At 2:40 on Saturday, February 22, 2020, The last Challenge Coin (#100) for the 2020 African American History Month Heritage Geocache Challenge was given out. Congratulations to all the Geocachers. The geocaches will remain in place for a few months for public education. Thank you for participating.
This Geocache is part of an annual Geocache Challenge put on by the Heritage Program at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area as part of our outreach to the public, to get people to explore their forest and their history, and to share the unique heritage of the families from Between the Rivers.
This Geocache is part of the “2020 Land Between the Lakes Heritage Geocache Challenge: African American History of Lyon County”. There are 7 geocaches placed in Lyon County in Land Between the Lakes related to the African American Heritage of the area. If you locate each geocache, and collect a numbered aluminum tree tag from each cache, you can turn them in at the Golden Pond Visitor Center for one of 100 Challenge Coins created for this event.
The Geocache is a 6.5” x 8” blue-grey watertight plastic box marked “Heritage Geocache” on the top. The geocache is placed in the woods behind an open field near the Nature Station on Land Between the Lakes.
The Center Furnace Community Geocache
Center Furnace was a thriving community from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s focused on the iron industry. The town had a store, stables, blacksmiths, a boarding house, churches, schools, neighborhoods, and the Iron Master’s house, where the Hillman Family lived.
Center Furnace also had a large African American community that provided the majority of the labor for the Center Furnace industry.
The African American Community at Center Furnace
By the time that Center Furnace was built in 1852, Daniel Hillman already owned a large iron empire in Trigg and Lyon Counties. And the majority of the labor for that industry was African American slaves.
The north side of the Center Furnace community was the African American neighborhood and this is reflected in the geography as “Negro Row Creek” runs along the north edge of the town.
After emancipation, the African American population remained in the area and continued to work at Center Furnace. This can be seen in the census record. In addition to the many houses that would have made up this neighborhood, the community also had a church and a school.
Daniel Hillman Slave Holdings
1843, Daniel Hillman and Thomas Watson built Empire Furnace. In 1845, they built Fulton Furnace and the Tennessee Rolling Mill in Rockcastle. In 1846, Watson died and left the iron company to Hillman. In 1852, Hillman built Center Furnace and it was called “the granddaddy of them all”.
In 1850, Hillman owned 155 slaves in Trigg County and another 98 in Caldwell County. In 1860, Hillman owned 255 slaves in Trigg County and another 121 in Lyon County. While Hillman did own women and children who probably worked in domestic service, the vast majority of the slaves were adult males and worked as labor in the Iron Industry.