Williamson County


Williamson Furnace

            Located near Fernvale, in the northwest corner of Williamson County along the Caney Fork of the South Harpeth River, are the remains of the limestone furnace stack of the Williamson Furnace.  Built in 1832 by Moses Speer, the existence of this facility is somewhat of a puzzle due to the fact that there are no significant iron deposits in the immediate vicinity. 

Two years earlier, Speer had obtained title to some two thousand acres around the furnace, as well as a tract of land on Turnbull Creek which contained an ore bank.  He transported the raw materials to the facility overland by heavy wagons.  However, by the following year Speer was in debt and had used the iron operation as collateral in favor of Thomas Douglass. 

After the time for Speer’s redemption had elapsed, Douglass attempted to sell or rent out the furnace.  Finally, he put the property up for auction in early 1836.  Robert and William Black ran the operation for a short time, but Black’s death caused another shutdown.  Sometime afterward it passed into the hands of the Perkins family but there is no evidence that the furnace was ever put into blast again. 

Although the presence of a slag pile near the ruins indicates that some iron had been produced here at one time or another, by 1849 the furnace was reported to be out of use by a contemporary trade journal.  Local tradition holds that in 1857 the fluted columns of the County Courthouse were cast at Pugh & Company’s Franklin Foundry from pig iron manufactured at the Williamson Furnace.  No documentation has been found to date to prove or disprove this assertion.




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