18 March 2017

Tredegar Iron Works Turns 180

Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, VA - Circa 1865, Library of Congress
While recently researching and writing an article for one of the relic hunting/metal detecting magazines, I realized that 2017 marks the 180th anniversary of the opening of Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia. In the course of this research, I *visited Mount Torry Furnace which lies in the George Washington National Forest, about seven miles from my home in the western foothills of the Blue Ridge.

Mount Torry Sign, near Sherando, Virginia
Maryland and my native state of Virginia were the first two colonies to export iron to England. By 1619, Jamestown settlers had established a small furnace about 50 miles north of Jamestown near Falling Creek. As early settlers moved west across the Blue Ridge Mountains, furnaces were built throughout many areas of Virginia where deposits of iron ore were discovered; especially in the Shenandoah Valley where I live. Mount Torry was one of these early furnaces. As a teenager, I climbed all over and explored that structure many times. Built in 1804, the furnace was utilized by the Confederacy during the War Between the States to produce pig iron for Tredegar. Tredegar produced everything from artillery and munitions, to the iron plating for the ironclad warship, the CSS Virginia. Union soldiers burned Mount Torry in 1864. Rebuilt after the Civil War, it finally ceased operations in 1892 but remains today as a silent reminder of the importance of iron in the development and history of our nation. Mount Torry Furnace has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974.

Mount Torry Furnace Ruins
This piece of pig iron was recovered from the Maury River near Lexington, Virginia and given to me by a friend. Pig iron was loaded on barges from furnaces upstream from Lexington, then floated down the Maury (North) River to the James and Tredegar. Oftentimes, these barges sank or part of their cargo would fall off into the river.

*Just to be perfectly clear, relic hunting or removal of any artifacts from Federal property is illegal. My visit to Mount Torry was for research purposes only.

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