Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cooper's Furnace

Cooper's Furnace on the Etowah River
Cooper's Furnace Day Use Area
River Road off US 41
Cartersville, Georgia

Mark Anthony Cooper, a former member of the Georgia Assembly and US Congress, bought an interest in this furnace on the Etowah River in the 1840s, eventually obtaining sole ownership. The cold-blast furnace used locally available iron ore, limestone, and charcoal to produce 20-30 tons of pig iron per week. Expanding the venture as the Etowah Manufacturing and Mining Company, locally known as Cooper's Iron Works, the complex also included a nail factory, flour mill, and rolling mill. During the railroad building years in Georgia before the Civil War, the Iron Works produced iron for the Western & Atlantic, Macon & Western, and Georgia Railroads.

With about six hundred employees, the 19th century town of Etowah sprang up around the Etowah Manufacturing and Mining Company, not to be confused with the Indian town of Etowah a few miles downstream.

Etowah River

Cooper built the Etowah Railroad in 1858 connecting the rolling mill to the Western & Atlantic Railroad five miles away. Serving the railroad spur was the Yonah, an engine leased from the Western & Atlantic.

On the morning of April 12, 1862, the Yonah would be sitting on the siding where the Etowah Railroad met the W&A at the W&A bridge over the Etowah River, an unexpected and unwelcome surprise to the twenty Union raiders under James Andrews steaming north aboard the General, which they had just stolen at Big Shanty fifteen miles down the Western & Atlantic. The raiders neglected to stop and destroy the Yonah, leaving it available to become the first engine to join in The Great Locomotive Chase once the General's conductor, William Fuller, who had previously been chasing the train thieves on foot and by pole-car, reached the junction.

But that is a post for another day.

Ruins of the Western & Atlantic Railroad bridge over the Etowah River.
Cooper's Iron Works and the town of Etowah were about five miles beyond the bridge,
the Indian town of Etowah and the Etowah Indian Mounds a few miles in the opposite direction.

Cooper sold his mills and foundries to the Confederate government in 1863 for $400,000 in Confederate bonds, against the advice of his banker. He later defended his decision by saying, "I was not willing to speculate on the misfortunes of the country, nor was I willing to place my affairs in such a condition as would make it appear that I doubted the Confederacy."

The town of Etowah and the iron works would soon, like the Confederate bonds, be worthless. The Union army destroyed both the town and the manufacturing facilities in May 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign. With the completion of Allatoona Dam in 1950, the ruins of the town of Etowah were drowned beneath Lake Allatoona.

Cooper's Furnace is all that remains of Cooper's Iron Works and the town of Etowah.

These ruins of an old iron furnace built by Moses Stroup are all that remain of Cooper's Iron Works,      
developed by Mark Anthony Cooper, pioneer industrialist, politician, and farmer.
Cooper was born in 1800 near Powelton, Ga. Graduating from S.C. College (now the University of S.C.) in 1819, he was admitted to the bar in 1821 and opened a law office in Eatonton. A member of the Ga. Legislature in 1855, he later served in the 26th Congress, filled a vacancy in the 27th, and was reelected to the 28th. Resigning to run for Governor in 1843, Cooper was defeated by George W. Crawford and retired from politics.
Cooper bought an interest in the furnace then owned by Stroup, and in 1847 he and Leroy M. Wiley bought Stroup out. Cooper's plants, including a nail factory, rolling-mill, and flour mill, were destroyed by Sherman's army. Cooper and Strop were incorporators of the Etowah Railroad, completed to the rolling-mill in 1858. A yard engine of this road, the "Yonah", was involved in the famous chase of the "General" in April, 1862.
Cooper, the first president of the Ga. Agricultural Society, a trustee of Mercer University, the University of Ga., and the Cherokee Baptist College, died in 1885 at his home, "Glen Holly".
The Cooper's Furnace Day Use Area is on the Etowah just below Allatoona Dam and is operated by the Corps of Engineers. The site includes a picnic area and hiking trails.

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