More on the Elk Ridge Furnace

This article is a follow up to the article “A Short History of the Elkridge Furnace,” by Ellen Kwan Lewis.

By Lee Preston and Mark Stout

Elk Ridge Landing was one of the first industrial towns in America. Situated on the edge of the coastal plain, it featured a deep water port and access to both iron ore and fuel for furnaces. It was settled as early as the 1690’s, and was an important shipping entrepôt by 1755 — the year that the Elk Ridge Furnace was founded by Alexander Lawson, Edward Dorsey, and Caleb Dorsey Jr. While it has typically been presumed that the surviving brick buildings were part of the furnace operation from the 18th Century, Peter Kurtze noted in his National Register nomination for the property that the two buildings were likely built in the 1830’s, and attributed them to the Ellicotts. 

Caleb Dorsey’s October 3, 1755 Condemnation writ (S520-3/92) for a 100 acre parcel included this language, “on a run of water near the dwelling house of Caleb Dorsey,” for the purpose of “building a forge mill for running of pig iron.” The courses and distances on the 100-acre condemned parcel began, “at the northeast corner of a grist mill house situate on a tract of land called Mores Morning Choice.” Caleb, his brother Edward and iron-master Alexander Lawson formed the Elkridge Company partnership (IB3/293) in 1755, and opened the iron furnace in 1756.


  In 1769 Samuel Dorsey, Caleb’s older son leased lot five at the Landing from Julius Claire, who later willed the parcel to Samuel. Samuel built an air furnace on that site and in the 1770’s, provided bayonets and canon swivels, in support of the revolution to the Council of Safety. An air furnace did not require waterpower as a furnace or forge; but its coal bed and 30-40 ft chimney generated enough heat to melt pig or bar iron which was then cast into molds tended by potters.

Samuel died in 1777, but the air furnace was operational in 1780. Daniel Hughes and William Russell, who had leased another lot at the Landing, placed an advertisement in the Maryland Journal, in February 1780, for “five or six potters.”


The Hockley Forge property was owned by Charles Carroll of Annapolis and opened in 1760. Carroll was part owner of the Baltimore Iron Works furnace. A forge was a second step in the production of better-quality iron products. It removed most of the impurities left in the pig iron bars produced in a furnace. The excerpt below from a 1752 letter to his son Charles Carroll of Carrollton states Charles Carroll’s intentions for buying the Hockley property in 1748, adding additional land on both sides of the Patapsco River, renaming the 285-acre patent Barran Hills and building a forge.


In 1825, the Ellicotts purchased a six-acre parcel from Charles Hopkins (WSG 11/509) and constructed an iron furnace and furnace race at the present location of the Elkridge Furnace Inn. The present Elkridge Furnace Inn is a 19th century site, the Dorsey Furnace on ElkRidge and the Dorsey Forge in Baltimore County, as well as Samuel Dorsey’s air furnace on lot five at the Landing are 18th century sites.