by Jack Mariano
Local historian Gerry Treadway provided a vivid view of what life was like more than one hundred forty years ago when Parkesburg’s economy was booming due to the establishment and presence of one single industry, The Parkesburg Iron Company.
The very building that was intended to be the plant’s power source which is now the town’s borough hall was the scene of the Wednesday evening event attended by more than sixty people and featured several photos and artifacts from that bye gone era.
As Maris W. Mullen wrote (available on the Parkesburg Library web site):
H. A. Beale, Sr., of Coatesville, who had extensive experience in iron manufacture at Laurel, Coatesville, Phoenixville, Deer Creek,MD as well as a partnership in the Thorndale and Hibernia Iron plants, established the local iron works.
Mr. Beale sold out his interest in the Hibernia Iron Works and moved to Parkesburg where he set up operations in the former State Railroad Repair Shops. This site and buildings served the state-owned Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad as repair shops and main office from about 1835 until purchased by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1859.
On the removal of the shops to the Harrisburg area, Nelson P. Boyer used the buildings for a livestock, printing and steam mill operation until purchased by Mr. Beale, who set up an iron works of one plate mill, two heating furnaces and four forge fires that had a capacity of 5,000 tons of charcoal iron skelp. A. J. Williams was the general manager of the plant.
Mr. Beale made his home in the mansion at 200 S. Church St. which is now known as Beale Manor. His son, Horace A. Beale, Jr. built his residence just west of his father’s home what later became the Morris Hall Nursing home and was eventually torn down.
The town prospered as P.I.C.O. began to supply it’s superior charcoal iron skelp to tube manufacturers throughout the country.
The iron company closed on October 26, 1926 and was put up for public auction on September 19 and 20, 1928. Mr. Beale had died the year before and the properties were sold to pay off the company debts.
Although the Beale family gave much, the Borough has little to remind one of its great influence. Only the bell hanging in the Fire Hall belfrey and Beale Drive are reminders. The “Centennial Bell” was presented to Horace A. Beale, Sr. in 1872 for bringing industry to town while the Beale Drive designation of a portion of South Gay Street was done by the Borough Council during its 1972 Centennial Celebration.
Treadway also pointed out that the pipe organ located in the Ascension Church, Second Ave and West St. was also a gift from H.A. Beale Sr. who attested this church.
The link to Mullen’s Article can be found here:
At the closing of the informative evening, the audience was enlightened by David Jones that he and Treadway are in the process of formulating a plan to pursue, along with the Pennsylvania Historical And Museum Commission the designation of the Iron Company Site as a declared historical area indicated with a sign (similar the sign below) to be erected on First Avenue in front of the Borough Hall.
According to Wikipedia, there are 63 of these markers throughout Chester County. Locating and photographing these historic markers are a hobby to many people who drive around searching for them.
Keep an eye on local social media sties to see what you can do to help.