One of the most unique events ever held at Historic Joanna Furnace was the Ironmaster's Wedding in June 2018. Dozens of visitors enjoyed an evening of living history complete with 19th century-style music, food and dress in the spirit of commemorating the 1868 wedding of ironmaster L. Heber and Ella Jane (Grubb) Smith.
During non-pandemic times, the rustic, 14-acre site at 1250 Furnace Road, Robeson Township, is a must-see stop on a road trip along Route 23 to Morgantown.
Started in 1791 by Samuel Potts, Thomas Rutter III, Thomas May and Thomas Bull, the charcoal iron furnace operated from 1791-1898, according to haycreek.org/joanna-furnace. It was named in honor of Pott’s wife, Joanna Holland Potts.
Joanna was a cold blast, single stack, charcoal iron furnace most of its life, ending in 1898 with the death of its last ironmaster, L. Heber Smith. The furnace was powered by water until the mid 1850s, and then used steam power. It produced cannonballs, cooking utensils, hinges and later sold pig iron to foundries.
In 1979, Hay Creek Valley Historical Association took over stewardship of the historic site. Hay Creek volunteers have put muscle and thought into extensive restoration work, public events and school tours for more than 40 years.
2019 was a big year for projects at Joanna. In August, for the first time, visitors could see the preserved bosh, which is the interior lining of the blast furnace. It is one of the last remaining boshes in the eastern United States. The $300,000 project, which included the blast furnace bosh, rebuilding the wheelwright shop and installing shutters on the office/store was underwritten in part by grants from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Conservation Equity Fund of Berks County Community Foundation.
The wheelwright project was based on 15 years of archeology work, according to Mark Zerr, executive director of the historical association.
This fall, the Hay Creek Valley Historical Association still held its popular events, including the Hay Creek Festival in September, and the annual Apple Festival in early October, scaling both events back to accommodate COVID-19 safety regulations.
At both festivals, visitors could pre-order homemade food, including apple crisp, apple cinnamon bread, apple fritters and apples and dumplings, all lovingly cooked by volunteers. Proceeds help sustain the historic site.
Speaking of sustaining, the Morgantown ReUzit Shoppe, at 2769 Main St., is part of a network of not-for-profit thrift stores that support local and global relief projects of the Mennonite Central Committee.
Open daily except Sundays, this spacious store, located in a distinctive white stone former church, blends the best of vintage and thrift treasures in an exceptionally clean environment. On a recent Saturday, reasonably priced items ranged from clothing, housewares and holiday decor to gently used designer handbags and sterling silver jewelry.
Your fall trip is complete after a visit to Mast Farms' Corn Maze, 2715 Main St., which has an all-you-can-carry pumpkin special for $18.95 on Fridays and Saturdays. Also nearby is Weaver's Orchard, 40 Fruit Lane, offering pick-your-own apples and pumpkins, plus an extensive farm market that's open year round.