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Bear Spring Furnace

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Explored:  October 12, 2006 by Shawn Dunnaway

Driving around southeastern Stewart County one afternoon, my wife and I were greeted by something we've seen before but it wasn't in its rightful place.  After turning the corner on Tennessee Route 49, the Great Western Iron Furnace stood before us --- but wait a minute... we weren't in the Land Between The Lakes. 

No, this wasn't the Great Western that has been seen by thousands of visitors to LBL, but it sure did look like it.  This furnace was a bit different upon inspection.  The most prominent characteristic of the furnace is the beautiful engravings on the front.  Tiny names appear around the larger letters including "O. Sullivan", "T.G. Keatts, Supt." and "Umbenhour, Arct." which stands for "architect".

Using curves, fancy fonts and even an engraving of a bear, the sign on the front seems a bit lavish for what it represents.  The Bear Spring Furnace was originally built in 1830 and was the first charcoal cold-blast furnace in the area.  It used brown hematite ore from local deposits.  In 1862, Union forces destroyed the furnace during the Civil War.  The present "stack" was rebuilt in 1873 by Woods, Veatman and Company and was operated until 1901. 

The furnace is well preserved but shows signs of aging with large cracks.  Not too shabby for 134 years, though.

Hematite Leaves
Photo by Shane Dunnaway

Those who are familiar with Hematite Lake trail will know where this photo was taken. Beautiful autumn leaves attempt to cover the rocks alongside the path around Hematite Lake.