1835 – 1836 Bright Hope Furnace Ledger, Greene County, Tennessee
Transcribed by Alan “Claude ” Ferguson
The Bright Hope Iron Furnace was located on Furnace Branch in western Greene
County, Tennessee. The Bright Hope Ledger is the daily ledger of the company
store at the furnace for part of the years of 1835 and 1836.
The spine of the volume bears the name: Brown, Roberts & Co. 1835.
The Bright Hope Ledger is hardbound and it is 10 1/4 by 16 3/4-inches
and 3-inches thick. It originally consisted of about 319 pages of recorded
transactions for the period 26 January 1835 through 25 July 1836.
Each page is numbered and bears the name Bright Hope with day of the week,
date, month and year.
There was apparently a double entry system of bookkeeping at the Bright
Hope Furnace consisting of a daily ledger and an individual account ledger.
Each person has an account number that was probably the number of their
page in an individual account ledger.
Line entries were recorded in both British Shillings and Pence and United
States Dollars and Cents. This suggests the monetary system was still in
a state of transition some 60-years after the Declaration of Independence
and 20-years after the War of 1812. Line and page totals were all recorded
in Dollars and Cents, however.
Several pages have been removed from the Ledger. The 243 pages remaining
are numbered 1 and 2, 23 and 24, 77 through 118 and 123 through 319.
There are two pages in the back of the Ledger containing unrelated data.
One lists the names and births of the Andrew R. Kiecher family entered
after 1893 and the other contains the name J.P. Shields with an 1881 date.
Bright Hope Furnace was located in western Greene County, Tennessee.
A Historical Marker at the junction of U.S. Highway 321 and the county
road to the Bright Hope area states (1988):
“Bright Hope Industries – North about one mi. on Furnace Creek
was the Bright Hope Iron Works, built about 1830. Mining and
smelting of iron ore and manufacturing of cast and wrought iron
products were joined by a paper mill, pottery works, and several
other establishments in an early industrial complex. The industries
are believed to have failed as a result of the Panic of 1837, but
their operations are still recalled in the place names of nearby
Furnace Creek and Ore Bank.”
Harry B. Roberts in his Olden Times in Greene County, Vol. Two, private
publication 1985, reports a Special Act of the Tennessee Legislature of
25 October 1813 incorporating an Iron Factory Company by owners named
Easterly, Shields, Stephens and Gregg from Greene & Cocke County.
These are family names of long standing in the area.
Roberts reported that a Forge was established on the Nolichucky River
by John G. Brown just before or about 1830 and that John G. Brown owned
the forge in the 1840’s.
The Iron Manufacturer’s Guide to the Furnaces, Forges and Rolling Mills
in the United States by J.P. Lesley, John Wiley, 1859, lists the furnaces
and forges of 1856. Under Charcoal Furnaces in East Tennessee is (page 75):
“271. Bright Hope Charcoal Furnace, originally owned by John Shields,
is situated about eighteen miles west of Cleek’s Forge in Greene
county Tennessee, was built about 1807, and ruined by a flood
previous to 1837. A cupola furnace still in use marks the spot.”
Under Bloomary Forges in Eastern Tennessee is (page 201):
“376. Brown’s Bloomary Forge, situated twenty-one miles west of
Click’s Forge on Nolichucky river, Greene county East Tennessee,
was built about 1827 and abandoned soon afterwards and is now in
Lesley stated as follows about the facilities using brown hematite ores
in his report of 1856:
“Greene county furnace H 271 (Bright Hope) is abandoned, but Click’s,
Alexander’s, Mountain, Camp creek, Snapp’s and Paint Creek forges
all use Cove creek bank and Greenridge bank ores – – -. Kelly’s,
Allens’s, Canada’s, and Brown’s forges are deserted.”
Lesley’s is the only report that Bright Hope Furnace was “ruined by a flood
previous to 1837. – – -“. The site on Furnace Branch does not seem flood prone.
Perhaps this was the fate of the nearby Brown’s Forge on the Nolichucky River.
The following from the records of the Greene County Court of Pleas give an
insight into other activities in the Bright Hope community of Greene County
Tennessee during the period of the Ledger:
“Tuesday 6 June 1836 – – –
10. William P. Johnson is appointed Overseer of the public road in
said County from Henry Dyches to Rhineharts field and the following hands
are appointed to work on Said road, to wit. Jesse Bowls, Daniel Hardbarger,
Benjamin Radledge, Asberry Radledge, Thomas Radledge, John Henegar,
Benton Henegar, Jacob Clowers, William Clowers, James Clowers, and James
Shaw. Court adjourned until Court in Course
M. Lincoln James Lotspeich Charles Gass
James Robinson John Walker Jacob ? Brooks
Casper Easterly Daniel Delany” Bk. 17a page 118
The names of John and Benton Henegar were lined through in the Record.
“Monday 6 June 1836 – – –
4. William Johnson, Overseer from Bright Hope Furnace to Peter Browns,
and John Walker & Henry Dyche, Esq. are appointed to assign a list
of hands to work under him.
5. John Bowls, Overseer from Bright Hope Furnace the fork of the road
near Henry Dyches, on the road leading to Warrensburg and John
Walker and Henry Dyche, Esqr. are appointed to assign a list of
hands to work on said road.”Bk 17a page 120
“Monday 4 July 1836 – – –
8. John Bowls Overseer from Bright Hope Furnace to Browns forge and
ordered that John Walker and Henry Dyche, Esqr. assign a list of
hands to work on said road and report to 3d Term of this Court.
9. Isaac Thompkins Overseer from Peter Browns to Neilsons Ferry and
ordered that John Walker and Henry Dyche, Esq.r assign a list of
hands to work on said road and report thereof to 3rd Term of this
Court.- – -” Bk 17a page 130
“Monday 2 Jan 1837 – – –
3. Andrew Smith Overseer from Henry Dyches by Jacob Rhineharts to
Bright Hope Furnace and ordered that he have the following hands
to work thereon to wit. William Clowers, Jacob Clowers, John Dyche,
James Bracket, Timothy Pitman and Jesse Bowls and in case of the
removal of any of the above hands, said Overseer is to have the
liberty of making up the number from the furnace hands.”
Bk 17a page 181
This indicates there might have been some workers at the Bright Hope Furnace
who were referred to as “furnace hands”.
“State of Tennessee
The County Court continued and held for the County of Greene at the
Court House in Greeneville on the first Monday (being the 3 C day)
of July, 1837, were present the worshipful Charles Gass, Thomas Jones,
Daniel Delaney, Mordecai Lincoln, Joseph Brown, Joseph Johnson and
Casper Easterly, Esqs, Justices CC
The following persons are appointed Overseers of the following
public roads in Greene County, to wit. – – –
5. Samuel Stinson, Overseer from Bright Hope Furnace to Browns
forge and ordered that he have the following hands to work
thereon, viz. Samuel Stinson, William Stinson, Isaac Johnson,
Jesse Boles, Jacob Boles, Joseph Hughes, William Saul,
Claiborn Boyd, John Lutrell, William Johnson, A. Smyth,
Sol. Steel, Joseph Rose, John Whittenburg, David Boles,
George Boles and Daniel Boles – – -” Bk 17a pages 317 and 319
It is interesting to note here the spelling of Bowls in the 1836 actions
and Boles in the 1837 Court action.
It is interesting to note that Mordecai Lincoln was a member of the County
Court that appointed members of the community road crew in 1837. Mordecai
was the great uncle of President Abraham Lincoln. His brother Abraham was
President Lincoln’s grandfather. Mordecai had moved into Greeneville about
1819 after a visit to his other uncle Isaac in nearby Carter County,
Tennessee, from his home in Virginia. Mordecai was a tanner, harness maker
It seems probable that some of the Bright Hope iron works continued in
operation after the panic of 1837. Several were recorded as working in the
industries in the Censuses of 1840 and later. Daniel Boles was recorded as
a foundry hand there in the Census of 1870. They may have been working in
the cupola furnace that was reported still in use at the site by Lesley in
his 1856 report. Several of the Boles-Hogan-Ferguson family members who
moved to Missouri cited Bright Hope Furnace as their place of origin in their
biographies in A Reminiscent History of the Ozark Region, Goodspeed & Co.,
Chicago, 1894, as if some of the iron industry was still operational when
they left the area in 1871.
Place names on the USGS Topographic Map of the 1930’s of the area include
Bright Hope, Bright Hope School, Furnace Branch, Ore Bank School, Hogan Pond,
Whittenburg Church, Pine Grove Church, Timber Ridge Church, Luttrell Spring
and Cochran Bend and Evans Island on the Nolichucky River.
The current County Road Map (1991) identifies roads serving the area as
Bright Hope Rd., Hogan Rd., Orebank Rd., and Whittenburg Rd.
Real estate transactions of the Boles and their kin of the 1830’s to 1870’s
were in the very near vicinity of the Bright Hope works. A brief examination
of the area in October 1988 and April 1989 indicated the road from the works
to Brown’s Forge and to the boat landing below the treacherous waters of
Evans Island for shipment to Knoxville via the Nolichucky and French Broad
Rivers went by or through the Hogan and Boles farms. Some of the old route
is now closed.
Some place names in the Bright Hope Ledger with page number are:
Greeneville 287 Col. Neilsons 299
Knoxville 95 & 270 Embries 264
Parrotsville 312 English’s (?) 306
Ross’s Landing 294 hendersons 23
Whites Creek Peter Davis’s 312
to the south 286 Wists 230
Brighthope Furnace & Cupola 299 Emerye’s Boat 86
Coaling Ground 100 at Boat 295
Furnace 89 Bent of River 160
Ore bank 251 bent River 169
Pot House 245 Boating 305
Whittenburgs Mill 90 on the River 287
Mouth of River 306
The nature of the transactions provides a brief window into individual
and community life of 1835-36. We see the prices for food and clothing
for the time in comparison with earnings.
Clothing materials and supplies were frequent entries and include muslin,
lace, silk, shirting, Irish, flax and toe linen, calico, cotton flannel,
bed ticking, broad cloth, jain (jean), linsy, needles, thimbles, thread,
ribbon, yarn, knitting pins, indigo, patterns and buttons.
Medicines named are castor oil, Godfry’s cordial, Bateman’s drots, camphor,
paregoric and opedeldock.
The community was quite literate. Books included the Bible, hymnals, spelling
books, almanac, and Hail’s United States History, Pilgrim’s Progress. Some
bought paper by the quire (24-sheets) at frequent intervals. Some paid for
“schooling” for their children. They bought trumpets and Jews-harps for music.
The menfolks liked their cider in season and whiskey when it was available.
They bought flintlock rifles, flints and powder, especially in the winter