MADISON IRON WORKS
Charles Carter Force was born in East Madison (Flor-ham Park) on May 4, 1818 to William and Aletta (Carter) Force. All his education was acquired in Madison schools and at age sixteen he became an apprentice to John B. Miller, son of Luke Miller, learning the machinist’s trade. The Forge repaired wagon wheels and made hand tools. It is thought that the blacksmith at the old Miller shop, located on Ridgedale Avenue at the Luke Miller house, shod George Washington’s horse.
Force served five years to become a certified machinist and blacksmith, continuing to work for Miller three additional years. A line of Screw Cotton Presses, which were used to press cotton into bales for transport to market, were invented at the forge during Force’s apprenticeship; the presses were on display at the Crystal Palace in New York but were destroyed when a fire broke out. The beautiful iron gates at the main entrance to the Gibbons Mansion (Drew University) were considered a fine example of the workmanship designed by Miller.
After eight years, Charles Force left the Miller shop and rented an old blacksmith shop on the Sayre farm behind the Madison Academy on Ridgedale Avenue. In 1843 he bought property from the Blanchard farm and built his home. It was only the second house on what would become Park Avenue, which at that time was a crooked country road with farmland on both sides. After the construction of his house, he married Harriet F. Moore and they had five children. He bought additional property next to his home and built a small blacksmithing business after his shop on Ridgedale Avenue burned down.
Business continued to prosper and contracts were received from all around the country for wrought iron projects. Decades later there was much excitement in the foundry when Eleanor Roosevelt paid the shop a visit during World War II.
Force was a staunch Republican and served as a Madison committeeman as well as a school trustee. The family were devoted members of the Presbyterian Church. In 1893, poor eyesight and eventual blindness forced the retirement of Charles Force. He died in 1906.
Researched and written by Staff Assistant Helene Corlett