The Pembroke Iron Works was the first large industry in Pembroke. Three different owners attempted and failed to successfully run the Iron Works before it was purchased by William E. Coffin & Company in 1849.
The first attempt was in 1828 by a firm from Philadelphia. They set up machinery but soon abandoned the project.
In 1831 another attemp was made when John Bartlett of Eastport partnered with General Ezekiel Foster. That year Theodore Lincoln had sold Foster 1550 acres of land that included the banks of the shore on both sides of the river including that with the falls for $20,000. In 3 short years this effort failed.
Horace Gray of Boston, Massachusetts bought the Iron Works but again it failed in three years.
Finally in 1849 William E. Coffin & Company of Boston obtained ownership. They appointed Lewis L. Wadsworth as the local agent. Under this partnership The Pembroke Iron Works prospered for more than 30 years. It employed more than 300 workers. In its peak the factory operated day and night in three shifts. Annually it produced 5000 tons of iron in the form of manufactured products including cut nails, spikes, hinges, horseshoe iron, gas piping, shaft iron, anchor chain iron, and boiler rivets.
The Works also hosted a company compound known as the 'English Village.' The village had 15 houses and was located near the Iron Works Church. A mansion was provided for the resident Agent as well . There was a chapel for Catholic workmen. The English Methodist worshipped at the Iron Works school house before building the Iron Works Methodist Episcopal Church, which was dedicated in 1863.
The Pembroke Iron Works owned its own fleet or coastal vessels to transport products to Boston and New York.
The schooner Vulcan was the first of these vessels. It ran on a regular schedule between Pembroke and Boston and later New York. The Vulcan was launched 1854 in Richmond, Maine and was commanded by Captain Charles Ramsdell. Captain Charles Ramsdell also commanded the schooner Pembroke built for the Iron Works at Kennebunk in 1867 as well as later commanding the schooner Venus. He retired from the Venus in 1871. They also owned the schooner Anvil which was built in the Hayden & Pattengall Shipyard in Pembroke.
The Pembroke Iron Works also own two Steamers, Pembroke and North. The North was a captured blockade runner.
Vessels loaded and unloaded cargo at the coal wharf. The coal wharf was located on the east bank of the Pennamaquan Bay. An ice free wharf was located on Garnett Point south of Coggins Head.
Soft coal from the Provinces was unloaded at a wharf a little south of the coal wharf, provided by Jared Putnam Hersey. Because the vessels were returning empty they were loaded with gravel from a nearby pit as a temporary ballast. Teams of horses transported coal, pig iron, ore, and other supplies from the wharves to the mill as well as transporting the finished product back to the wharves for shipping. The contract for moving goods was held by John M. Morgan and he used eighteen to twenty-four draft horses and a large force of men to provide the service. The stables were located above the dam on an island.
On February, the residence of the company agent was destroyed by fire.
The cost of keeping the Iron Works open proved to be too expensive. With only water power, some of the laborers and charcoal being sourced locally, the cost of shipping the final product and increasing competition from iron manufactures closer to the source of raw materials and the market caused the closing of the Iron Works.
In 1886 Elijah Sprague bought everything and by 1887 the mill, and other building were dismantled. Wharves, machinery and dwelling houses were disposed of in various ways.
Many of the workers who had migrated to Pembroke to work in the factory were forced to leave in search of employment elsewhere. This caused the population to decline quickly. In 1880 Pembroke had a population of 2354 individuals and by 1890 it was decreased to 1514.