The Vagabond – Early iron ore mines in Gadsden, Part 5


The Vagabond started a new series a few weeks ago about the iron ore mines around the Gadsden area and how they got started.

Along with Altoona historian Ryan Cole, The Vagabond recently visited the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa to conduct research in the W.S. Hoole’s Special Collection Library. While on campus, we discovered a wealth of information about Gadsden and the mines. We found two rare booklets from the Bureau of Mines that were extremely interesting and cannot be found in Gadsden.

One booklet was titled Reopening and Developing a Small Red-iron-ore Mine at Gadsden, Ala., published in May 1949. The other was Alabama Red Iron Ores, Greasy Cove and Shinbone Ridge, St. Clair and Etowah Counties,” published in June 1948.

These sources contained many illustrations and photos and detailed information. The Vagabond will share some photos this week of what was once called the Old Jap Mines located by Tuscaloosa Avenue and later part of the Hammond mines.

The last few weeks it was mentioned that the presence in the Gadsden district of iron ore was known to John S. Moragne, one of the first settlers of Gadsden. In 1850 He discovered the outcrops of red iron ore nearby. Soon after he engaged in surface mining.

In the late 1870’s, Thomas O’Conner started the O’Conner Mining Company and opened up mines on Shinbone Ridge. Hundreds of tons of iron ore were mined. After O’Conner’s death from a duel, the Hammond family took over the mines. 

Albert Hammond first started the Hammonds iron ore mines but died at the age of 27. His brother, Joseph (Joe) Hammond then took over. Joe was about 13 when he became interested in the mining industry. From the beginning, he was a mining engineer and mine operator. 

Be sure to see part six next week.

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