Cedar Creek Furnace

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Alabama Iron Works
Cedar Creek Furnace is located in Alabama
Cedar Creek Furnace
Cedar Creek Furnace is located in the US
Cedar Creek Furnace
Nearest city Russellville, Alabama
Coordinates 34°27′53″N 87°46′40″W / 34.46472°N 87.77778°W / 34.46472; -87.77778Coordinates: 34°27′53″N 87°46′40″W / 34.46472°N 87.77778°W / 34.46472; -87.77778
Area 83 acres (34 ha)
Built 1818 (1818)
Built by Joseph Heslip
NRHP Reference # 77000203[1]
Added to NRHP August 3, 1977

The Cedar Creek Furnace (also known as the Alabama Iron Works) is a former blast furnace site near Russellville in Franklin County, Alabama. It was the first iron ore furnace in Alabama, preceding an industry that would come to dominate the state's economy in the late 19th and early 20th century.


The furnace was built by Joseph Dilliard, who had experience running iron works in his native Pennsylvania, Virginia and in Tennessee. Heslip, Dilliard's overseer operated the property in Franklin County around 1818 using slave labor.[2] A cholera outbreak in 1820 killed Heslip and many of the slaves who operated the furnace.[3] The furnace and site were sold in November 1825 and purchased by Joseph's son John Dilliard a native of LaGrange Tennessee. John Dilliard operated the iron works implemented many improvements to the process, and the furnace became a commercial success producing high-quality product. The furnace operated until around 1859 to 1863, possibly due to a flood on the creek that reached the furnace and extinguished it, hardening the metal and rendering the furnace inoperable.

Before the furnace was constructed, most local blacksmiths used imported iron. The furnace's pig iron was used by locals and also transported to the Tennessee River near Pickwick Landing and shipped to New Orleans and overseas to London and Paris. [2]

Erected 1815 by Joseph Dilliard who used the iron to make utensils for early settlers. Iron was from surface brown ore smelted by charcoal fires. [4]


The furnace was situated in a bend of Cedar Creek, from which it gets its name. The furnace was 15 feet (4.5 meters) high, 25–30 feet (7.5–9 m) in diameter at the base tapering to an 8 feet (2.5 m) diameter chimney at the top. It was built of limestone quarried nearby and lined with refractory brick made on site. It was fired with charcoal made from the surrounding forests. A bellows which supplied the furnace with air was powered by a 12-foot (3.5-m) wide mill race which was diverted from the creek. The mill race also powered a forge hammer, grist mill, and saw mill. A warehouse was built on the river bank, only the foundation of which remains. The overseer's house was located northeast of the furnace. A small cemetery near the site contains about a dozen graves, mostly unmarked.[2]


  1. ^ National Park Service (July 9, 2010). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. Retrieved March 30, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Stell, Jackson R. (April 22, 1976). "Alabama Iron Works" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form. National Park Service. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 30, 2014. Retrieved March 30, 2014.  See also: "Accompanying photos" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on March 30, 2014. Retrieved March 30, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Cedar Creek Furnace". Alabama Ironworks Source Book. Alabama Historic Ironworks Commission. Archived from the original on March 31, 2014. Retrieved March 30, 2014. 
  4. ^ http://www.lat34north.com/historicmarkersal/MarkerDetail.cfm?KeyID=30-01&MarkerTitle=Cedar%20Creek%20Furnace