The fortunes of Homewood Junction have risen and fallen with the growth and decline of the railroads. Part of South Beaver Township in 1800, and passing into Big Beaver Township in 1802, the tract in which the present village lies was sold by William Grimshaw to Joseph M. Smith in 1831. This area slumbered until the construction of the Ohio and Pennsylvania RR through it in 1852. The junction of the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne and Chicago Railroad with the Erie and Pittsburgh line was eventually located at the present village site. In 1859, Joseph M. Smith laid out the village which reportedly took the name Homewood Junction from one James Wood, who a year earlier had built an iron furnace along the Beaver River, about two miles from where the rail lines would meet.
Early settlers in Homewood Junction were David Johnston, William Foster, Adam Garner, John C. Chapman, and Jonathan Grist. At the Junction itself, the Pennsylvania Railroad would at one time employ over 100 men in its maintenance department alone. The Homewood Stone Quarry was also an important local industry, and an ice house located at Homewood Reservoir employed 25 to 30 people.
In 1869, a small frame building was built to house the Homewood Methodist Episcopal Church; the Reverend J. W. Claybaugh was the first minister.
During the later 1800's and early 1900's, while railroads served as the nation's foremost means of transportation, Homewood flourished. It became a Borough on September 10, 1910, with Charles Hunter elected its first burgess. In 1911, a school was opened in the basement of the Methodist Episcopal Church building. By 1915, a new two story brick school had been built. The Harmony Streetcar Line was built through the new Borough in 1914. It carried passengers to Pittsburgh, and, after a transfer in New Castle, to Youngstown, Ohio. (Remains of the streetcar line as well as the old stone quarry may be seen in the area behind present Conley's Motel on Route 18.)
As the fortunes of the railroads declined, local industries - which had served the railroads or had been served by them, closed out. Today, Homewood Junction, rather than a busy railroad junction, is a quiet residential community, whose residents commute to work in other communities. Homewood Junction is included in the Big Beaver Falls Area School District.
Courtesy of Beaver County Bicentennial Atlas
The Homewood Iron Furnace and James Wood
More than 200 furnaces have been recorded in the State, with three of them located in this region. They were in Brighton (now Beaver Falls), Homewood and the Bassenheim Furnace in Butler County near Zelienople, owned by Count Detmar Basse, the founder of the town.
The Homewood Furnace was built by James Wood, who was born in New York City on December 17, 1789, son of a Quaker family. He grew to become a man of sturdy upbringing with unquestioned probity and excellence of character. He came to Pennsylvania after being a river boat captain until 1835, and at the age of 46, he settled in Pittsburgh and became a factor in building that city.
He established a cotton mill, saw mill and an iron furnace and rolling mill in Pittsburgh with his partners, Eagle and McKnight in 1857. The Homewood iron Furnace was constructed on the Beaver River in 1858 in what is now Wayne Township just south of Connoquennessing Creek. It had a capacity of five tons and produced "pig iron" and miscellaneous castings such as fireplace backplates and flat irons.
When James Wood put the furnace into blast, he erected a sign with the words - "Homewood Station" - and the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad later identified a station near the mouth of the Connoquennessing Creek by that name for many years.
Iron ore was hand picked from the surrounding grounds and charcoal made from the trees that grew abundantly along the river. James Wood purchased 200 acres of land in Wayne Township at the mouth of the Connoquennessing Creek for additional iron facilities that he planned near the Homewood furnace along the south side of the creek and along the Beaver eastern shore.
In 1860, Wood built four furnaces in Wheatland, which were operated successfully. They were the first furnaces west of the Allegheny Mountains to operate on coke made from bituminous coal found in abundance in the area. In fact, all of his enterprises succeeded because they were properly located, the plants economically and practically constructed according to the best approved plans, and operated diligently, with the knowledge of the business in all details.
He married Hannah Baldwin soon after settling in Pittsburgh and was fond of his home and family. His domestic life was as happy as his business career was successful. He was content with the rewards of industry, enterprise, and the large fruits garnered from investments based on sagacity and farsightedness. He never sought public notice or public office, preferring the serenity of a well-ordered private life, and the quiet comfort of a happy home. He was charitable, making gifts to worthy organizations and deserving individuals, and yet amassed a large fortune by methods entirely honest. He dies on November 2, 1867.
The Homewood Furnace operated until it was put "out of blast" after ten years of service in 1867/1868. The old furnace site is located on the Beaver River opposite the present day Wolverine Restaurant on Route 351 north of the Koppel Bridge.
No known photos of the James Wood furnaces are known to exist. The photo to the left is of the California Furnace located on Rolling Rock Run in Ligonier Township, Westmorlend County, Western Pennsylvania. The furnace was built in 1853 and is most probably of similar design to the Homewood Furnace.
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