Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park


In 1872, Thomas Ward discovered silver near what's now Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park. The Ward District mines were controlled mainly by the Martin White Co. of San Francisco. To fuel the company's smelter, six 30'-high, parabolic charcoal ovens were built in 1873. The beehive-shape reflected heat back into the center, while three rows of vents around the base allowed for fine adjustment of temperature. It took 13 days to fill, burn, and empty a 35-cord oven. Each cord of wood produced about 30 bushels of charcoal. Eventually, the nearby timber was depleted, making the ovens less economical to use, and the smelter shut down in 1879.

Activity Details

Activity Type:Trips and Destinations
Discipline:Other
Topic(s):Technology/Materials
Grade:K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Time:Full day

Fun Fact:The charcoal ovens were made of quartz latite welded tuff that was quarried in the Ward District. After their function as charcoal ovens ended, they served diverse purposes, such as sheltering stockmen and prospectors during foul weather and even serving as a hideout for stagecoach bandits.