Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia
Documents

Historical Sketches

Home ] Up ] 5-Confederates ] Kilgore Ft. House ] Catholicism ] Rafting ] Long Hunters ] Dr. McConnell ] Spartan Band ] Hanging Sheriffs ] W.D. Smith ] Frontier Forts ] Chief Benge ] James Boone ] Old Mills ] [ Whites Forge ] Whiteforge Post Office ] Samuel Smith ] James Shoemaker ] Jane and Polly ] Indian Missionary ] Patrick Porter ] Phillips Killing ] Boone Trail ] Stoney Creek Baptist ] Methodism ] Daniel Boone ] Estil Cemetery ] Scott Co. Names ] Confederate Soldiers ] Drayton Hale ] Reids Normal School ] Dr. N. Stallard ] Indian Forays ]

 

Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia
Publication No. 17 - 1984

 

WHITE'S FORGE ON BIG MOCCASIN CREEK
By Omer C. Addington

According to Genises, Chapter 4, Verse 22, Tubalcain was an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron. This is the first record we have of an iron worker.

Dr. William B. White could well be called the Tubalcain of Scott County. He built the first successful iron works in Scott County on Big Moccasin Creek. Dr. White had learned the iron making process at the Bushong Iron Works on Beaver Creek in Tennessee.

Dr. White was born April 15, 1791, in Franklin County, Virginia. He moved to Scott County in the spring of 1849, an don May 15th of the same year, he petitioned the Court of Scott County to erect iron works on the lands of Rhuama and Almora Bevins. The order of publication was published in the Southwest Virginian at Abingdon, Virginia.

The court granted permission to erect the dam across Big Moccasin Creek, March 14, 1850, provided Rhuama and Almira Bevins were paid the value of one acre of land.

At the location where the forge was built there is a natural dam of rocks. The dam was increased in height a few feet by using logs, drilling holes in them and into the rock and driving wooden or iron pins into the holes.

The forge had a water wheel which ran the bellows to supply the air blast for the intense heat required to smelt the iron ore. The bellows were large, and made from cowhides sewn together.

The large hammer was a trip hammer that weighed 75 to 100 pounds. It had a long handle called a helve and moved by power from the water wheel. The hammer was used to beat out the impurities and compact the fibrous mass of iron into a strong bar.

The iron ore which was smelted at White's Forge, was mined by digging holes in the earth to a depth of a few feet, and by picking it up from the surface in various parts of Moccasin Ridge. The iron ore was hauled to the forge with wagons drawn by oxen, horses or mules. These wagons were log wagons built low and strong, with a heavy bed to hold the iron ore.

White's Forge was in operation before stone coal came into use. Charcoal was used to smelt the iron.

Jeter Frasure and Nat Hicks were employed to furnish the charcoal. The charcoal pits were located east and west of the forge, on the bottom land of Big Moccasin Creek. These locations were called Coaland.

Charcoal for the forge as made from hardwood and prepared by billets of wood piled in a conical heap and covered with earth and sod to prevent the access of air; several holes being left at the bottom, and one at the top of the heap in order to produce a draft to commence the combustion. The wood was kindled from the bottom, after it had begun to burn freely the hole at the top was closed. After the ignition had been found to prevail the whole heap, the holes at the bottom were then closed. The combustion taking place with a smothered flame and limited access of air. The volatile portions of the wood consisting of hydrogen and oxygen were dissipated, while the carbon in the form of charcoal was left behind.

The charcoal that was burned at the two locations was hauled to the forge in sleds pulled by oxen.

With the use of charcoal and bellows the early smelting furnaces did not produce molten iron, but a spongy mass of metallic iron. The spongy mass of metal which sank to the bottom after the fire burned out was called a bloom, and the lined hole with its bellows was called a bloomery. The bloomery was lined with stone which had to be replaced often, because the intense heat caused the stone to crack and crumble.

The blooms were small and were lifted out of the bloomery with tongs. By repeated heating with charcoal in the forge, and hammering with the trip-hammer on an anvil, this impure and oddly shaped mass of metal was brought to a condition of high refinement and great strength.

After the impurities had been removed from the iron and the desired implement had been hammered into the shape, the metal was tempered by a process called quenching. This was done by plunging it into water. The worker judged this by the color of the metal when it was hot.

If a piece of iron was left in the bloomery with a charcoal fire for 10 to 12 hours, the solid iron would absorb enough carbon to increase its hardness and strength. It was then heated red hot and suddenly immersed in water.

The iron that was made at White's Forge was used by blacksmiths to make horseshoes, oxen shoes, nails, wagon tires, hoes, picks, shovels, knives, and many other items.

Gunsmiths used the best grade of iron to make rifle barrels and gun parts.

It is now known how long this forge was in operation. The closing date is not known. We can safely say that with the coming of the railroads, home manufacturing passed out of use, as the products could be bought cheaper than they could be made at home.

Home ] Up ] 5-Confederates ] Kilgore Ft. House ] Catholicism ] Rafting ] Long Hunters ] Dr. McConnell ] Spartan Band ] Hanging Sheriffs ] W.D. Smith ] Frontier Forts ] Chief Benge ] James Boone ] Old Mills ] [ Whites Forge ] Whiteforge Post Office ] Samuel Smith ] James Shoemaker ] Jane and Polly ] Indian Missionary ] Patrick Porter ] Phillips Killing ] Boone Trail ] Stoney Creek Baptist ] Methodism ] Daniel Boone ] Estil Cemetery ] Scott Co. Names ] Confederate Soldiers ] Drayton Hale ] Reids Normal School ] Dr. N. Stallard ] Indian Forays ]