It was in the year 1752 that iron ore was first mined along the road which today forms the William Penn Highway. The mine was located in present day Wernersville. This mine had only a narrow vein of ore, and only along the surface. In 1758 a second mine was opened. This one ran to a greater depth. Ore was mined at this location for a period of 74 years.
The ore was taken to a furnace which was located near the front entrance of present day South Mountain Manor Hotel. There it was melted into pig iron and hauled, by wagon, to a foundry located about two miles south of Ephrata. There the pigs were moulded into acles for the wheels of covered wagons. These wagons were the heavy schooners of the desert in a later period.
In 1775 the furnace at South Mountain was purchased by Mr. Peter Zeager, of Philadelphia. During the war for independence the South Mountain furnace was one of the largest in western Berks. At one time there were 60 men regularly employed at the furnace.
The making of pig iron was discontinued shortly after the war began in order that the furnace could meet orders for cannon balls as directed by Continental Congress. These balls varied in weight from a mere six pounds as high as 50 pounds. Some of these cannon balls can still be seen at the entrance to the South Mountain Manor and at the Pomeroy Estate on the Mountain South of Wernersville. Up to a few years ago it was not unusual to unearth cannon balls while plowing or digging in the soil near the furnace.
The cannon balls, made at South Mountain, were taken, by covered wagon convoys, to Philadelphia and then sent to Washington’s Army.
After the war Zaeger resumed the manufacture of pig iron and his products were sent to the Ephrata foundry. Years later, when the Reading Company was building its line from Reading to Harrisburg, the mine was purchased by that company. There the railroad builders secured the stone for their road beds.
One day, while blasting rock, a strong spring of water gushed forth and in two days time the mine was filled with water.
Today the trees and undergrowth surrounding the mine provide a haven for birds and the mineholes, itself, is a haven for fisherman trying to snare a bass.
Malcom J. MacCallum- Wernersville, PA
“The Minehole” Image Source: Luke David Sutliff