Janney Furnace

(Except from “The Story of Coal and Iron In Alabama”,
with article on Janney Furnace
By a ‘Judge Randolph)


     “In 1863 A. A. Janney, a foundryman of Montgomery, Alabama, was buying pig iron from the old Goode and Moore furnace on cane Creek, when he was attracted to the large deposits of brown ore in that vicinity. He bought lands some five miles northwest of the Cane Creek furnace, near the present Ohatchie station on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, and about two miles east of the Coosa River, at the Ten Island ford. During that year he and his partner, Ned Lewis, started to build a furnace on land purchased from William Griffin, a farmer of that vicinity.

“They located the site for the furnace in the southwest ¼ of southwest ¼, Section 21, Township 14, south of Range 6, East. On the south side of an iron ore ridge they made a huge excavation and built their furnace – or at least built the stack and brick chimney for stove flues. With an eleven-foot bosh and a stack fifty feet high they expected to make fifteen tons of charcoal iron daily.

“The masonry for the furnace was quarried from the fine sandstone deposits near the furnace. The top of the stack was flush with the top of the ridge. The iron ore, being within wheelbarrow distance, was gathered up and deposited near the top of the stack to be charged into the top of the furnace. It seems that Mr.Janney bought out the interest of Mr. Lewis in the enterprise. They intended to get their flux from the limestone deposits over in the ‘six-foot’ valley only a few hundred yards north of the furnace. The furnace was built in a forest where timber was right at hand for charcoal purposes. The terminus of the old Alabama and Tennessee Rivers Railroad Company was at Blue Mountain (now Anniston), some sixteen miles from the furnace. Mr. Janney expected to haul his product to the railroad during low stage of water in the Coosa, and to use flatboats when the stage of water would permit it to be taken down the river.

“Mr. Janney employed some two hundred negro laborers to do this work. They were slaves, ‘refugees’ from Tennessee, brought from there by one Dr. Smith to keep them out of reach of the Federal army, then advancing through the State.

“On the morning of July 14, 1864, General Lovell H. Rousseau, U.S.A., crossed the Coosa River at the old Ten Island ford, and after capturing a few ‘home guards’, who were trying to prevent his crossing, reached this furnace, and put the torch to the sheds and shacks of the employees and the cord wood, then proceeded on his raid further south.

“Professor L. D. Miller, former superintendent of education of Calhoun County, Alabama, in his ‘History of Alabama’, relates the following account of the destruction of this historic furnace: “’With 2,300 picked men and horses, General Rousseau left Decatur on July 10, 1864, and moved rapidly to the southwest through Somersville. He sent a detachment into the town and captured some needed supplies for his command. He reached Greensport, on the Coosa, late on the afternoon of July 13, near which point his rear guard was fired into by some Confederates and three or four men were killed or wounded. Here he sent back three hundred of his men who were poorly mounted.

“’General Rousseau learned that General Clanton was on the other side and would oppose his crossing the next morning. He secured the ferryboat after dark by means of two volunteers who swam the river and got it. Several hundred men then crossed over silently in the night. General Clanton’s men, for once caught unaware, waited in fancied security to oppose the crossing next morning. They were assailed on the morning of the fourteenth unexpectedly, on their flank, by the Federals, who has thus crossed during the night, a force almost equal to their own numbers, and hence could make but feeble resistance to the crossing of the main body at the ford. All of General Clanton’s staff were killed or wounded, together with several others of his command, and the Confederates were forced to retreat in haste.

“’The Federals got across with small loss. The ford was at the same crossed by General Jackson when he started from Fort Strother, on his way to fight the Indians at Talladega. The big stone dam built by the United States government at Lock No. 2, Coosa River, is built across the old Ten Island ford.

“General Rousseau burned Janney’s iron works and Crow’s iron works (both in Calhoun County) the same day, and reached Talladega the next day, the fourteenth. There he destroyed a lot of Confederate stores and burned several cars and the depot and contents. The latter contained the county records of Calhoun County, whither they had been shipped the day before for safety from the approaching raid.

“There was a lot of machinery hauled from Mr. Janney’s foundry in Montgomery, and deposited at the furnace site, where it remained a few years since. It consisted of boilers, fly wheels, and different sizes of small wheels, shaftings and pulleys and stoves for the hot blast—in fact, about everything necessary for equipping the furnace. I am informed that Mr. Janney did not lose heart at General Rousseau’s visit, but after the general’s departure worked with renewed energy, and hauled much valuable material to his plant until the close of the war.

“The material remained there on the ground until a few years ago, when, I understand, it was sold for junk or scrap. The brick chimney was torn down and carried away. The old stack still remains as a monument of the wasted energy of the builder. At the close of the war Mr. Janney paid off his debts, and Dr. Smith and his negroes returned to their old home in Tennessee. The Janney foundry in Montgomery continues in operation to this day, and the old property is still owned by this firm.”


For an accurate military account of General Rousseau and General Clanton’s clash at Ten Islands and Rousseau’s destruction of Janney Furnace, read “Skirmish at Ten Islands Ford” by Larry E. Lee, Major General (retired) AUS.