Larry E. Lee
In early 1863, Montgomery businessman Alfred A. Janney was in Calhoun County for the purpose of buying pig iron and iron ore for one of his furnaces. While scouting an area north of Ohatchee, he noticed an abundance of iron ore on the ground. An astute businessman, Janney realized the potential for an iron furnace. Not only was there available material for producing iron ore, but the Coosa River was within a couple of miles and would afford a means to ship the pig iron and ore. Too, the Cane Creek Iron Works was located about 5 miles away on Cane Creek. With his business partner, Ned Lewis concurring, Janney purchased the tract of land from William Griffin, a local farmer.
A Dr. Smith from Tennessee, who, with 200 slaves was fleeing the advancing Union armies, contacted Janney about using the slaves to build the furnace. A number of the slaves were skilled stone masons and had built two other furnaces of that period.
Following is quoted material from an article about the furnace: "First a portion of the hill was cut away and a retaining wall built. Behind that and even with the top of the stack another plot was leveled off to serve as a stocking yard. Hugh stones, many of which weighed more than a ton, were slowly shaped by hand and put into place. The stack stood 50' high and measured 11' across the bosh. On the east side of the furnace a reservoir was built into which water was pumped from a creek. Between the furnace and the reservoir was a bank , 25' by 30'high, on which was the foundation for the blowing engines and probably the boilers. All such machinery was made by Janney and his foundry and shipped up the Coosa River to a landing close by."
On July 14, 1864, Union Major General Lovell H. Rousseau and a force of 2300 cavalry troops overpowered a valiant resistance by Confederate Brigadier James H. Clanton at Ten Islands Ford and successfully crossed the Coosa River. Learning of the location of Janney Furnace and Cane Creek Iron Works, General Rousseau dispatched his Engineer Officer, Captain Ed Ruger and a detail of men to destroy the furnaces. The Cane Creek Iron Works furnace was totally destroyed. However, only the chimney was destroyed on the Janney Furnace. Many feel that the reason the Janney Furnace was not destroyed was because it was not in operation.
Janney did not attempt to rebuild the furnace but he did allow it to be used as a hideaway for valuable Confederate material until the end of the war.