Lead Processing

The Dispatch

Pounding the Ore

“… a mill for stamping constructed…”

The simplest part of processing lead was the pounding. At Fort Roberdeau’s Leadworks we had a mill for the pounding of lead. However when the water ran low and the mill could not grind the ore, it would have been done by hand. In England and Scotland children as young as nine could be employed in the pounding of lead. We have no evidence of child labor being used at Fort Roberdeau. Once broken down the lumps of crude ore would have been sorted again and then sent to be washed.

Washing the Ore

It was not uncommon for ore to be washed inside a building called a wash and sorting house. The ore would be washed several times to clean it as much as possible prior to sending it for smelting. Many times the water in the wash house would be run straight through the building.

Smelting the Ore

Two small blast furnaces were built at Fort Roberdeau. The lead was shoveled into the furnaces with charcoal a small amount of lime. The smelted lead would flow into a reservoir. The hot lead would then be ladled into molds.

Weighing and Recording the Ore

We are not sure how much ore was processed at the fort. Very few records have been found. In 2016 a bar of ore was found in the Little Juniata not far from where it would have been loaded onto longboats at Waterstreet.