Catawba Coal and Iron Co. Mines

from the Virginias, 1883

"The Catawba, Botetourt Co., Va., Coals.

W. G. Atkinson M. & C. Eng., under date of October 1, 1865, reported to J. R. Anderson & Co., of the Tredegar Iron-works, Richmond, Va., who then owned the Catawba furnace lands, concerning these coals, as follows:

'The coal mines and the coal series extend over a consid¬erable part of this property, the coal series being opened at various points along a line, extending like the iron ores, for at least 4 to 6 miles of length, and doubtless further, as sub¬sequent researches may reasonably be expected to show.— There are from 5 to 7 separate and distinct beds, 3 of these being workable and of value. They all lie in close proximi¬ty to the ore bed and for the most part geologically parallel with it. The thickest seam of coal presents a breast of 5½ to 7½ feet of pure merchantable coal, it is even more than this near the outcrop, measuring upwards of 8 feet, which is perhaps, by this excess, ascribable to a local cause in a slight roll oi the roof materials. This main seam is opened at two points both by drift and slope. The latter is driven down into and with the coal for 78 feet, and is designed to extend for 300 feet in all, or farther still if found to Be requisite for opening up the large area of working ground which is here so favorably presented. The slope is well timbered and laid with a double track on an inclination of about 350, co¬incident with the lay of the coal. This slope can be easily operated with a horse gin, as intended, or still more advan¬tageously with a small stationary engine. Two bands of slate of a soft and friable character occur in this coal, thus dividing the bed into 3 layers, the two uppermost ones be¬ing the thickest in forming the breast above described as yielding from 5½ to 7½ feet of coal. The roof of the "Big vein"," as it has been termed, consists of a hard black slate, ranging from 5 to 10 feet in thickness and above this is a strongly defined massive sandstone 7 to 10 feet thick. No better roof materials can be found in any coal mine of Virginia. The floor consists of a soft grayish slate and sand¬stone passing into a fireclay. It admits of easy lifting so as to perfect the grades, etc., throughout these grounds. At an approximate depth of 25 feet below the "Big vein" oc¬curs the Two-band coal. This measures some 22 to 24 inches of coal in the two layers which compose it, separated by a small band of soft slate averaging 12 or 14 inches of thickness. In the several openings which have been made into this seam,and worked at divers points a mile or so apart, the roof consists of a soft grayish slate; 3 to 4 feet thick, on which rests a massive sandstone. The latter is regarded practically as the roof proper under which to work this seam.

Below the two several veins already described, the "main seam" and the "Two-band coal," occurs a vein of some 2½ to 3½ feet thick, the drifts of which have not been worked for a long time, and the debris falling in about the pit's mouth prevents a view of this coal bed. This seam, which may be designated as No. 3, has been opened at a point directly west of and about 200 yards from the main shaft in the ore mine, and also about 1 1/3 miles only from the furnace. It may be possible that No. 3 and No. 1—the "main seam" are identical—but all the circumstances attending the position ol both veins do not readily support this supposition.

Quality and Uses of the Catawba coals.—The products from the coal mines of the Catawba Coal and Iron Co's lands have been in use for over 77 years—which would rep¬resent the fact that they are among the oldest collieries m America—one of the ancient grants from the Commonwealth of Virginia under Gov. Patrick Henry—for a part of this estate—refering to a certain "cole pitt"—which is one oi those now being described. The Catawba coal belongs to what may be designated as the semi-bituminous class, though it has been termed semi-anthracite. It rightly would be considered by experts in the art of mining and in the manufacture of metals as belonging to the varieties midway be¬tween the semi-anthracites and semi-bituminous. Some portions of these several coal veins of the Catawba estate are larger and heavier than others, and carry well to market without disintegrating, as do the coals of the Alleghanies.

They all burn well in any and every way they have been applied. The uses for which they have been heretofore taken are namely for foundries, for smiths' fires and for domestic fuel. It is highly probable that the harder and more refractory bands will be adapted well to the manufacture and refinement of metals. It has been believed that a hot-blast attachment to the furnace can be introduced so as to utilize the heaviest, hardest and driest coals of the Catawba region in manufacturing pig metal. These coals have for a long series of years been in constant demand for the above several uses and transported by wagons over a wide extent of country—being carried in some cases for 30 to 40 miles and even to 50 miles—the latter place of consumption being a foundry on Irish creek, in Rockbridge county.'"

---(Hotchkiss, Jed, ed. "The Catawba, Botetourt Co., Va., Coals." The Virginias: A Mining, Industrial & Scientific Journal, Devoted to The Development of Virginia and West Virginia. Vol. IV, No. 10 (1883): 160. Acquired from 05/01/07.)

Catawba Furnace, Va., in 1865.—In a manuscript report that has come into our possession we find the following description of Catawba Furnace, Botetourt county, Va., made in Oct., 1865, by W. G. Atkinson, C. & M. E.:

Agreeable to instructions I have made a Geological survey of the Catawba Coal and Iron Co's Lands, situated in Botetourt and Roanoke counties, Virginia, and beg to report to you the result. The property, comprising, by original grants from the Commonwealth of Virginia, some 7,200 acres, is located upon the eastern slopes and along the base of Caldwell mountain. The distances from the Coal mines, the Ore banks and the Iron furnace —a common centre to all of which may be considered as, approximately, also the centre of the estate—are as follows, to certain points of outlet to market, viz:

Fincastle 9 miles, Salem 18 miles, Bonsack's Depot 15 miles, and Buchanan 20 miles.

The furnace is substantially built, operates with charcoal fuel, is run by the water power of Catawba creek and is in a good state of repair. It will be ready to go into blast again so soon as the hearths are set, for which materials are on the ground. The height of stack is 41 feet, and size of bosh 9½ feet. Capacity 35 to 40 tons per week—20 an average, though 50 tons of superior metal have been made per week. The quality of metal is similar to the best Scotch pig, but much stronger. It is extremely fluid and is well adapted therefore to fine castings. It has been used to eminent advantage in the manufacture of machinery, hollow ware,stove plates, agricultural implements.chilled wheels,light ordnance, &c, &c; 5,000 cords of wood for coaling are cut and ranked, ready for seting in the kilns. Flux is abundant,of a superior quality of limestone, and the quarries are im¬mediately at the furnace. Ores of iron, the red and brown oxides, are extensively developed on a line of 4 to 6 miles in length, stretching through and along the centre of the estate. The main shaft in part of this ore bed is 1¼ miles only from the furnace, all down hill haul by a good road.— The seam of ore at this point is 10 to 12 feet thick, and it even enlarges to 14 and 16 feet. It is easily worked and affords a large yield of metal.

Improvements at the Coal mines and the Furnace,—Near the openings and workings into the coal, the improvements consist of two new cabins, roofed and floored, complete for miners, 2 shops for blacksmith and wheelwright purposes, 1 new stable, one platform for coal and gin house attached with fixtures for hoisting the coal out of main slope. The grounds near the principal collieries are well adapted for laying out and building a mining village. Roads of easy grades are opened throughout the estate, and the contour of the country is every way favorable for the introduction of tram-roads as a cheap and speedy mode of exit to and connection with the main avenues to market. These are respectively the Va. & Tenn. RR., at Bonsack depot, and the James River and Kanawha Canal, at Buchanan, which latter avenue to cities and towns in East Virginia, is seldom interrupted by the rigors of winter.

At the furnace the buildings consist of 1 large new coal house, a coal shed, 1 large stable with granery attached, 1 blacksmith and wheelwright shop, 1 corn choping mill, making 100 bushels of meal per day, and 1 saw mill, making 12,000 feet of lumber per day—both driven by water force never failing, which is also the power that drives the furnace; there is also here 1 managers house, 1 new frame boarding house, 6 cabins for workmen, office, feed-house, 1 shed, ore-washing machine, &c. &c, all complete to operate the iron-works extensively.

The Catawba Coal and Iron Co's property is well clad in the several varieties of oaks, pine, hickory, walnut, locust, lin, maple, beech, &c. The future uses of lumber for buildings, &c. can be readily supplied from different sections of the estate, and no better lumber can be found in the state, whether for weatherboarding, framing, shingling, lathing or otherwise. The water-power on this property along its borders is of an interesting character in view of what may be contemplated in establishing different branches of manufacture, such as taning, tub, bucket and barrel making, and for the purposes of oil, paper, cotton or woolen mills.

For lime-burning, the Catawba property is well supplied with such quantities of rock as produce a good lime, either for domestic or mechanical purposes. There is a great and growing demand for lumber and lime, owing to the recent decay and positive destruction of the improvements of a large area ot country—as the events of war.

There are from 100 to 150 acres of cleared land and on a part of this a crop of corn is now standing which it is estimated will yield 3,000 bushels.

Quality of Soil, &c.—The lands of the Catawba Coal and Iron Co., when deadened of their timber or cleared up and put in crops, are well adapted to all the cereals, grass, clover, vines, fruits and garden vegetables. Vineyards in the vicinity have flourished and produced finely of the Catawba and Isabella grapes, and the native varieties along the mountain side are abundant bearers each successive fall. From a greater portion of this estate being so situated as to look south and east, it is confidently believed the culture of the grape could be here attended with peculiar advantage.

Other Various Resources of the Property.—On these lands and interspersed among the mineral beds are strata of millstones, grindstones, hearthstones, and inwall-stones, all of which, from this or like localities, have been wagoned to remote distances for a long number of years. Among the coal measures also fire-clays are found which offer favorable indications for utility in manufacturing fire-brick, stove linings, water-pipes, tiles. &c.

All the beds of coal, iron ore, fire-clay, &c, incline conform-ally to each other at an angle of 300 to 500 from the Catawba mountain, along the lower slopes of which they range, and in every case they are easily accessible, cheap¬ly worked, and to a great extent susceptible of being wrought so as to be "level free" or above water.

The Catawba Coal & Iron Co's property, whether regarded as the basis of single or combined iron enterprises and the place for extensive colleries, tanyards, timber mills, lime burning, the opening of quarries, the manufacture of fire-bricks and other refractory materials, is certianly and obviously one of the most inviting and available mineral properties in the South. It evidently is well located for health of operatives, ready supply of provisions, for cultivation of desirable crops and for introducing into the country an industrious, steady and thrifty class of laborers and artizans in various branches.

The early prosecution of the railway extension from Winchester to Salem along the Valley of Virginia, will pass near the property, and this alone as one of the re¬quired improvements eminently demanded now by the state, and already eliciting general and urgent attention, is likely to enhance to a manifold degree the available worth of this large estate, whose real and intrinsic resources are so striking.

---(Hotchkiss, Jed, ed. "Catawba Furnace, Va., in 1865." The Virginias: A Mining, Industrial & Scientific Journal, Devoted to The Development of Virginia and West Virginia. Vol. IV, No. 10 (1883): 160-161. Acquired from 05/01/07.)