Pulaski County and the Town of Pulaski got its start with three industries, mining, processing products from the mines, and railroading (moving the raw ore to the processing plants), and the processed products throughout the country.
The first iron was manufactured in the Max Creek and Allisonia areas; Max Creek furnace being the first of any consequence, then the furnace near Allisonia, known as Boom Furnace. These two furnaces were in production at about the same time furnaces in Wythe County were fired. One of the first furnaces I remember seeing and it was not in operation, was in a field in the village of Max Meadows. The furnaces mentioned did not produce large quantities of pigiron, but were the first in the area. , and turned out about three tons of iron a day.
I was amazed the first time I visited the Max Creek Furnace, at the size of some of the stones that were built into the structure. Some probably weigh close to a ton. I wondered how, without the benefit of powerful equipment , they were moved. That’s when I decided that iron making requires a lot of very hard work from the building of the furnace to obtaining the ore, to manufacturing the iron. Stories have been told of how the workers at the furnaces worked long ten and twelve hour shifts, and how they were given a five dollar gold piece at Christmas time at the end of a good year.
Iron ore was discovered in the Hiwassee area by a union soldier, who was hiking through the mountains after the Battle of Cloyd’s Farm.
Much of the labor in these early furnace operations was performed by slaves, who were furnished by local slave owners at a price, a part of which was paid to the slave.
One can search in the vicinity of one of the old furnaces and still find pieces of iron ore like that processed.
In 1907 Boom Furnace let out its last boom. And this was the beginning of the slow death of the iron industry in Pulaski County.. I say slow because . iron was produced in the town of Pulaski until the years of the great depression.
Some of the old mines in the county were Rich Hill, Farris, Clarks and Clayton Pulaski’s Iron IndustryOre. To give an idea of the extent of iron mining in the county, the Rich Hill Mines produced over 600,000 tons of ore .The first furnace in the town of Pulaski was Pulaski iron Furnace, many times larger than the furnaces in the Hiwassee area. This furnace put out 227 tons of pigiron a day. There is no question but that this early industry was a big factor in the building of the town. Ore was close by, Draper Mountain south of town, on land of Clayton Ore property. It could be easily removed, and moved by rail down the mountain into the town, and to the site of the furnace.
At the same time, there was another furnace just east of the town, established in 1893. Both furnaces ran until the 1930s, when economic conditions caused the demise of both.
Continued next week.
– Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.