Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the Saugus Iron Works, the birth place of the Iron and Steel industries in North America. Saugus is now a National Park. Several prisoners of war from the Battle of Dunbar (1650) were ndentured to the Iron Works. Many of their descendants still live in Massachusetts and Maine today.
My genealogy friends will recall that Jon Cryer had an ancestor that was a prisoner of war from the Battle of Dunbar who was indentured here.
I first became interested in the Dunbar soldiers when I read about the discovery of a mass grave during some construction work at Durham Cathedral. Although I have no known ancestral ties to these men, they have pulled at my heartstrings every since I learned of their story.
The minerals needed for iron production are found in abundance in Saugus and as such it soon became the site of the first successful plant for the integrated production of cast and wrought iron. In addition to the rich supply of bog iron, the thick forests provided the wood that could be harvested for charcoal for the fires to melt the bog iron. Gabbro was used as a “flux” to help remove the impurities in the molten bog iron. The water from the Saugus River was diverted to power the water wheel.
The bog iron was melted in the blast furnace at temperatures of 3,000 degrees
Fahrenheit. The molten iron was poured into sand trenches which cooled it into sow iron. From this iron bars were made and sent to the forge where they were made into wrought iron. Within a couple of years of production, the Iron Works at Saugus rivalled any in Europe. The iron produced here was also shipped throughout Europe from this water terminus.
In In 1650, at the Battle of Dunbar, the English defeated the Scots. 10,000 Scots were captured. Roughly 4,000 were freed due to age, illness or injure and the remaining 6,000 were force marched from Dunbar to Durham Cathedral, some to110 miles south where they were to be imprisoned. Half of the men died on the journey. Of the 3,000 that were imprisoned at Durham, half died in captivity. The rest were eventually shipped to the colonies. The first 150 were sent to Massachusetts. Sixty-one of these were sold to the Saugus Iron Works.
The men were provided with housing, food, clothing, liquor and tobacco in exchange for their labour. Most worked as wood cutters. Some were more skilled and were employed in the production of the iron or in smithing the iron. Many of these hard working men went on to be very successful in their new lives in America.