Sysco Blast Furnace
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Today the site is occupied by The Normandie Beach Resort, with the massive foundation of Sisco Furnace serving as the base of the tennis courts.
In about 1842, Francis H. Jackson originally of Boston, Massachusetts, was summoned here, based on his experience with the Port Henry Iron Company, as a consultant in the building of a furnace for David Henderson and Archibald McIntyre’s Adirondack Works. Upon completion of that project, Mr. Jackson bought the Sisco Farm to the North of Westport. With the property, he then was able to develop an iron works company as his personal business, and the site eventually became known as “Jacksonville”.
Mr. Jackson, with his wife and two children, lived in a house on the bench of the hills, above the workers houses, which, in turn, were above the furnace and dock. An enlightened operator, Mr. Jackson provided a beautiful setting of pine woods and lake shore for his iron works company. He planned housing arrangements and well-kept grounds, something highly unusual for an industrial complex of this type, in an era of industrial complexes with helter-skelter placed homes, stockpiles, and not a blade of grass in sight for half a mile.
Mr. Jackson’s furnace was built on the dock in 1846. In order to preserve its rich history, he named it “The Sisco (or “Siscoe”) Furnace. It was powered by two steam engines with four boilers. One provided a pre-heated blast for the furnace, while the other powered the ore stamps. The flux grinder sawed wood, and ran the derrick, which hoisted materials to the furnace top. At the original plant were eight well-built quadrangular charcoal kilns of fifty-six cord capacity each, and sheds to house some 6,000 cords of wood. These kilns and sheds were all interconnected with the furnace by a thousand feet of railroad.
A man long identified with the iron industry of Port Henry, Silas H. Witherbee, was one of the early managers at the Siscoe Furnace, as was Ralph Loveland. Victor A. Spencer was an early bookkeeper. In 1853 Francis H. Jackson had the furnace converted to use anthracite coal, which was delivered directly to his wharf by canal boats from Pennsylvania. The land and wood lots which had supplied charcoal were sold, and the extensive charcoal making complex lay idle. Lee and Sherman opened their Sanford Old Bed Mine in Moriah. Their first sale, in 1847, was 20,000 tons of ore shipped from Mineville to Jackson’s Sisco Furnace in Westport. Extensive re-building took place at the furnace in 1856. In that year, the furnace is reported to have turned out 4200 tons of pigs (“chiefly white iron”). This was followed by 3,741 tons run off during thirty-one weeks of 1857.
This was Jackson’s last go at iron-making, and in 1857 he and his family returned to Boston. The Furnace property was sold that same year to George W. Goff of Port Henry. A former town supervisor and pillar of the Presbyrterian Church, Deacon Goff used ore from his own “Goff Mine”, located just north of the Cheever bed in Moriah. During Deacon Goff’s tenancy, he occupied the Cutting House, today The Westport Inn. Deacon Goff kept the Sisco Furnace in sporadic operation until 1862.
The property was reportedly sold to the “Champlain Ore & Furnace Company”. It was one of the numerous iron properties in the area bought up by the Jay Cooke banking interests, beginning in 1864. Eventually the workers’ houses in Jacksonville were razed, and the “furnace on the dock” dismantled.
We are grateful for the recordings by the following historians: J.P. Lesley, J.T.Hodge, C.D. Warner and C. Eleanor Hall, Winslow D.Watson, Caroline Halstead-Royce, Morris F. Glenn, and Richard Sanders Allen
Related Sites Or Experiences
Westport Heritage House Westport, NY
The Iron Center Museum Port Henry, NY