Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, part of Alabama State Parks near the unincorporated town of McCalla in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Tannehill Furnace, it was a major supplier of iron for Confederate ordnance. Remains of the old furnaces are located 12 miles (19 km) south of Bessemer off Interstate 59/Interstate 20 near the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains.
|Tannehill Ironworks State Historic Park
With more than 1,500 acres in three counties set aside for hiking, camping and outdoor recreation. A miniature railroad chugs through the pines. From spring through fall, the blacksmith, miller and craftsmen demonstrate their trades. Craft shops occupy restored pioneer cabins and artisans chat with visitors from their front porches. Steeped in history, Tannehill feels timeless. The cotton gin, pioneer farm and working gristmill preserve a long-gone way of life. Hiking trails retrace historic roadways. Artifacts of Alabama’s 19th century iron industry displayed in the Iron and Steel Museum put in perspective the massive stone furnaces, Tannehill’s awe-inspiring centerpiece.
The 2,063-acre (835 ha) park includes:
- John Wesley Hall Grist Mill,
- May Plantation Cotton Gin House,
- Tannehill Sweet Shoppe = The Sweet Shoppe (Bagley House), built across the parking lot in front of the Event Center, is a favorite for young and old alike. Here might be found a wide assortment of cookies, cakes, candies and ice cream. Leased to a private operator, it is a “must see” park attraction. The old Bagley House, built in Jefferson County in 1856, was the home place of a Confederate soldier, John Bagley, who is buried at Chattanooga National Military Cemetery. For more information about the Tannehill Sweet Shoppe call 205‑477‑9168
- The Pioneer Farm, located alongside Mill Creek near Farley Field, is a collection of 19th and 20th Century farm buildings and the site of the park’s working blacksmith shop. A number of the structures are from the George Stewart Farm which was located near Maplesville in Chilton County. It was also designed to house a number of early day farm implements donated by Dr. H. C. Springer of Bessemer. The site also includes a sorghum mill, smoke house, gear shed and corn crib. The oldest building in the park, a milk storage building dating to 1822, is also located here.
- Crafts Cabins - open on weekends in March thru November (Saturday 10:00 a.m.– 4:00 p.m. & Sunday 12:30 p.m.– 4:00 p.m) and special events the craft cabins located along the plank road in the park’s center come to life with artisans producing pottery, quilts, cane chairs and art work. The cabins, to which visitors are invited, include:
- Dunkin House (Perry County, 1871),
- Wendell Stewart House (Bibb County, 1877),
- Stamps Cabin (Perry County, 1870 partial),
- the Crocker House (Jefferson County, 1884)
- the Gott House, built by noted Appalachian Mountain cabin builder Peter Gott as part of the “Alabama Reunion” in 1989.
Tannehill Iron Museum
Iron & Steel Museum of Alabama also known as the Tannehill Museum is an industrial museum located at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park in McCalla, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. Opened in 1981, it covers 13,000 square feet (1,200 m2).
The museum is an interpretive center on 19th century iron making technology and features belt driven machines, tools and products of the times. It focuses on the Roupes Valley Ironworks at Tannehill which operated nearby during the Civil War.
The museum has numerous exhibits relating the production of iron and steel during the American Civil War when Alabama once had 13 different iron companies and six rolling mills producing some 70% of the Confederate iron supply.
The museum underwent a major renovation of its exhibits in 2004-05. The collection includes rare steam engines, forge cams and war materials manufactured at the CS Naval Gun Works at Selma, Alabama.
Park trails, many of them following the original routes of ore miners and furnace workers, cut through some of the most scenic areas of the Tannehill reserve. Among the most popular hiking trails are:
- the Slave Quarters Trail,
- the old Iron Haul Road (which runs past the Slave Cemetery),
- the Furnace Trail,
- Grist Mill Trail
- recently restored Tram Track.
A concrete pathway, added under a federal enhancement grant, also extends from the old spring to Farley Field, a distance of about one mile.
All park trails provide an easy walk, most over wide dirt roads, some of which were originally used as early "interstates" traveling between towns and regions such as the Bucksville Stage Road which runs near the Boy Scout area known as [[Camp Jack Wright. Park trails run between one and four miles in length and a trails map may be purchased at the Country Store or Museum Gift Shop. Hiking and birding are major activities at Tannehill.
- Link to the Tannehill Trail Map PDF
Ironmaking at the site began with construction of a bloomery forge by Daniel Hillman Sr. in 1830. Built by noted southern ironmaster Moses Stroup from 1859 to 1862, the three charcoal blast furnaces at Tannehill could produce 22 tons of pig iron a day, most of which was shipped to the Naval Gun Works and Arsenal at Selma. Furnaces Nos. 2 and 3 were equipped with hot blast stoves and a steam engine. Brown iron ore mines were present two miles (3 km) distant.
The Tannehill furnaces and its adjacent foundry, where kettles and hollow-ware were cast for southern troops, were attacked and burnt by three companies of the U.S. 8th Iowa Cavalry on March 31, 1865 during Wilson's Raid. The ruins remain today as one of the best preserved 19th-century iron furnace sites in the South.
Also known as the Roupes Valley Iron Company, these works had significant influence on the later development of the Birmingham iron and steel industry. An experiment conducted at Tannehill in 1862 proved red iron ore could successfully be used in Alabama blast furnaces. The test, promoted by South & North Railroad developers, led to the location of government-financed ironworks in the immediate Birmingham area (Jefferson County).