History of Buena Vista Furnace Historic Site

Built in 1847 by Henry McClelland, Elias McClelland, and Stephen A. Johnston, Buena Vista was named for the Mexican War battle fought in February 1847.

The thirty-foot high furnace used local iron ore, limestone and charcoal to produce approximately 400 tons of pig iron per year. Approximately 61 men and boys, and 30 horses and mules labored at Buena Vista. The ’pig iron’ was hauled by wagon to the Pennsylvania Canal at Ninevah near Johnstown.

The furnace property was sold at Sheriff’s Sale in 1850 to Dr. Alexander Johnston, production continued until 1856. In 1854 the furnace produced 560 tons of iron out of shell and bog ore. In 1900, Stephen Johnston sold a 67-acre parcel that included the Buena Vista Furnace to Judge A.V. Barker for $20,000. Barker sold it and other properties to the Lackawanna Coal and Coke Company in 1902. In 1917, the property passed to the Vinton Colliery Company.

In 1957, the Delano Coal Company sold the furnace and property to the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County. Since then repairs were curtailed due to a lack of access and additional damage caused by the Flood of 1977. The opening the Ghost Town Trail extension in 2006 renewed efforts to save the site and make it accessible to the public. The Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County leases the site to Indiana County Parks & Trails.

For an overview of the operation of an iron furnace and information about Indiana County’s iron furnaces see: Iron Furnaces of Indiana County.

An extensive history and background information about the Buena Vista Furnace written by Mr. Clarence Stephenson, Indiana County Historian, is available as a PDF file.