The Vagabond – Area’s first iron foundry established in 1879

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By Danny Crownover

Gadsden’s first iron foundry was established in 1879 by William Hagen, an expert molder, and John Flynn an expert machinist. The foundry was built on Locust Street on the site once occupied by Jack Morgan’s Wholesale Produce Company.
G.R. Line came into the firm in 1883, and the company was reorganized as the Gadsden Foundry & Machine Works with a capital stock of $10,000.
Hagen and Flynn bought out Line In 1888, and some years later moved the plant to the corner of Broad and Second streets, where they established the city’s first soil pipe plant in the 1890s. That business was later sold to W.H. Weller, who eventually consolidated his plant with a larger one that was moved to Gadsden from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Robert Campbell was the foundry expert for Hagen and Flynn and later for the pipe company.
After the First World War, he was called to England by the British Board of Trade at the request of 34 cast iron soil pipe companies that wished Campbell to install American methods of production.
John Flynn was born in Jefferson County, Indiana, where he learned the trade of machinist. He came to the south in 1857 and eventually became a permanent resident, principally in Alabama.
Flynn served in the Confederate Army at Selma during the Civil War and is credited with converting a steamboat into a flagship for C.S.A. Admiral Franklin Buchanan who opposed U.S. David Admiral Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864.
Hagan was born in Denmark on April 9, 1845. He came to America in 1863 and wound up in Chicago, where he plied his trade for several years. In 1872 he located in Rome, Georgia, and came to Gadsden in 1879.
Campbell came to the U.S. from Scotland when he was 13 years old. He served a seven-year apprenticeship under the Noble brothers, who operated foundries and machine shops in Rome and later founded and built the City of Anniston.
Contact The Vagabond at dkcrown@bellsouth.net.

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