Tyson Furnace: A Company Town

Image of oil on canvas painting, Tyson Furnace, by Myon Dimmick, ca. 1900.Tyson Furnace began operating in the southern part of Plymouth, Vermont,in 1835. Within two years a town grew up around the mines, blast furnaces, and foundry to house and feed the more than 100 employees. During its first seven years of operation the furnace produced 600 to 1,000 tons of iron annually, which was made into stoves, hollowware, mill gear, plows, and water pipes. Tyson’s accounts reveal a major industrial operation with products transported by wagons to Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River for distribution throughout the west and northeast.

Meet Some of the Tyson Workers

Workers were hired on an annual basis and some skilled employees, such as the iron molders, signed written contracts. Most people worked a six-day week. When the furnaces were active, workers were on call around the clock. Most of the workers were unmarried men who lived at the company boarding house and made purchases on credit at the company store. Some were immigrants from Ireland. As the company grew, some men brought their families to town, and a church and school were built.

Contract of Thomas Pedrick with Tyson Furnace, 1841.Thomas Pedrick was a highly skilled iron molder who signed an annual contract. He was responsible for the quality of the final iron castings, overseeing the pouring of molten iron into forms. In addition to his pay, he was provided with housing for his wife and two children.

Joel Wheeler was a teamster who freighted stoves using his wagon and team of four horses. One route included going west through the Sherburne Pass, down into Rutland, and then to the canal barges at Whitehall, New York. He also drove his team east to Windsor, carrying fifteen tons to boats on the Connecticut River. Unlike many Tyson workers, Wheeler had considerable independence and little supervision.

John Ryan came over to the United States from Ireland with his brother, Owen. They were laborers who had the backbreaking task of shoveling coal into the furnaces. The Ryans didn’t stay in company housing, boarding instead with the Pollard family in Plymouth.

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