Iron mining was an important industry in central Maryland from the
1600s through the early 1900s. Dinosaur Park is located on the site of
one 19th-century iron mine, part of the Muirkirk ironworks complex that
operated from 1874 to the 1920s. African American ironworkers dug
siderite, or iron ore, out of open pit mines, then melted it down at the
nearby furnace, producing pig iron used in construction and
manufacturing. These miners were the first to find dinosaur bones and
teeth in Maryland, most famously the remains of Astrodon
ironworker named Augustus Ross purchased land near the ironworks and
constructed a log home in the late 1880s. Other African American
ironworkers followed and soon the community of Rossville was formed.
There the families of Muirkirk ironworkers built a strong and vibrant
community with churches, schools, and social clubs that is still evident
Central Maryland iron production slowed and eventually
ceased in the early 20th century. The process of melting siderite relied
on charcoal, which had become increasingly expensive. At the same time,
transportation costs had come down, making imported iron more
competitive. When the Muirkirk ironworks closed, many workers began
farming full-time, while others got jobs with the Baltimore & Ohio
Railroad Company. Meanwhile, the open pit mines remained in use for many
decades as a source of clay for brickmaking.
Above: Muirkirk ironworkers, ca. 1920.
Back row: John Weems, unknown, Meschach Conway, William Tolliver, Benjamin Conway, unknown.
Middle Row: William Stewart, Will Franklin, Unknown.
Front Row: Shadrach Conway, Reason Ross.