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The Antebellum
Iron Industry
in Georgia
About North Georgia

Introduction

Iron furnaces drove local economies first in Habersham County, Bartow County and Dade County. existed in large cities and many small ones throughout the state of Georgia. The iron used to create the furnaces and fences for residents and presses, boilers and mills for businesses in many instances also came from nearby producers.


Early history

First of the southern ironbelts to be developed were in South Carolina, north of Camden, starting just before the American Revolution. Within 30 years many these iron mills had ceased production because of the inferior quality of iron produced.

Two ironmakers, Adam Carruth and Elias Earle, however, opened ironworks in Spartanburg and Cherokee County. By the start of the War of 1812 Carruth had an armory and a federal contract. Earle received a federal contract for guns in 1816, a contract he was unable to fulfill, which ended his business venture. Carruth continued to produce iron through 1822, when he ran into trouble with his federal contract.

Earle had eyed the abundant mineral wealth of the Cherokee Nation to support a furnace and from 1807 he began promoting his idea of building a furnace in Indian country. Earle wanted a piece of land 6 miles square that had an ore bed and water. When he sent men to build a furnace near the confluence of Chickamauga Creek and the Tennessee River they were turned around near Taylor's Crossroads Catoosa County. The state of Tennessee then held up ratification of the treaty giving Earle the land and Earle's plan collapsed.

Jacob Stroup

Jacob Stroup raised and commanded a regiment in the War of 1812.

In 1815 ironmaking moved to Cowpens when Edward Fewell and Jacob Stroup built an ironworks lying on both sides of King's Creek at Dulin's old mill. Stroup and Fewell spent $2000.00 on the purchase, which they improved until Fewell died in 1822. Stroup married Fewell's wife after his death.

Stroup (sometimes misspelled as Stroop) would soon become well-known to Georgians. Stroup founded The King's Mountain Iron Company, which operated from 1822 to 1830. When a flash flood caused an explosion in the furnace, Stroup called in his son Moses to rebuild the plant while he began working on the Cherokee Iron Works on the Broad River in 1826, but he sold the company before 1830 to Ernor Graham. Graham renamed the company the South Carolina Iron Manufacturing Company.

While Dahlonega and Auraria are the best known Georgia Gold Rush towns, Clarkesville, in Habersham County and Gainesville, in Hall County also saw significant growth after the 1828 discovery of gold. When Jacob Stroup first set up the Stroup Iron Works in 1831 the town had machine shops, four lawyers, a confectionery shop, two churches, three taverns and a brewery.

By 1835 Stroup was having financial problems and interested John C. Calhoun in investing in his business on the banks of the Soque. About this time Ironmaster Jacob Stroup brought his son Moses into the business as an ironmaker.

According to Ariel Sherwood's Georgia Gazetteer. Stroup's Iron Works were three miles out of town on the Soque River and consisted of "...a forge and furnace, and various workshops, to consume that part of the iron which is not sold in bars and castings." Sherwood gave his production of iron as 25 tons and 60 tons of castings in the year of the Panic of 1837. In 1839 the state exempted all employees of Stroup's Iron Works in Habersham County from serving on jury duty. Jarvis Van Buren, nephew of Martin Van Buren, and founded of Habersham County's apple crop, joined the Stroup Iron Works as a manager.

There were many names for the Iron Works including Stroup's Iron Foundry and Habersham Iron Works and Manufacturing Company.

Moses Stroup

Moses lived in Lincoln County, North Carolina until he joined Jacob at the Iron Works near Clarkesville, but by the time Moses arrived both men were looking west to expand their business. In 1837 they journeyed to the new city of Cartersville in the former Cherokee Nation, partly to take advantage of the Building the Western and Atlantic Railroad and partly because of the rich iron belt associated with the Cartersville fault.

The date of the Stroup's move to Cartersville is based on the sale of the site of the Stamp Creek furnace from Jesse Lamberth to Alexander Stroup (son of Jacob, brother of Moses) on January 25, 1837. Alexander conveyed the title to Jacob on May 11, 1837. Jacob and Moses establish the first furnace (a bloomery) on Stamp Creek that year. Known as Etowah Bloomary, this forge was replaced in 1841 by Etowah Bloomary Forge No. 2.

Moses Stroup ran the Etowah Works on the Stamp River until 1843 when the mill and surrounding land was sold to Mark Anthony Cooper, generally known as Major Cooper, who had lost the race for governor earlier in the year. At the time the Western and Atlantic Railroad was starting to grade north of the Etowah River. Moses Stroup would continue to be involved in Georgia production of iron until 1847.

Mark Anthony Cooper

Major Cooper was a politician and one of the early organizers of the Western and Atlantic Railroad. He purchased Stroup's Etowah Bloomary on Stamp Creek in 1843 and Moses Stroup continued to work with him to show him how to process iron. In 1847 Cooper and Stroup planned on moving to the Etowah River to be closer to the railroad, timberland and the iron ore from Red Top Mountain. They enlisted a third partner, merchant Leroy Wylie, for additional financial backing. Moses Stroup was not able to come up with the money needed, so Wylie and Cooper bought his share.

The Etowah Rolling Mill was established in 1849 and located just over a mile from Cooper's Allatoona Furnace. This mill had 9 furnaces with rolling trains, nail machines, and a hammer, all driven by water power. In 1856 the plant produced 900 tons of pig iron, mostly from 2 open cut mines in the Allatoona Iron Belt (along the Western and Atlantic Railroad) and other cuts in the Wheeler Ore Bank.

Cooper and Wylie established the city of Etowah around a blast furnace that still stands today. The town had a 1.75 mile short line railroad to Etowah Station on the Western and Atlantic Railroad and numerous businesses associated with iron production such as a rolling mill. At its height, the city of Etowah may have had a population of 800 people.

Because of its ability to produce iron, the city was a major target during William Tecumseh Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. General Jacob Cox took the city as temporary commander of the XXIII Corps, Army of the Ohio, on May_26, 1864 after a brief battle. The city was never rebuilt.

Robert Cravens

Cravens was born in Rockingham County, Virginia and spent most of his childhood in Selma, Alabama and Tennessee. His uncle, George Gordon, owned the Bright Hope Furnace and let young Robert Cravens become his partner in 1826. Cravens built a furnace on Whites Creek in Rhea County, Tennessee shortly after becoming Gordon's partner.

In 1837 Robert Cravens moved down Whites Creek to its confluence with the Tennessee River and built Eagle Furnace, which produced high-quality iron that was used throughout northwest Georgia, northeast Alabama and southeast Tennessee. The furnaces at this location were so successful early on that Cravens built a canal from the Tennessee River to Eagle Furnace, however, the Panic of 1837 and resulting depression forced Robert Cravens to close Eagle Furnace.

Bluff Furnace was completed in 1856, owned by the East Tennessee Iron Manufacturing Company, came online with Robert Cravens (the only principal partner with practical iron experience). East of Ross's Landing the furnace could use both rail and boats to bring in the raw materials to create iron and the furnace flourished until The Civil War.

To overlook his iron empire Cravens built the Cravens House, which figured prominently in the Battle of Lookout Mountain. Joseph 'Fighting Joe' Hooker's men swept across the outcrop Craven chose to build his house only to be driven back by a counterattack by Edmund Pettus. The Yankees regrouped and took the plateau.

The changing iron industry

in 1869 the Bessemer Converter was introduce into America and America's iron furnaces concentrated on producing pig iron, the form of iron required to make steel. Most Georgia iron was never considered to be high grade with the exception of the Dyestone belt. As steel production ramped up, Georgia iron production decreased and by 1875 all furnaces in Georgia, with the exception of those using Dyestone belt iron in extreme northwest, had ceased production.

Iron ore continued to be mined in Georgia through the early 20th century. Within a hundred years the Bessemer process was considered obsolete.

This article appeared on the front page of About North Georgia, Summer, 2011


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About North Georgia, Summer, 2011
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