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LBL (Land Between the Lakes) Iron Furnaces EarthCache

Hidden : 12/06/2006
1 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

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Geocache Description:

Member of Middle Tennessee GeoCachers Club []

This Cacher Served Honorably in the United States Army and is a Proud Member of the MAGC:

Western Kentucky and northwest Tennessee was once a major iron ore producer. Although somewhat short-lived, iron made a significant economical impact on the "Between the Rivers" area (now LBL).

Iron-producing potential was realized with the discovery of iron ore, limestone, and timber in this area. Those three elements are what is needed in the "smelting" process. Furnaces quickly started popping up in the early 19th century. By 1830, the "Between the Rivers" area was the third-largest producer of iron ore in the United States.

Stewart County, Tennessee, which a part lies in the southern third of the Land Between the Lakes, had 14 iron furnaces alone. These were massive, pyramid-like structures made of stone with a pit in the middle. To feed the fire, workers (many reportedly slaves) use charcoal made from the abundant timber in the area. The so-called "blast" was good enough to produce the iron ore. A by-product of this process known as "slag" can be found strewn all throughout LBL. Slag is easily identified as rocks with turquoise and deep blue colors and can be spotted everywhere, especially in the vicinity of furnaces.

By the time of the Civil War, iron ore production in this area came to a stand-still. The industry never really picked back up after the war and by 1880 most the natural resources, once abundant, were gone. The last furnace in Stewart County, TN, was shut down in 1927.

Today, there are two furnaces that still remain partially intact. The best of the two, the Great Western Iron Furnace, which only operated a year, is located right on the Trace at the former site of Model, TN, and near the Homeplace 1850. The structure is amazingly well preserved and is quite a sight to look at.

The other furnace, known as Center Furnace, has deteriorated substantially but can still be seen near Hematite Lake and the Nature Station. The town of Hematite, Ky. was a community where an iron called hematite is a plentiful natural resource. Along with the byproducts of charcoal and limestone, hematite dug from the area would be wheeled across a covered bridge into a huge furnace that produced molten iron. The cooled iron ore would be shipped downriver to manufacturers.

Center Furnace at Land Between the Lakes Hematite Lake was once home of a busy industrial community. It's now home to a variety of recreational activities including a wild life refuge, the nature station, and Center Furnace. Center Furnace can easily be viewed from the road. The furnace is only one of the many artifacts to be found at Hematite Lake. The trail itself includes a cistern, and tools used at the facility. Throughout the Hematite area, you'll notice blue rocks called slag, the bi-product of iron production. Remember, these artifacts are for the enjoyment of all Kentucky Lake visitors and should not be taken from the park.

LBL's Great Western Iron Furnace

The remains of this limestone slab furnace are all that is left of The Great Western Iron Works. Great Western opened in 1855 and in a 34-week period produced 1,350 tons of iron. The production of 4-4-5 tons of iron required twenty bushels of charcoal, 800 pounds of ore, and 80 pounds of limestone.

The furnace is a symbol of Stewart County's industrial heritage. Before the Civil War, Stewart County was recognized as one of the few industrial areas in the rural south. Stewart County residents built communities around these furnaces, with most of the residents depending on the furnaces for income. The last iron furnace in Stewart County ended operation in 1927.

As for the Great Western Furnace, it's production ended only a year after it started. In 1856 its owners put it up for sale. An advertisement in the Clarksville Jeffersonian included the furnace, four yokes of oxen, 12 wagons and gear, one set of carpenter's tools, one set of blacksmiths tools, two extra steam engines, and 80 "likely and valuable negro men, experienced furnace hands."


A) Visit either the Center Furnace located at N36 53.989 W088 02.300 or the Great Western Furnace located at N36 38.424 W087 58.528 and upload a picture of yourself with GPS in the foreground of the furnace ruins at the location.

B) Email me the answer to one of the two questions below: 1-What was the Great West Furnace built of and where did this material come from? 2-What are the 8 separate groups of people necessary to operate one of these furnaces?

If you visit with a group, please list the caching names of the others participating in your find.

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