr; freemen, immigrants, indentured servants, and slaves. Slaves were given freedom in Pennsylvania in the year 1780. These workers were paid using the debit-credit method.

Martin became interested in writing history with his first book, “When Yankee Doodle Came to Town,” a book about the Moravian Church of Lititz. It recounts when the Brother’s House was ordered by General George Washington, Commander in Chief, to receive wounded soldiers from the Battle of Brandywine.

Martin’s second book “Penryn Fire Co. No. 1, 1912-2012: The First 100 Years,” tells of the need to form the first volunteer fire company in the village of Penryn.

“Ironmasters of Lancaster County” teaches readers about Henry Stiegel, Robert Coleman, the Grubb Dynasty, Henry Watts and includes more than 120 illustrations.

Martin’s latest book may be purchased at Longenecker’s True Value in Manheim, Bomberger’s Ace Hardware in Lititz and Cornwall Iron Furnace Museum Gift Shop.

Dick Martin will give a presentation at the Lititz Library on Nov. 15 at 1:30 p.m. as part of the Lititz Historical Foundation’s ongoing lecture series.

Dick and his wife, Connie, are longtime residents in the village of Penryn. They are proud parents to three children: Gail, Shannon, and Vincent. The Martins are active in many areas of the community.

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