Shelby Iron Company


Shelby Iron Company

By Bobby Joe Seales

Brief History of Shelby Iron Company

"Beginning of Operation Dates Back to Year 1846"

Few enterprises in Shelby County Alabama have made so much interesting history as
the Shelby Iron Company at Shelby, Alabama. The article below is furnished
The Shelby County Reporter, dated Thursday, February 21, 1929,
by J.G. Hendrick, who for several years had been connected with the company
(with my personal inserts).

The history of Shelby Charcoal Iron dates back to 1846, when the first blast furnace was started in 1844 and completed within two years. This furnace stack was only thirty feet high and built of brick and stone. It's capacity was limited to about five tons of Coldblast Iron per day.

(Horace Ware purchased land from Green B. and Sarah Seale on December 29, 1842, filed January 19, 1843 in Shelby County Alabama Deed Record 1842-1847, Page 18-19.)

This plant was burned in 1854 and was rebuilt by the owner, Horace H. Ware. In 1854 a small puddling furnace was erected on the banks of Camp Branch Creek, three miles west of Shelby. At this plant, Shelby iron was made into wrought iron bars, a shipment of which went to Sheffield, England and made into cutlery, receiving the highest endorsement of English steel manufacturers.

A rolling mill of ten tons capacity was erected in 1860. This mill manufactured Merchant iron and from it, the first cotton ties made in the South were produced and later armor plates were made, some of this material going into the building of Confederate gunboats "Tennessee" and "Merrimac." (This was the first rolling mill in Alabama, and on April 11, 1860 they turned out Alabama's first finished bar iron.)

During the Civil War practically all the output of pig-iron, bars and armor plates were sold to the Confederate Government and in order to secure a maximum tonnage, enlisted men from the Confederate army were sent here to assist in operating the plants.

(In April 1862 Shelby Iron Company signed a contract with the Confederate Government to deliver 12,000 tons of iron annually. Almost all iron produced here were delivered to the Confederate Naval Works at Selma, Dallas County Alabama. In February 1863 the entire output of the rolling mill was requisitioned for gunboat plates. The relationship between the Confederate Government and Shelby Iron Company was seldom friendly. At the end of the war the Confederate Government owed $261,147.89 to Shelby Iron Company.)

In 1863 a much larger furnace stack was built with capacity of around thirty tons of pig iron per day. This furnace was in operation until some time in 1865, when the rolling mill and woodwork of the furnace was burned by Col. Black of the U.S. Army at the time of "Wilson's Raid."

(The Civil War ended for Shelby Iron Company on March 31, 1865. On that date, a detachment of General Emory Upton's Division of Wilson's Calvary Corps was sent to end the iron making capacity of Shelby Iron Company.)

The plant was rebuilt in 1868. (It was completed in February 1869 and during the following years, rail car wheel iron became their most important product.)

Up to 1862 the company was operated under the corporation name of Shelby County Iron Manufacturing Company being changed at that time to the Shelby Iron Company.

(The Shelby Iron Company came into existence by an act of incorporation of the Alabama legislature in February 1858. Shelby Iron Manufacturing Company was the name given to the new corporation. The property included 5,000 acres of land, purchased in 1841 by Horace H. Ware in Shelby, Shelby County Alabama.)

In 1873 work was started on a larger furnace, with capacity of about seventy five tons. This stack was completed in 1875.

The second furnace of like capacity was completed in 1889, both of these furnaces equipped with hot blast stoves for superheating the air blast before it entered the stack and making what is known as "Warm Blast Charcoal Pig Iron."

Captain T.G. Bush of Mobile was made president of the Company in 1890, serving in that capacity until his death in 1909, when Mr. Ward W. Jacobs of Hartford, Connecticut was made president, his term of office extending into 1914 when he was succeeded by Mr. Morris W. Bush of Birmingham, Alabama.

(When Shelby Iron Company ended production in 1923, Shelby County Alabama, at that time, lost its leading industrial concern. It had operated exclusively on charcoal fuel, was the largest charcoal iron furnace in the United States, and was the longest operating charcoal furnace in the United States. It was known as "The Queen of American Charcoal Iron Furnaces".)

In Memory

Horace H. Ware

Horace H. Ware, Founder of Shelby Iron Works, born April 11, 1812
in Lynn, Massachusetts, the only son of Jonathan Ware and Roxanna Howe.
Horace H. Ware became known as "the father of iron and steel in Alabama."
He died on July 2, 1890 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Jefferson County Alabama.

The Age-Herald
Birmingham, Alabama
Thursday Morning, July 3, 1890

The friends and acquaintances of Mr. Horace Ware are respectfully invited to attend his funeral at his residence, Twentieth street and Fourteenth avenue, North Highlands at 4:30 o'clock this afternoon.

Another Landmark of the Mineral Region Gone
Sudden Death of Mr. Horace Ware at His Home on the Highlands
~ Sketch of His Life ~

About 8 o'clock yesterday morning another of the pioneer iron makers of North Alabama ended his long and useful life.

At that hour Mr. Horace Ware of Birmingham passed away at his residence on the North Highlands, which overlooks the valley he did so much to make a hive of human industry.

He was ill in bed and the family physician was with him, but no apprehensions at all were felt by any one of his family or the doctor. Indeed, he had spoken only a few minutes before of getting out of bed, and was discussing with the physician the problem of immigration, a topic suggested by something in the morning Age-Herald.

Suddenly the doctor heard the patient make a sound like a hiccough, and, turning, found him in the death agony. He died almost instantly of heart failure.

Mr. Ware was 78 years old and the senior Alabama iron maker left among those still actively engaged in business. He was born in Lynn, Mass., and came with his father to South Carolina while a lad. They removed to Alabama shortly afterward, and for awhile young Ware engaged in teaching school. Quitting that, he joined his father in running a forge in Bibb county making blooms, which was almost if not the first successful iron making enterprise in Alabama.

After that Mr. Ware and Judge John McClannahan bought the iron property at Shelby and there erected a furnace, to which a rolling mill was added early in the fifties. He continued the business successfully at Shelby until 1862, when he sold all but a small interest to other parties.

After the war Mr. Ware joined with Colonel Glidden of Ohio in erecting the Alabama furnace at what is now Jenifer. He next became associated with Samuel Noble and General Tyler in the Clifton properties, and together they built the Ironaton furnaces and the Anniston and Atlantic railroad.

About seven years ago he removed from Columbiana to Birmingham and became largely interested in properties of various sorts in this district. He invested largely in Sheffield, being a large stockholder in the first furnace of that city, and doing much to establish confidence in that infant enterprise. He lost some in the failure of the first national bank there, some time ago, but held other large interests.

Mr. Ware left five children, the eldest being the wife of Dr. R.A. Moseley, Jr., of Montgomery; one the wife of Rev. W.C. Denson, a Presbyterian divine of Austin, Tex.; John E. Ware of Anniston, Mrs. W.A. Smith and Miss Clara of Birmingham. All are here today except Mrs. Denson.

He was a prominent member of the Methodist church, a man of the old school, sound of judgment as of character. He was respected by all who knew him, and in his death the state loses one who did her great service in his day. He had faith where many doubted, and, in building the state, wrought out fortune for himself. He will be buried from his residence this afternoon, and a large concourse of those who knew him and loved him in life will follow his remains to their last resting place.

In 1864 a 36 ft. x 36 ft. iron fence, manufactured by Shelby Iron Company,
was erected in Columbiana City Cemetery, Shelby County Alabama.
(The dedication of this historic fence is found in the Shelby County Reporter,
dated Thursday, September 9, 1982. A photograph of this historic fence is found in
The Shelby County Historical Society Quarterly, dated October 1981.)

Fence & Gate Built By
Shelby Iron Works
This Plaque Placed By
Descendents of Horace Ware
The City Of Columbiana
And The Shelby County
Historical Society

Inside this fenced area are the graves of his first wife, Martha Ann Ware,
and Roxana R. Ware, "Infant daughter of Horace & Martha Ann Ware",
Born November 18, 1852, Died September 23, 1853.

This monument is erected
To The Memory Of
Mrs. Martha Ann Ware,
by her bereaved husband Horace Ware.
Mrs. Ware was born in Spartanburg Dist.
S.C. March 19th, 1821,
where her parents Nathaniel and
Mary Woodruff then lived.
She was married June 24th, 1841,
was baptized by Rev. W.H. Carroll
into the Baptist Church in 1856.
Died September 26th, 1862.

Note: Horace Ware married Martha Ann Woodruff in Bibb County Alabama on June 24, 1841 by
Alexander Smith. Also, buried in the Smith-Mahan Cemetery, located now in Bibb County Alabama, is
Mary Adallize Ware,  "daughter of Horace and Martha Ann Ware",   April 7, 1842 ~ September 20, 1845.

Shelby County Reporter
Columbiana, Alabama
Wednesday, January 30, 1991


SHELBY. A building of historic significance, which has been used in recent years to house antiques, was destroyed by fire early Friday morning.

Although the owner, Robert Waite, has estimated the uninsured loss of the structure and its contents at $200,000, he said the community suffered the biggest loss.

The home which had belonged to Shelby Ironworks founder Horace Ware, would have been part of an historic park that is being created by the Historic Shelby Society, Waite said.

Built around 1850 by the man who has been called the chief of the early iron-masters of Alabama, the home has been described by some historians as the most architecturally unique home in the county.

Waite, who lives in North Shelby, said a Shelby resident who lives across the road from his antique business heard an explosion around 3:30 a.m. and saw a glow in the sky.

While there was nothing the Shelby Volunteer Fire Department could do to save the structure, Waite praised the quick response of the unit and the fact said that the volunteers stayed until 7 a.m. when there was no longer an danger.

Buddy Rhinehart, one of the 16 volunteer firemen who answered the call, said that the men and four trucks were on the scene within two minutes.

He said the structure was fully involved when the firemen arrived.

Since the fire seemed to have started in the kitchen area, Waite said he assumed it was caused by the wood burning stove.

However, the stove felt cool to his touch when he had left around 4 p.m. the previous day, Waite said.

Although everything but the brick facade was destroyed, Waite said that he hopes to be able to restore the building.

"Handmade bricks were used in the home," he said, "and the framing lumber was heart pine, which kept the fire burning once it started."

Waite said he plans to bring some of the antiques he has stored at other locations to sell from a trailer near the burned home site.

Shelby County Reporter
Columbiana, Alabama
Thursday, January 13, 1927


The last run of the Louisville & Nashville passenger train from Columbiana to Shelby was made Monday, January 10th. On the following day freight shipments to Columbiana were delivered by the local freight train from the L & N Mineral.

Columbiana had enjoyed passenger service over the L & N for a long time and in former years before the day of automobiles, it was a great convenience to the people. Of recent years the passenger traffic has been very light, and the railroad had previously made petitions to the public service commission to discontinue the service.

The road from Columbiana to Shelby was built according to information furnished the Reporter by W.G. Parker, about 60 years ago by the Shelby Iron Company to furnish an outlet to them for shipment of their products over the Southern Railway from Columbiana. That was long before the road from Calera to Attalla, now known as the L & N Mineral was built. The Shelby Iron Company owned and operated the road for about 25 years maintaining a sort of passenger service for a part of that time.

Soon after the construction of the L & N Mineral about 35 years ago, the short line was taken over by the L & N, became a part of that system and was operated continuously until its last run was made Monday. Passenger service had not been maintained regularly, however, for more than twenty years.

Rev. O.W. O'Hara was appointed by the L & N as their agent at Columbiana in which place he served for a number of years.

Historic Shelby Association
P.O. Box 176
Shelby, Alabama 35143

Historic Shelby Association Books for Sale