Thomas Williamson Means, iron manufacturer, son of John and Anne (Williamson) Means, was born November 3, 1803, in Spartansburg, South Carolina. He spent six years in a select school established by his father, which was chiefly for the education of his own children, and he acquired, not only a fine English education, but also a respectable knowledge of the classics. His father moved to Ohio in 1819, when he was sixteen years of age. He labored upon his father's farm and clerked in a store for several years in which his father was interested in West Union, and in 1826 he took a flatboat loaded with produce to New Orleans. In the same year he became storekeeper at Union Furnace which his father and others were then building four miles from Hanging Rock. This was the first blast furnace built in Ohio in the Hanging Rock region, and he had the pleasure of first "firing" it. The old Steam, Hopewell, Pactolus and Argillite were the only furnaces previous in existence in that region and they were in Kentucky. Since 1885, the old Union has not been in operation, but the lands belonging to it are yet, in part, owned by his heirs. In 1837, he and David Sinton became the owners of Union Furnace and rebuilt it in 1844. In 1845, they built Ohio Furnace. In 1847, he became interested in, and helped build Buena Vista Furnace in Kentucky. In 1852, he bought Bellefonte Furnace in Kentucky. In 1854, he became interested in and helped build Vinton Furnace in Ohio; in 1863, in connection with others, bought Pine Grove Furnace in Kentucky, and the Hanging Rock coal works, and in the following year, with others, bought Amanda Furnace in Kentucky. In 1845, he and David Sinton built a tram-road to Ohio Furnace, one of the first roads of its kind built in Ohio, and now a railroad five miles in length runs from the river to Pine Grove Furnace. The Ohio was the first charcoal furnace in the country which made as high as ten tons a day and was the first that averaged over fifteen tons. This furnace also produced iron with less expense to the ton than had then been achieved in any other. In 1832, when the Union had been worked up to six tons a day, the Pennsylvania furnaces were averaging but two tons. He, in connection with the Culbertsons, built the Princess, a stonecoal furnace, ten miles from Ashland, in Kentucky, and also, later with Capt. John Kyle and E. B. Willard, built another at Hanging Rock. In the first year of Union Furnace, three hundred tons of iron were produced; in the last year, 1855, it reached twenty-five hundred. Three hundred in 1837 was as large a yearly production as had been reached in the United States, and this rate was fully up to that of England. The largest furnaces now reach fifteen thousand tons a month in this country.

Under the superintendence of himself and David Sinton, the experiments for introducing the hot blast were first made, and at their Union Furnace they put up the second hot blast in the United States, only a few years after its introduction in 1828. This was probably the greatest step forward that had yet been made in the manufacture of iron. Always favoring the advance in improvements, many changes were made by him in the form of furnaces and in the modes of operating them. Under his patronage, in 1860, at Ohio Furnace, was introduced the Davis hot blast, which greatly improved and modified the charcoal furnaces of the country. He was longer engaged and doubtless more extensively and directly concerned in the growth and prosperity of the iron business than any other man in the Ohio Valley. Besides his large interests in the various furnaces, he had a very considerable interest in eighteen thousand acres of iron ore, coal and farm lands in Ohio, and nearly fifty thousand acres in Kentucky. He was one of the originators of the Cincinnati and Big Sandy Packet Company and was its leading stockholder; was one of the incorporators of the Norton Iron Works of Ashland, Kentucky, and one of its largest stockholders; helped lay out the town of Ashland, was a large stockholder in the Ironton "Ohio Iron Railroad Company;" was one of the originators of the Second National Bank of Ironton, and its president at the organization in 1864, and was also a stockholder of the Ashland National Bank.

In 1865, he purchased a farm near Hanging Rock and resided there several years. He cast his first Presidential vote for John Quincy Adams, and was indentified with the Whig party while it lasted. At its dissolution, he became a Republican, and during the Civil War was an ardent supporter of the National Government. In his religious views, he was a Presbyterian, but not a member of any church. After the organization of the Congregational Church in Ironton, he attended that.

He was a man of fine personal appearance and correct business habits; of a strong constitution, able to sustain a long life of incessant activity; with a high sense of social and business integrity, his great fortune was the legitimate result of uncommon business ability and judgment. He possesed a pleasing address, was agreeable in manners and wholly void of ostentation. He had a peculiarly retentive memory as to historical and statistical facts. He could give names, dates of election and length of terms of State and National officers—Presidents, Congressmen, U. S. Justices, etc. Could give dates and other facts as to tariff legislation, and as to treaties with foreign countries ; also could give in millions, tons, bushels, dollars, values of the imports and exports and production by the United States, and of many of the States, for instance, of cotton, corn, wheat, hay, iron, wines, etc. He was fond of discussion, and often in argument about protection, etc., surprised hearers at his accurate knowledge of matters. He had always a good general knowledge of his business affairs, was good at planning, but poor in detail. Was fearless of man or beast, but careless as to his dress.

Mr. Means was married December 4, 1828, to Sarah Ellison, daughter of John Ellison, Jr.. of Buckeye Station, Adams County. She died in 1871 at the age of sixty-one in their home at Hanging Rock. Their children now living are John, of Ashland, William and Margaret. In December, 1881, he bought a residence in Ashland, Kentucky, where he lived until his death, June 8, 1890. No man did more for the development of the Hanging Rock iron region that he, and in that respect he was a great public benefactor.

 

From "History of Adams County, Ohio from its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time" - by Nelson W. Evans and Emmons B. Stivers - West Union, Ohio - Published by E. B. Stivers - 1900