Hanging Rock History
27 March 1938
Submitted by Brenda Wilson
AUTHOR’S NOTE- As we considered the townships of Lawrence County by ranges from east to west we shall reverse the process with the incorporated municipalities and consider them from west to east. As they are all on the Ohio River, this means considering them in order, up stream - Hanging Rock, Ironton, Coal Grove, South Point, Chesapeake, Proctorville and Athalia. Not only is this perhaps the fairest method but it is almost necessary in the case of Hanging Rock, Ironton, and Coal Grove as the history of the second depends largely on the first, and that of the third on the second. We may say too, that we suppose much we shall say of these places will be already familiar to many readers, but we believe they will agree that it should be recorded in a series of this kind in all fairness to every section of the county. On the other hand necessity for brevity compels the omission of many interesting facts. - R.C. HALL
HANGING ROCK owes its existence to the old iron industry of which it became the center previous to the Civil War. A blast furnace was built there in 1824 but being a cold blast charcoal furnace and later a hot blast furnace, it did not attract unusual attention until after the war when Mr. JOHN PETERS bought it and began using native coal for smelting purposes. Meanwhile a small village had been established at that point, about the year eighteen hundred thirty (1830). It rapidly grew in importance as a shipping point for Iron and iron products and remained so until after the founding of Ironton and building of the Iron Railroad.
The village has always been handicapped by being crowded between the hill with its overhanging cliff and the river, but since the furnaces on the Ohio side of the river used it as a shipping point, gave its name to their products, and to the mineral region from which they came, its name became widely known and famous for one of the most important industries of modern times. Even after the removal of the seat of the industry to Ironton, Hanging Rock retained its celebrity and even its importance to a large extent. In eighteen hundred seventy (1870), its business and industrial importance was increased by the establishment of the Excelsior Foundry.
As the early history of Hanging Rock is the part of greatest interest, and as the following is found in the eighteen hundred forty-six (1846) edition of the celebrated Historical Collections of HENRY HOWE, a work long out of print and very rate, we quote the paragraph as follows:
“Hanging Rock, 17 miles below the county seat in the Ohio River, contains 1 church, 4 stores, a forge, a rolling mill, and a foundry - where excellent oar iron is made - and about 150 inhabitants. It is the great iron emporium of the county, and nearly all the iron is shipped there. It is contemplated to build a railroad from this place of about 15 miles in length, to the iron region, connecting it with the various furnaces. The village is named from a noted cliff of sandstone, about 400 feet in height, called the “Hanging Rock,” the upper portion of which projects over like the cornice of a house.
“Some years since, a wealthy iron master was buried at Hanging Rock, in compliance with his request, above ground, in an iron coffin. It was raised about two feet from the ground, supported by iron pillars, resting on a flat stone. Over all was placed an octagonal building of wood, about 12 feet diameter and 15 high, painted white, with a cupola-like roof, surmounted by a ball. It was in fact a tomb, but of so novel a description as to attract crowds of strangers, to the no small annoyance of the friends of the deceased, who, in consequence, removed the building and sunk the coffin into a grave near the spot”
Main Street runs thru Hanging Rock near the base of the hill and was no doubt so called because it was the main road thru the town. But a plat was also laid off just above the mouth of Osborne’s Run and between that creek and the river with streets paralleling the latter and named, from river toward hill, Front, Second and Third, while intersecting streets were named in order up stream Market, Center and Wood.
The chief industries of Hanging Rock during the last half of the 19th century were: the MEANS, KYLE and Co., proprietors of the Hamilton furnace and Hanging Rock Coal Works, the Hanging Rock Stove Co.; and B.W. RUMBLE grocery and dry goods.