The furnace was constructed in 1876 by Thomas Carkeek and Samuel Cornelius. The company of Bennett, Hoskins and George provided the funding for the construction. This company would buy “slag” from area frunaces and then re-melt the slag to extract more lead ore from the slag. Mr. William Berryman was the operator of the furnace.
“Each day that the furnace was used, a fireplace of limestone was built within the present standing arch. Clean sand was placed therein. As the fire gained headway, the fan (the fan was located in a frame addition attached to the east side of the furnace. An addition to the west housed the workmen, pot and moulds) was turned on and when a fearful heat had been created, alternate shovels full of coke, slag and charcoal were thrown into the roaring inferno.” (Dodgeville Chronicle, January 6,1949)
The slag furnace was used only in the summer months and only was fired up between noon and midnight. The morning was spent rebuilding the hearth, as a new one was built each day that the furnace was fired up. (Dodgeville Chronicle, January 6, 1949.)
Because the lead was heavier than the waste, it fell into the waiting receptacle while the waste flowed with water which cooled the waste material before it was discarded. (The Wisconsin Lead Region by Joseph Schafer, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1932, p.104)
The slag furnace has been saved due to the foresight and perservance of the Dodgeville Woman’s Club. This dedicated group recognized the historical importance of the structure. In 1934, a plaque was placed on the structure. About this same time, a fence was constructed to keep the cows out at a cost of $15.00. In 1938, it was purchased by the Dodgeville Woman’s Club from the Wisconsin Zinc Flotation Company for $1.00. Repairs were made on the chimney in 1967 and 1983. In 1996, the Dodgeville Woman’s Club deeded the structure back to the City of Dodgeville. The City of Dodgeville again repaired the furnace in 2011 and also added a sign explaining it’s historical significance.