Iron Works, a forge was constructed as early as 1771 and a furnace was added during the American Revolution (1776 - 1782).
Another early furnace (1777) was located on Tick Creek in Chatham County for the Revolutionary government of North Carolina. James
Miles managed the Chatham furnace.
In the late 1770s, the Wilcox Iron Furnace and Forge was opened near present day Siler City. It produced cannon and shot for the North Carolina Council of Safety. The furnace and forge were abandoned by 1780.
In 1786, General Joseph Graham built the Vesuvius Iron Furnace near present-day Lowesville along Anderson's Creek.
In 1788, the North Carolina legislature passed the "Act to Encourage the Building of Iron Works in This State" which titled 3,000 acres to anyone establishing a furnace operation
"every set of iron works, as a bounty from the state to any person or persons who will build and carry on the same."
That same year, Peter Forney discovered the Big Ore Bank near Lincolnton. On May 18, 1789, North Carolina awarded 300 acres along Leeper's (or Leaper's or Leiper's) Creek to Abraham Reinhart, Abraham Forney, Turner Abernathy, and Peter Forney.
In 1790, Turner Abernethy built the Mt. Carmel forge, located
on Mountain Creek.
Types of Operations
Iron manufacturing involved operations of different scales bloomery forges and furnaces. These small bloomery forges used charcoal and hardwoods, anvils and hammers to produce tools, hollow ware (kettles, pots, etc.), iron bars, nails, wagon wheel rims and other items.
The average early blast furnace produced up to two tons of iron a day, using about 300 acres of hardwoods each year
1800 - 1860
Small forges and new furnaces sprang up around the state.
In 1804, Philip Sitton built iron works on what is now Forge Mountain in Henderson County, NC. By 1810, there were 11 forges in the Blue Ridge Mountains five in Surry County and six in Buncombe County.
John Fulenwider also had built a forge in 1804 on Maiden
Creek, near present-day Maiden, NC. He also was the founder of the High
Shoals Iron Works, which cast cannon balls during the War of 1812 and operated until 1872.
The Madison furnace was built in 1806 near Lincolnton. Madison Cold-blast Charcoal Furnace, owned by James F. & R. D. Johnson, was built in 1809 on Leiper's Creek, three miles above Rehoboth Furnace constructed in 1814 by Alexander Brevard near Leeper's Creek outside Lincolnton.
By 1815, North Carolina had 23 iron works, mostly in the Piedmont area. By 1823, Lincoln County had ten operating forges and four furnaces, producing 900 tons of bar iron and 200 tons of cast hollow ware items.
Lincoln Nail Factory, High Shoals, Lincoln County, NC (October 1826 - ) owned by Henry Fulenwider, the factory was constructed about seven miles south of Lincolnton at the High Shoals of the South Fork of the Catawba River. The factory was put into production by superintendent Reeves, from Pennsylvania. The cut nails were offered at 8 cents a lb. in Lincolnton, or at any other place at "Charleston prices" plus the freight charge calculated from Charleston to the location.
The peak of iron production in antebellum North Carolina was 1830. The iron works around the state made 1800 tons of pig iron.
One reason for the decline in iron production was improving transportation by steamers in the 1830s, followed by railroads opening in the 1840s and 1850s. Transportation obstacles had allowed the domestic industry to grow in North Carolina, but the state iron works couldn't match the increasing output from Pennsylvania and other states.
But even in 1860, there were 49 iron works in North Carolina.