Thomas Gould Gaylord provided the capital and entrepreneurial drive to establish Portsmouth as a major center for iron manufacturing, securing his pig iron from the numerous charcoal furnaces in what was to become known as the Hanging Rock Iron District, which stretched from northeastern Kentucky deep into southeastern Ohio, including the eastern part of Scioto and all of Lawrence County.
The original "Portsmouth Iron Works" were constructed by John Glover and Jacob P. Noel in 1832 on the Ohio river front, on the grounds of what is now known as York Park. The mill, however, soon faltered and, in 1834, its owners decided to sell their plant in hopes that an infusion of capital and new management could place the business on a sound footing.
Gaylord put in new boilers, replaced the old “knobbling” furnaces with the “puddling” furnaces, and changed out “the old fashioned" hammers with "rolls" to create the first “complete and modern rolling mill” west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
During the Civil War, Gaylord received large Federal contracts for iron plates, which were used in the construction of the first Ironclad battleships deployed by the Union Navy.
Thomas Gaylord and his family made their residence at the corner of Court and Front Streets, a short walk from his river front manufacturing operation. The Gaylord house still stands today, a testament to the earliest days of the iron industry in Portsmouth, Ohio.