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Alabama Blast Furnaces

Written by Joseph H. Woodward and introduction by James R. Bennett

Publication Year: 2007

This work is the first and remains the only source of information on all blast furnaces built and operated in Alabama, from the first known charcoal furnace of 1815 (Cedar Creek Furnace in Franklin County) to the coke-fired giants built before the onset of the Great Depression. Woodward surveys the iron industry from the early, small local market furnaces through the rise of the iron industry in support of the Confederate war effort, to the giant internationally important industry that developed in the 1890s. The bulk of the book consists of individual illustrated histories of all blast furnaces ever constructed and operated in the state? furnaces that went into production and four that were built but never went into blast. Written to provide a record of every blast furnace built in Alabama from 1815 to 1940, this book was widely acclaimed and today remains one of the most quoted references on the iron and steel industry.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

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pp. 7-8

The manufacture of pig iron in Alabama is the most important industry of the State and is a vital factor in the prosperity and welfare of its people. ...

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pp. 9-10

Acknowledgment is also made to the personnel of these various institutions and organizations as well as to the many individuals associated with the development of Alabama's iron industry, who have generously assisted by supplying information incorporated in this volume. For much valuable data we are also indebted to "The Story of Coal and Iron in Alabama" by Miss Ethel Armes. ...

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pp. 13-14

History of iron making in the State of Alabama covers a period of one hundred and twenty-five years. This history may be divided roughly into four divisions: ...

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Pioneer Era - 1815-1861

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pp. 15-18

I N 1815-four years before Alabama was admitted to the Union-the first blast furnace was erected in the state.So closely integrated with community life was this and other blast furnaces built during this pioneer era of Alabama's iron industry, that any chronicle of these iron makers must be set against the frontier back In 1815, and for many years thereafter, North Alabama was a frontier...

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Civil War Era - 1861-1865

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pp. 19-24

OVER the peaceful scene in Alabama, long-hovering war clouds broke in 1861. One by one the Southern States seceded, the Confederacy was formed, the tragic Civil War ensued. At the outset both the Union and Confederacy anticipated a brief war and a decisive victory. During the first year of hostilities, importations from abroad provided a large part ...

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Reconstruction Era - 1866-1879

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pp. 25-26

The years which followed in the wake of the Civil War have been called the "tragic era" in the South's history. That four-year conflict left Alabama and other Southern states stripped of wealth and re sources, with almost every industry paralyzed and prostrate. To this bitter cup of defeat was added military rule and martial law with "carpetbag"...

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Modern Era - 1880-1940

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pp. 27-30

I N 1880 the first two coke furnaces in Alabama went into blast. Building of these plants and their successful operation may be considered the beginning of modern pig iron manufacture in Alabama, which up to that time had been merely a minor charcoal iron producing state. Opening near Birmingham of two immense coal fields in close proximity to vast ore bodies made these furnaces possible assuring an abundant and ...

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pp. 31-34

SEVENTY-SEVEN blast furnaces have been built and operated in the State of Alabama. Four more furnaces were either partially completed or, if completed, were never operated. Out of this total of 81 furnaces 32 were built to use charcoal as fuel and of this number 10 used coke at some time during their operation. Five of these 11 furnaces were later permanently converted for coke fuel. Since 1877 forty...

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Alabama City Furnace: Etowah County (near Gadsden) January 17, 1904

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pp. 35-36

In 1898 the Alabama Steel & Wire Company was formed and a small wire mill erected in Ensley, Alabama. This company obtained its supply of steel from the adjacent works of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company and prospered for several years, to such extent that it decided to expand and make its own steel. Accordingly, a tract of land was purchased. two miles west of Gadsden, Ala., and late in 1902 the ...

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Alice Furnace: Birmingham, Jefferson County

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pp. 37-38

I N 1879 Col. H. F. DeBardeleben and T. T. Hillman formed the Alice Furnace Co. with capital of $80,000 and on Sept. 29, 1879 ground was broken for erection of the first furnace (Alice No.1) within the limits of Birmingham, and the fourth to be built in Jefferson County. The plant was located on First Avenue north just west of 14th Street. The furnace was blown in Nov. 23, 1880. Dimensions of the stack were ...

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Attalla Furnace: (Known also as The Eagle Furnace) Attalia, Etowah County June 10, 1889

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p. 39-39

THE town of Attalla, once the site of an important Indian village, is situated about five miles due west of Gadsden in the county of Etowah. Here in 1888 the Southern Iron Co. of Nashville, Tenn. began the construction of a small charcoal blast furnace for the purpose of utilizing the local red and brown hematite of both Etowah and Cherokee Counties. This furnace went into blast June 10, 1889. Its stack was ...

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Battelle Furnace: DeKalb County - near Georgia Line Sept. 10, 1904

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pp. 40-41

The Lookout Mountain Iron Co. was organized In April 1902 with a capital stock of $1,000,000 with the intent of developing a tract of 15,000 acres of ore and coal land. Most of this capital was raised in Ohio and some of the best known men in the iron business invested in the company and served on its board or directors. The Lookout Mountain ...

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Bay State Furnace: Fort Payne, DeKalb County Abandoned 1891

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p. 42-42

THE town of Fort Payne in DeKalb County became for a few years the Mecca of New England capital. Within the short space of three years no less than $5,000,000 was spent here in the building of industries. ...

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Bessemer Furnaces: Bessemer, Jefferson County

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pp. 43-45

FIVE blast furnaces have been built in the City of Bessemer, Jefferson County, Ala. Three companies began the work but their history is identical after the first year or so. Under these circumstances it will be clearer to treat the five Bessemer furnaces as a unit rather than as separate enterprises. ...

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Bibb Furnaces: (Known also as Brierfield, Strother, and Bibb Naval Furnaces) Bibb County, near Brierfield

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pp. 46-51

THE State of Alabama seceded from the Union on Jan. 11, 1861 and during the turbulence and confusion of this same year, Bibb County's second blast furnace was constructed under the leadership of C. C. Huckabee and Johnathan Newton Smith, who organized the Bibb County Iron Co. for that purpose. This furnace was two miles from the town ...

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Cane Creek Furnace: (Known also as Hades Iron Works, Benton County Iron Works, Goode & Moore's Iron Works, Old Polkville Furnace, Crowe's Iron Works) Calhoun County, near Anniston

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pp. 51-53

JACOB STROUP, descendent of Pennsylvania iron-masters who had cast cannon for the Continental Army during the American Revolution, built the second blast furnace in the State of Alabama. Jacob Stroup is credited also with having built the first iron works of both South Carolina and Georgia. Some time prior to the election of William Henry Harrison in November 1840, as President of the United States, Stroup blew ...

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Cedar Creek Furnace: (Known also as Alabama Iron Works, Old Napier) Franklin County, near Russellville

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pp. 54-55

I N 1815 the armies of Napoleon were defeated on the field of Waterloo and a semblance of peace was restored to a war weary Europe. On January 8, 1815, the makeshift army of Kentucky and Tennessee volunteers under Gen. Andrew Jackson defeated the British at New Orleans in the last battle of the War of 1812. ...

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Cole Furnaces: Sheffield, Colbert County

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pp. 56-57

A PORTION of the land on which the three Cole furnaces were erected his brother James. In 1883 all the land now embraced by the city of Sheffield was acquired by the Sheffield Land, Iron & Coal Co., and in May of 1884 lots were put on sale and Sheffield was founded. ...

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Cornwall Furnace: Cherokee County, near Centre

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pp. 58-61

AS the Civil War entered the second year the Confederacy began to feel the lack of supplies. The Union blockade was strengthened from day to day and the importation of foreign munitions became more and more difficult. The armies of the Confederacy were proving their worth in the field but the supplies behind the lines were proving inadequate. ...

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Decatur Furnace: Decatur, Morgan County

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p. 62-62

ANOTHER of the old towns of Alabama which experienced the great building boom of the 1880's was Decatur. This boom was begun in Decatur by the Decatur Land and Improvement Co., which company bought several thousand acres surrounding the town, then induced various enterprises to build, giving the factory sites. Among this number was ...

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Edwards Furnace: Woodstock, Bibb County

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pp. 63-64

GILES EDWARDS, a Welshman whose family had been in the iron trade for many years in Wales, was a prominent figure in the iron industry of the South for almost 40 years. As early as 1860 Giles Edwards was superintendent of the first furnace in the Deep South to use coke in the making of pig iron. During the Civil War, he was Assistant General Superintendent at the famous Shelby Iron Co. in Shelby County,...

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Ensley & Fairfield Furnaces: Ensley and Fairfield, Jefferson County

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pp. 65-67

IN 1885 the Pratt Coal and Coke Company was the largest holder of coal lands in Alabama and furnished almost all the coke then being consumed in the Birmingham District. In 1886 an option which had been secured on the Pratt holdings by a group of Tennessee capitalists headed by Enoch Ensley of Nashville, was exercised. The Alice Furnace Company ...

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Etowah Furnaces: (Known also as Gadsden-Alabama Furnace) Gadsden, Etowah County

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pp. 68-69

THE Gadsden-Alabama Furnace Co. was formed III 1887 and work was commenced immediately on a blast furnace located on the east side of the town of Gadsden. On Oct. 14, 1888 this furnace was blown Ill. The stack was 75' high and 16' in the bosh; the annual capacity being rated at 35,000 tons. ...

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Fort Payne Furnace: Fort Payne, DeKalb County

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pp. 70-71

OF the many boom towns of the 1880's, Fort Payne is the best remembered. The Fort Payne Land and Improvement Co. purchased in 1886-7 some 36,000 acres in Wills Valley, DeKalb County. Fifty thousand shares of stock with a par value of $100 per share were issued. This stock was sold all over the country and the boom was on. ...

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Gadsden Furnace: (Known also as Coosa Furnace, Quinn Furnace) Gadsden, Etowah County

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pp. 72-73

THE first blast furnace erected in the Gadsden district was the Gadsden Furnace of the Gadsden Iron Co. In 1881 the Crawfords of Indiana came South to select a location for an iron making operation and chose a site on the banks of the Coosa River within the limits of the City of Gadsden. Material for this furnace was salvaged from the dismantled ...

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Hale & Murdock Furnace; (Known also as Wilson's Creek, Old Winston and Weston Furnace) Lamar County, near Vernon

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p. 74-74

IN 1859, when war clouds were already gathering, two New Englanders-Harrison Hale and Abraham Murdock-who had moved South to Columbus, Miss., built the first and only blast furnace ever erected in western Alabama. ...

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Hattie Ensley Furnace: Sheffield, Colbert County

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pp. 82-83

THE Sheffield Land, Iron and Coal Co. promoted much of the City of Sheffield in Colbert County, Alabama. This company offered free certain tracts of lands on the Tennessee River to new enterprises. One such tract of twenty acres was deeded on Oct. 1, 1887 by the above to the Sheffield Furnace Co. A blast furnace was started in 1886 and on New ...

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Holt Furnace: Holt, Tuscaloosa County

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pp. 77-79

IN the year 1899, nine small plants were producing practically all the sanitary pipe and fittings made in the United States. These plants were widely separated with units located in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Indiana, Tennessee and three in Alabama at Anniston, Gadsden and Bessemer. In that year a group of Eastern business men con ...

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Ironaton Furnaces: (Known also as Clifton Furnaces) Talladega County, near Talladega

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pp. 80-81

THE Clifton Iron Co. was incorporated in 1880 with a capital of $300,000, most of which was subscribed by Samuel Noble and his brothers. Horace Ware put up certain ore lands which he had bought just after the Civil War. At a place nine miles east of the town of Talladega and in the County of Talladega, they built a charcoal furnace. ...

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Irondale Furnace: (Known also as Cahawba Iron Works, McKee Furnace) Jefferson County, near Birmingham

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pp. 82-86

ON April 6, 1862 the Battle of Shiloh began and the following day the Confederate retreat started Northward. Northwest Mississippi came under the dominance of the Union Army. At Holly Springs, Mississippi, Jones-McElwain and Co. had a foundry at which ordnance was cast for the Confederate Government but after the Battle of Corinth, ...

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Janney Furnace: Calhoun County, near Ohatchee Destroyed 1864

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pp. 87-89

ON Jan. 1, 1863 Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The Battle of Gettysburg was fought that year and the star of the Confederacy began to set. The armies of the North were pushing deeper and deeper into the Southland. ...

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Jenifer Furnace: (Known also as Salt Creek and Alabama Furnace) Talladega County, near Munford

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pp. 90-93

FOR one moment the battle flag of the Confederacy broke through the Union lines at Gettysburg, faltered and fell back. The turning point had come. That July afternoon in 1863 marked the beginning of the end of the Confederacy. The industrially poor South needed desperately cannon and arms for the Army of the Potomac, the Army of the West ...

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Knight Furnace: (Known also as Choccolocco Iron Works) Talladega County, near Munford

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pp. 94-95

J.L. and W. C. Orr together with Samuel Hunter bought in 1854 the property of a Mr. Bagby, "twelve miles northeast of Talladega, on Choccolocco Creek, on which they have erected a large and capacious building, and have procured all the machinery that can be profitably used in manufacturing Cotton Gins."...

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Lady Ensley Furnace: Sheffield, Colbert County

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p. 96-96

I N 1888 Enoch Ensley of Nashville, Tenn., who had recently sold his interests in the Birmingham District, took his capital to North Alabama and formed the Lady Ensley Furnace Co. He was deeded a twenty acre tract on the Tennessee River on May 21, 1888 by the Sheffield Land, Iron and Coal Co. with the stipulation that a blast furnace be erected there on. This property adjoined that of the "Hattie Ensley" Furnace in the ...

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Little Cahaba Furnaces: (Known also as Brighthope Furnace and Browne's Dam Furnace) On Little Cahaba River, Bibb County

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pp. 97-99

HISTORY of the Little Cahaba Iron Works is largely lost in the mists of the past. One of the oldest furnaces of the state, it is nevertheless one which has left little authentic data on its operations. It is a matter of record, however, that on Sept. 2, 1846 William Phineas Browne entered land in Bibb County as "SW1/4 SW1/4 of Sec. 13, Township 24, ...

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Mary Pratt Furnace: Birmingham, Jefferson County

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pp. 100-101

IN 1882 H. F. DeBardeleben and W. T. Underwood began erection of the Mary Pratt furnace-the third to be built in Birmingham-on a tract purchased from the Elyton Land Company. The property bordered on First Avenue and lay between the present Sloss City furnaces and the Avondale Mills in Birmingham....

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Montgomery Furnace: Montgomery County, near Montgomery

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p. 102-102

IN 1887 the Montgomery Furnace and Chemical Company began the erection of a charcoal blast furnace. Like three other plants in this state, the Montgomery furnace was destined never to operate. ...

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North Alabama Furnace: Florence, Lauderdale County

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pp. 103-104

THE Florence Land, Mining and Manufacturing Co. was incorporated with a capital of $800,000 by a group of Florence Citizens on Aug.31, 1886. The company purchased thousands of acres in and near the city of Florence and set about the task of bringing industries to North Alabama. ...

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Oxford Furnace: Calhoun County, near Anniston

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p. 105-105

A s early as 1848-9 the first state geologist, Michael Toumey, said of the land around the present town of Anniston: "The vicinity of a bold stream, abundance of fuel, excellent building material and proximity to a railroad, point to this locality as the site of one of the future great iron manufacturing establishments of the state."...

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Oxmoor Furnaces: Jefferson County, near Birmingham

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pp. 106-110

SHORTLY after outbreak of the Civil War, the Alabama Arms Manufacturing Co. was organized for the purpose of mining ore and manufacturing iron for Confederate ordnance. Incorporators of this company did not have sufficient capital to develop their mineral property and two of their number were delegated to petition the Confederate Government...

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Philadelphia Furnace: Florence, Lauderdale County

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pp. 111-112

THE Florence Land, Mining and Manufacturing Company was incorporated August 31, 1886. Its avowed purpose was "encouragement to all manufacturing." The Florence Land Company, a division of the aforementioned company, donated a tract of 128 acres in the city of Florence on the Tennessee River to the W. B. Wood Furnace Company, ...

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Piedmont Furnace: Piedmont, Calhoun County

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p. 113-113

THE town of Piedmont in Calhoun County is essentially an agricultural community. It is located, however, near large deposits of brown hematite ore. During Alabama's great "Iron Boom" of the late1880's, a company was formed which planned to industrialize this agricul- ...

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Rock Run Furnace: Rock Run, Cherokee County

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pp. 121-122

THEODORE and Alfred Royer of Johnstown, Pa., began construction of a small blast furnace in 1873 near Pleasant Gap in Cherokee County, Ala. The original furnace was 38' x 9' with an iron shell and used a vertical elevator to take stock to the top. Cast iron pipe stoves were used to preheat the air. The Rock Run furnace went into blast June 1, 1874. The first ore used was taken from the hill just behind the ...

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Round Mountain Furnace: Cherokee County, near Centre

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pp. 116-119

IN 1848 the War with Mexico came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. During that same year the eldest son of Jacob Stroup, the builder of Cane Creek Furnace, prospected through Cherokee County and purchased several hundred acres of ore lands. This son, Moses, was an iron-master of note in his own right. In Georgia ...

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Shelby Furnaces: Shelby, Shelby County

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pp. 127-134

G OLD was discovered in California in 1848 and by 1849 one of the greatest migrations in civilization was under way. During that period of national expansion Horace Ware built a small stone furnace, in Shelby County. The stack was but 29' high and 8'across the bosh. As was the universal practice of that era, the furnace was built against a hillside and the stock brought across a wooden trestle ...

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Sloss City and North Birmingham Furnaces: Birmingham, Jefferson County

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pp. 128-131

ALICE FURNACE No. 1 in Birmingham had fone into blast Nov. 30, 1880 and was producing a good grade of coke pig iron. Col. H. F. DeBardeleben was not only one of the owners of the Alice but he also supplied all the fuel from his coal mines. Success of the Alice furnace prompted DeBardeleben to suggest to J. W. Sloss the erection of two more blast furnaces in Birmingham. Col. DeBardeleben contracted to ...

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Stonewall Furnace: (Known also as Langdon Furnace) Cherokee County, near Rock Run

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pp. 132-133

H. D. COTHRAN of Rome, Georgia organized the Stonewall Iron Co. in 1872 and began erection of a small blast furnace on the main line of the Selma, Rome and Dalton Railroad about three miles from the Georgia state line in the County of Cherokee. This furnace was one of the first iron shell stacks in the state, 40' high and 11' in ...

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Talladega Furnace: Talladega, Talladega County

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pp. 134134-142

THE Talladega Iron & Steel Co., Ltd., was organized in 1888 by a group of English capitalists. Some mineral lands with a few miles of Talladega were purchased. On the outskirts of this town a furnace was built on the site where General Andrew Jackson, on November 9, 1813 defeated the Cherokee Indians in the last battle in Alabama to ...

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Tannehill Furnaces: (Known also as Roup's Valley Iron Works, Sanders Furnaces) Tuscaloosa County, near Bucksville

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pp. 136-139

HISTORY of the Tannehill Furnaces, remains of which are located in Tuscaloosa County about two miles southeast of the present settlement at Bucksville, has been the object of much speculation, true in part but mostly fiction. ...

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Tecumseh Furnace: Cherokee County, near Rock Run

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pp. 140-141

WITH General Willard Warner of the Union Army as its president and manager, the Tecumseh Iron Company was formed in 1873 with a capital of $100,000 supplied by residents of Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and Ohio. With this capital a furnace was built on the Selma, Rome and Dalton Railroad in Cherokee County, only a ...

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Thomas Furnaces: Jefferson County, near Birmingham

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pp. 142-144

Shortly after the Civil War, Giles Edwards, "iron-maker" at the Shelby furnace during the war, advised his friend, David Thomas of Pennsylvania, to purchase ore and coal lands in Alabama. The Thomas family were iron-masters of Pennsylvania who had been connected with the iron business for several generations. Edwards was familiar with the location and extent of much of the lands and Thomas delegated him ...

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Trussville Furnace: Trussville, Jefferson County

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pp. 145-146

A GROUP of men from Uniontown, Pa., incorporated the Birmingham Furnace & Manufacturing Co. on Dec. 21, 1886 with an authorized capital of $1,500,000. In 1887 they purchased from the Trussville and Cahaba River Land Co. a tract of land near the town of Trussville and about 15 miles northeast of Birmingham. ...

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Vanderbilt Furnaces: North Birmingham, Jefferson County

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pp. 147-148

THE Vanderbilt Steel & Iron Co. was organized in 1889 with New York and Tennessee capital. On Feb. 9, 1890 ground was broken in North Birmingham (near Boyles) for the erection of a blast furnace. Within a little less than seven months, on Aug. 23, 1890, the plant was blown in. Many furnaces of that period were given feminine names and ...

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Williamson Furnace: Birmingham, Jefferson County

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pp. 149-150

BETWEEN 1880 and 1886 no less than six blast furnaces were built along First Avenue in Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama. The last of these, the Williamson, was erected just south of First Avenue at Fourteenth Street. ...

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Woodstock Furnaces: Anniston, Coulhoun County

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pp. 151-154

IN 1854 the Noble family moved from Pennsylvania to Rome, Ga. and built there the first large foundry and machine shop in the Southeastern states. The first locomotive constructed south of the Mason-Dixon line was built at this shop in 1857. At the outbreak of the Civil War the Nobles began manufacturing heavy ordnance for the Confederate Gov-...

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Woodward Furnaces: Woodward, Jefferson County

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pp. 155-159

ONE day in February, 1867, while aboard an .Ohio river steamboat, S. H. Woodward overheard two Union soldiers discussing the ore and coal deposits which they had seen during the Alabama campaign. Woodward was an iron-master of Wheeling, West Virginia and could appreciate the value of the information. Two years later, in January 1869, he made his first trip into the state of Alabama. After inspecting the ...

Chronological Order of Furnaces

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pp. 160-161

Annual Production Figures

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p. 162-162


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pp. 163-169

E-ISBN-13: 9780817381011
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817354329

Publication Year: 2007

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Subject Headings

  • Cast-iron -- Alabama.
  • Blast furnaces -- Alabama.
  • Iron industry and trade -- Alabama.
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