Cartersville’s Lost Furnace
By Joe F. Head
Northwest Georgia and particularly Bartow County became home to a thriving iron furnace industry. Between 1830 and 1900 some dozen stone cupola furnaces were built from Sugar Hill south along Stamp Creek to Allatoona and Emerson Georgia. These furnaces were erected by a variety of ambitious men including Moses Stroup, Lewis Cass and Mark Cooper. The furnaces and locations were publicly known by the builder’s names or nicknames such a Fire Eater, Diamond or Pool furnaces. These furnaces became idle over a hundred years ago, but can still be accounted for regarding ownership and location.
However, 1888 deed records in the Bartow County Court House reveal the brief existence of one little known furnace that may have been built northwest of the County Seat, east of present day ATCO Village.
Entrepreneurs of the Etowah Valley recognized the vast Bartow mineral deposits and diverse resources concentrated in the county. As a result they were willing to risk large sums of money to exploit profits and develop new enterprises. Spirits were competitive and newspaper ads often encouraged patrons to do business locally as opposed to northern options.
According to a February 28, 1889 article in the Courant-American newspaper the citizens of Cartersville offered to donate up to 25 acres and $25,000 to any reputable party who would establish a fifty-ton plant for making pig iron. Within a short time Birmingham, Alabama, also a leader in iron production accepted the offer. Financial backing ranged to $250,000 and two furnaces were planned for production. One was for smelting iron ore and one for manganese production.
It appears this enterprise began locally as a land deal spearheaded by David W. K. Peacock. Mr. Peacock bought some 30 acres of land from various owners and assembled a tract that was destined to become known as the “furnace tract.” The principal buyers originated from Birmingham, Alabama and other Georgia locations. Deed records indicate that Peacock sold the parcel to the Cartersville Land Company and then the Cartersville Land Company sold twenty-five acres to the interests from Alabama. Records also reveal that other interests filed for ore and mineral rights within the district that appears in deed transactions relating to this tract.
The parent operation evolved from a partnership of seven men and was first named the Cartersville Steel and Furnace Company. Partners included; R. M. Mulford, Stuart T. Martin, C. C. King, J. B. Hill, M. Smithson of Birmingham, all from Alabama with Soule Reed of Columbus, Georgia and N. A. Prath of Atlanta, Georgia. (Grantor’s Deed Book Z, Page 726, July 1888)
The initial boundaries were roughly described as … ( A certain tract of land situated in Bartow County, GA near the town of Cartersville and bordered as follows: beginning at the center of Pettit’s Creek in the middle of the Cassville Road about 1 1/2 miles west of the courthouse in Cartersville aforesaid, and running thence with the middle of the ditch in which said creek runs to the western margin of the right of way at the Western and Atlantic Railroad thence with said western margin in a southern direction a sufficient distance to include twenty-five (25) acres in connection with the other lines herein given; thence west to a point in the center of the Cassville Road thence to the beginning). This area was eventually filed by a document known as the “Howard Survey” and referred to as the “Furnace Tract.” (Deed Book CC, page 410)
The contract specified that the parties “promise” to erect on the land as soon as practically possible a 50 ton furnace for the purpose of manufacturing pig iron (50 tons per day), “dephosphorization” of iron and to erect a 25 ton furnace (25 tons per day) for manufacturing of manganese. It is unclear if these furnaces were erected.
However, this partnership was first filed in Birmingham, Alabama, which eventually caused a number of legal disputes regarding debts, collections, payments and clear authority to operate in Georgia. Writs (judgments) on file in the Gold Dome Bartow Court House located in the Etowah Valley Historical Society office (Book B, 1889, pages 208, 216, 217, 219 -224, 233, 241, 411, 412, 413, 428, 429 and 450-452) reflect frequent allegations against the Cartersville Steel and Furnace Company between 1888 and 1890.
These judgments include liens, suits, attachments, garnishments and seizures. According to the Writ Book, John W. Akin and L. S. Munford were instrumental in dissolving the company in 1889 and directed the Sheriff, W. W. Roberts to seize the property consisting of office furniture and foundry tools and close the business.
It is apparent that the property changed hands over the next decade, but records could not be located to document specific transactions. However, the trail surfaces again in1899 with a deed reflecting a 40 acre sale that mentions the furnace tract between the Cartersville Land Company and W. H. Howard.
In addition to the furnace section the deed further specifies that a cotton factory with up to 3500 spindles to be built in this area. It is highly likely this mention was the vision of what eventually became the American Textile Company or ATCO.
This research was unable to determine the specific location of the Cartersville Steel and Furnace Company. It appears it existed for a brief time in what was known as the Howard Survey and was referenced as the “Furnace Tract.” Deeds and writs contained in the Bartow County Court records reflect that it operated for about one year, but encountered frequent litigations and closed by local authorities. It is likely that any equipment was sold off to individuals in competing enterprises.
As of today this business goes without a trace.
- 1888 John J. Howard to David W. K. Peacock. (Deed Book CC, p 55) Initial May 1888 purchase of two parcels totaling approximately 30 acres
- 1888 DWK Peacock to Cartersville Land Company (Z, page 644) May 19, 1888
- 1888 Cartersville Land Company (J. H. Walker and G. H. Aubrey) to R. M. Mulford, Stuart T. Martin. C. C. King, J. B. Hill, M. Smithson, Soule Reed and N. A Prath. July 25, 1888 (Deed Book Z, p 726) (Cartersville Steel and Furnace Company – Contract and agreement document)
Records accounting for ownership, operation or transfer/sales of the properties could not be located in the County Deeds Office between 1888 and 1899. (However, a series of leans and suits are on file).
- 1899 Cartersville Land Company to W.H. Howard. Also known as the Furnace Tract ranging up to 40 acres. (Deed notes indicate that a Cotton Factory with 3500 spindles to be constructed) November 8th, 1899, Deed Book II , p 395 and Deed Book II, page 413.
Courant-American, February 28, 1889
Lost Furnace article written 2015