Cloverdale Furnace : a century of iron manufacture in Botetourt County Virginia, 1789-1889
Turner, Jeffrey C.
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In an effort to answer broad, contextual questions concerning early 19th Century American industrial history, it is often necessary to supplement generally accepted premises with observations of particular instances. This study of Cloverdale Furnace constitutes such an observation. Particular attention has been paid to details of person, place and practice as gained from Botetourt County Records and the correspondence between such furnace owners as the Breckenridge, Tayloe and Anderson families. The ultimate fate of charcoal-fired iron furnaces is so well known as to require little or no comment. That Cloverdale continued into, and beyond the period of the United States Civil War, depended upon a variety of causes. It probably would have ceased operation in 1859 - 1860, but for crisis of the Union. Other causes for Cloverdale's success and perseverance included: availability of capital, labor, raw materials and managerial talent. Not all of these were distinctive, but some were enough so to deserve special note. The study is chronologic. It begins with the establishment of the furnace in 1789, and ends with the final mining activity of 1889. During this period, there were two separate furnaces located within eight miles of each other. Each was named Cloverdale and each produced high grade charcoal-smelted "gun metal." The operation of Cloverdale Number 1 was based on craft techniques and linked to a local market. The owners were largely absentee investors who utilized their existing slave force for labor. Cloverdale Number 2 was based on a regional market and incorporated a more advanced technology in furnace construction. Under the ownership of John T. Anderson, and later, Joseph R. Anderson, Cloverdale Number 2 achieved a reputation second to none in the eastern part of the United states for producing quality "gun metal" and supplied the Tredegar Works in Richmond with the same. Unfortuantely, the reputation was not enough to protect the firm from collapse due to depleted timber reserves and natural resources.
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