News Tribune Article - July 26, 2007


By Peggy Smith Hake

The Iberia charcoal kilns were built in the mid 20th century by Walter Perry Hedges and Everett Smith, both of Iberia. They kept the kilns for a few years and employed several people of the region as woodcutters and transporters of cord wood. There was a huge amount of trees felled in the area and brought to Iberia Kilns.

Later (I have not found the year yet), the kilns were bought by Dr. Anthony Castaldi of Meta, Osage County, MO.....Dr. Castaldi was a native of New York and came to the Meta area about 1936 and set up a medical practice. Actually he took over the practice of Dr. S. E. Gaston who had been practicing in Meta for a few years and had to give up his medical profession because of ill health. Dr. Castildi also owned the Meta Drug Store in the early 1970s and dealt in sundries and drugs for the community. In the book, SEVENTY-FIFTH ANNIVERARY AND HOMECOMING AT META, MISSOURI (October 2, 1977), there is a picture of Dr. Castildi featured.

 Iberia Charcoal Kilns
Iberia Charcoal Kilns

Dr. Castaldi, now deceased, had owned and operated charcoal kilns on the south side of Meta and evidently decided to purchase the Iberia kilns.

Many wood cutters of the area brought their trucks, loaded with the cord wood, to the kilns over the years which proved to be a profitable business for both the owners and the haulers.

Several men cut and transported wood to both Meta and Iberia. Some of those men included Carlos Helton, Doyle Hogue, Stedman Copeland, and many others. Others who were employed at the kilns over the years included Bob Lilly, Waid McCubbin, Don McCubbin, Louis Stegeman, Bill Blankenship, Jim Barton......The present owner of the land is Dean Baker of Iberia.

At Iberia, there were 10 kilns built on a hillside south of Iberia and located to the east of Highway 17. They are still visible today as one travels south toward Crocker.

A couple of the kilns exploded overnight in the past and had complete and total damage. The wood was put into the kilns to burn overnight to make the charcoal and according to one source, it was not properly ventilated causing the explosion during the night. No one was injured in the remains today in the same condition as when it was damaged many years ago. Eight of the kilns are still standing today, but not in use.


I looked for some information on the Internet concerning charcoal and the procedures used to make the fuel and found the following written in a few articles.........

The making of charcoal is an ancient art, which may have begun over 7,000 years ago with the smelting of copper in southern Europe, the Middle East, and Egypt.

About 4,000 year ago was the beginning of the Bronze Age and the use of charcoal was commonplace. Wildwood covered most of England after the last ice age and by 1,000 B.C. about 50% of the timber had been cleared.

By 1334, charcoal had found a new use as a constituent of gunpowder. "Blast Furnaces" were fed by charcoal and cannons were cast in large furnaces. By 1735, the conversion of coal resulted in the creation of coke, which became more preferred and charcoal's importance had begun to decline in England.

Kilns were built in a 'bee hive' mode and were thicker at the base and had two openings--2/3 up the wall for feeding wood into the kilns and drawing the fire and one at the base for removing ashes and other concentrates. Both openings were covered by hinged iron doors.......a kiln 16 feet high held 15 cord of wood; those built 26 feet high held 45 cord of wood. Wood was usually burned for 3 to 7 days and was left to cool for 3 to 6 days.

Charcoal was finally used as an absorption of gasses and purifying liquids, which was used in gas masks and to refine chemical solutions. Now its most popular use is as a barbeque fuel.

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