Pine Grove Furnace – the Ironmaster’s Mansion (Gardners, Pa)

Posted on September 25, 2016 by


Yesterday afternoon, I had a chance for a quick dash through part of the countryside of central Pennsylvania. Having just enough time, I took a short detour toward Pine Grove Furnace. When I saw a sign for the Ironmaster’s Mansion, I wondered… could this be the Ege family home? Even if so, why would I care?


Well, my reasoning for stopping centers on Jane Louisa McKinney (daughter of Major Joseph McKinney, who I’ve referenced once before in a post in 2011)… my fourth great grandfather’s sister… who married Michael Peter Ege. I know nothing as to how Jane met Michael Peter Ege, but the Nov. 25, 1833 issue of the Adam’s Sentinel (Gettysburg) carried the announcement of their wedding:


From the History of the Families of McKinney-Brady-Quigley, I also know the following:

m. Nov. 20, 1833, Michael Peter Ege, b. Feb. 10, 1803, at Pine Grove, Cumberland Co., Penna., d. Mar. 29, 1853, at Philadelphia, Penna., son of Peter Ege, who owned the extensive furnaces at Pine Grove, and a grandson of Michael Ege, who was proprietor of the furnaces at Mount Holly, Boiling Springs and Pine Grove. Michael Peter Ege was married by the Rev. Henry Wilson, at the home of his wife in Shippens­burg, Penna. She was a woman of fine appearance and attainment’s, cultured and dignified, cordial and sincere. Her husband was engaged in the iron business at Pine Grove and Laurel Forge, and at that place he and his family resided for ten years. Quite a little settlement was established in that section of the valley, and life was pleasantly spent. Within a few miles of Carlisle, they had social advantages, and were not isolated, as many were, who lived in the country districts.

So, this is why I stopped at the Ironmaster’s Mansion at Pine Grove Furnace. Could it be the residence of my distance great grand aunt? I walked around the mansion, took a couple of photographs…

… and was fortunate enough to encounter the caretaker of the house for that evening (the old mansion now serves as a hostel for hikers and other travelers)… and was offered the opportunity to go inside for a tour. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire panel (sorry, it’s blurry) focused on the Ege family and their years there…

Here’s a close-up on portion of the panel that tells the story of the Ege family:

So, as of the financial collapse of the family’s “iron dynasty” in 1837*, it appears Peter Ege, father of Michael Peter Ege, still resided in the home that he built in 1829. My distant great grand aunt didn’t live there, but surely she was a regular visitor. A son, Joseph McKinney Ege, was even noted as having died at Pine Grove Furnace, in January, 1837 (perhaps at the mansion).


Ironmaster’s Mansion, 1870s.


Ironmaster’s Mansion, Sept. 24, 2016

Despite the bottom dropping out, Michael Peter Ege was able to find other employment. Again from the History of the Families of McKinney-Brady-Quigley:

In 1843 they removed to Philadelphia, where Mr. Ege was appointed Surveyor of Ports in the cus­tom house, which position he held until his death. They were Presbyterian in faith, brought up their children in their belief, were both eminently fitted for usefulness, full of kindness and sympathy, warm hearted and hospitable, and died within six months of each other.

As the extract states, both Michael Peter Ege and his wife died the same year… 1853… Michael died first, in March, 1853, at age 50, and Jane died in November, at only 40 years old. Both were buried in the Big Spring Presbyterian Church Cemetery, in Newville, Pa. The couple had only two children that lived to adulthood… one being George Arthur Ege (“Arthur” being the maiden name of his grandmother… the daughter of John Arthur, ironmaster and builder of Pine Grove Furnace), who had an interesting service record in the Civil War, beginning at as a private in the 2nd Ohio Infantry, at First Manassas, and ending as a Master’s Mate on the monitor Ozark.


Interestingly, the mansion was sold to Frederick Watts, the “Father of Penn State University” and president of the Cumberland Valley Railroad from 1840 – 1873. As it so happens, Jane McKinney Ege’s niece married Cyrus Saunders Moore… my third great grandfather… who worked as a passenger conductor on the Cumberland Valley Railroad during Watt’s presidency. Two of Cyrus’ sons, James Draden Moore and Cyrus Clifford Moore (second great granduncles to yours truly), also served on the same railroad line, from the 1880s – 1896).

As a sidebar, I also had the opportunity to view the trap door to a cellar hideaway… a stop on the underground railroad… probably used by the Watts family when they lived in the mansion.



*During the years 1835 to 1838 Peter Ege became involved financially to such an extent that a foreclosure was necessary for the payments of his creditors, and February 6, 1838, he agreed to waive all inquisitions and condemnations. The Pine Grove Furnace Estate was sold by the Sheriff July 21, 1838, to Frederick Watts and Charles B. Penrose for $52,500 and a Sheriff’s Deed Poll given dated August 20, 1838, for 35,000 acres located in Dickinson and South Middleton Townships, with a furnace, forge, coal houses, smith and carpenter shops, brick mansion houses, 30 log dwelling houses, grist and saw mill, etc. The property thus came into the ownership of Watts and Penrose, and Charles B. Penrose and Valeria his wife by their deed dated November 25, 1843, conveyed all his interest in the estate to Frederick Watts.(Source: Recollections, Historical and Otherwise, Relating to Old Pine Grove Furnace, by Horace Andrew Keefer).