RONNEBY (WJON News) -- Today there's nothing left of it but longtime Benton County residents might remember the old Ronneby Kiln.

The structure stood along Highway 23 and was built in 1900.

Benton County Historical Society Executive Director Mary Ostby says at that time Ronneby was bigger than Foley.

You had that whole area in the lumber business.  They had scrap wood that wasn't being used for construction or railroad ties or any use for it.  So, Gilbert Perry built this kiln.

The kiln turned that scrap lumber into charcoal.

You might be familiar with the old irons which they used to fill with little pieces of coal which allowed them to heat up to iron clothes.  They also had sled heaters that you could put your feet on that also used charcoal.  There were many uses at that time.

Ostby says they also shipped the charcoal out on the trains and it was used commercially in the iron and steel industries. The Ronneby Kiln was the only commercial coal kiln outside of the Twin Cities.

Photo courtesy of Benton County Historical Society
Photo courtesy of Benton County Historical Society

Unfortunately, its heyday only lasted for about 15 years before new fuel sources started being used.

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The kiln primarily sat empty after that with a brief period as a pig barn. In 1982 it was listed on the National Historical Registry, but the owner wasn't interested in preserving it and it fell into disrepair. It was demolished in 2002.

Once a month Ostby is on the News @ Noon Show talking about the forgotten history of Benton County.

Ghost Towns of Benton County

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