BLOOMERIES - EARLY IRON FORGES - WERE AMONG FIRST INDUSTRIES IN CAMPBELL COUNTY; EARLIEST WAS IN 1824
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. This
article was published in the LaFollette Press.
Iron manufacturing in Campbell County was one of its first industries. The iron was produced in bloomery forges. A description of bloomeries finds that they were small forges in which crude wrought iron could be produced directly from the ore. Charcoal was the ingredient used in the forges in which several men were employed in cutting the enormous oaks that were chopped into cord wood for the coal-hearths. History relates that waterpower was necessary for operation of the heavy machinery. Transporting of the iron was by mules or wagons to the eastern markets; some was sent to Kentucky and traded for salt.
The first noted "forge builder" in Campbell County was William Lindsay. He located to the County in 1824 from Carter (now Johnson) County, and situated about three and one-half miles from Jacksboro.
Robert Burton established Bakers Forge, or bloomery, around 1800 on Cedar Creek at the mouth of Sugar Hollow. The ore was hauled from Big Creek Gap, now LaFollette. This bloomery changed owners several times. In 1817 two of the owners were John Comer and David Johnson. It was later sold to the Baker family in which it acquired its name. This forge had two bloomery fires and one hammer driven by water, and in 1856 it produced about 8 tons of bars. The local post office was Boy.
Sharp's Bloomery was situated on Big Creek, sometimes called Indian Creek, and was owned by Laban Sharp. This forge was built in 1857 and consisted of two bloomery fires and one hammer driven by water. The post office was Jacksborough.
William Richardson's Bloomery Forge was situated on Big Creek about two miles south of the Laban Sharp forge. It was built in 1827 and had two bloomery fires and one hammer driven by water. It produced 20 tons of bars.
Queener Bloomery Forge was located on Cove Creek, about 5 miles southwest of Jacksborough with the last owner being David Sharp. It was built in 1835 and produced about 22 tons of bars from dyestone ore in the vicinity.
Lindsay Bloomery Forge was also located on Cove Creek and owned by William Lindsay and Squire Hunter. It was built in 1833 and consisted of two bloomery fires and one hammer driven by water. The yearly production was 20 tons of bars.
Other bloomery forges of note will now be discussed.
Overton's Bloomery Forge was situated on Mulberry Creek five miles from the Virginia line and six miles south of Milan Forge. It was owned by Taylor Overton and was built around 1841 and rebuilt about 1856. It had two bloomery fires and one hammer driven by water. In 1856 it produced about 6 tons of bars. The post office was located at Woodson in Hancock County.
The Speedwell Bloomery Forge was located three miles west of the Centerville forge or eight miles southwest of Yoakum Station. It was built in 1815 and abandoned in 1830.
One forge of interest was Miller's Hot Blast Charcoal Furnace located on Buffalo Creek in Union County. Lewis Miller and W. Longmire owned it. It was built in 1837 and was seven feet across the bosh and 29 feet high. It produced about 12 tons from dyestone.
Many of these forges operated until after the Civil War, but due to the complexity of mining the ore and the declining supply of wood for charcoal, these gallant operations ceased to be profitable and were eventually abandoned.
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