In Bartow County, a wealth of resources have led to a flourishing civilization and diversified industries. Anheuser-Busch recognized the quality of the water, Goodyear relied on the Atco workforce and iron master Jacob Stroup built furnaces where iron ore was taken from the ground, but before America was settled, precious metals adorned the bodies of native inhabitants and were pined after by Spanish conquistadors.
American Indians were the first to extract metals and minerals from the land that is now Bartow County, but in 1828, north Georgia became home to America’s first major gold rush, although Dahlonega’s claims far outshadowed those struck in present-day Bartow County.
Although Dahlonega won fame more than 180 years ago, the geological significance of Bartow County gave birth to an industry that has yet to run dry. With the discovery of iron ore, manganese, ochre, umber and barite, the area known to geologists as the Cartersville Mining District is now world renown. The roots of Bartow County’s mining industry go much further than pioneers, conquistadors or native inhabitants. The oldest radioactively dated rock formation in the state of Georgia lies in Bartow County, dated at 1.2 billion years old.
Professional Geologist Stan Bearden holds the position of vice president of operations at Cartersville-based New Riverside Ochre. The oldest continuously operating mining operation in the Cartersville Mining District, New Riverside produces ochre, umber and barite, all of which are minerals formed hundreds of millions of years ago through the geological events that shaped the face of the earth.
“Continents have bounced together three different times here, that’s why the Cartersville Mining District is here. That’s why it’s so geologically interesting,” Bearden said. “Those collisions of continents are why we have hills around here. It’s the same thing happening on the Western coast of the U.S. ... One of the collisions bounced together and created the Great Smoky Mountain Fault, which goes from Cartersville all the way up to New England up the eastern side of the Appalachian Mountain chain and dives off into the ocean at Nova Scotia. That’s the Great Smoky Mountain Fault and it’s known across the U.S. as the Cartersville Fault because it was first identified and described in Cartersville at the current location of the Allatoona Dam.
“But there’s another, much younger fault, and instead of being north-south like the Great Smoky Mountain Fault, or the Cartersville Fault, the younger fault is called the Emerson-Talladega Fault — it runs east-west. The Cartersville Mining District is located at the juncture of these two faults.”
Bartow County’s location at the intersection of two continental plates makes it one of the most geologically rich and diverse areas in the world. Georgia’s red clay is a product of iron oxidization in the soil and can be seen throughout Bartow, with increased concentrations in the Emerson area. The amount of iron ore extracted from the Cartersville Mining District exceeded 10 million tons before the last Bartow County iron ore mining operation was closed.
“The earliest production date for iron ore in Bartow was 1840,” Bearden said. “This district has produced iron ore as far north as the Bartow County line, especially around White, all the way south to Pumpkinvine Creek and as far west as Taylorsville where the last mining activity occurred. The Hodge family were the last iron ore miners in the district and they left in the ’60s, but this is an important historical mine district because we have produced over 10 million tons of iron ore. It ended in the ’60s when the Birmingham District started producing iron ore of a higher grade.
“The next mineral was manganese, which is of even greater historical importance because this is one of the few places where manganese has been mined commercially in the United States. Manganese mining began here in 1866. So we’ve got gold at 1835, iron ore at 1840 and manganese at 1866. Those are the dates of the earliest recorded production. About a 1/2 million tons of manganese ore have been produced in this district, mostly from Aubrey Corporation in White. Ochre and umber were next in 1877 and then barite in 1894.
“These numbers exclude crushed stone. I shouldn’t belittle crushed stone because Bartow County has more rock quarry permits on file than any other county in the state of Georgia, and that’s in part because, in Bartow County, we have two types of aggregate, or crushed stone — one is limestone and the other is granite.”
Today, the field of crushed stone in Bartow is dominated by Vulcan Materials, locally extracting both granite and limestone, but the company’s operations reach across North America with more than 300 crushed-stone sites.
Vulcan operates two quarries in Bartow County. The Bartow Quarry, located on Ga. Highway 20 and the Adairsville Quarry on Mitchell Road just off Interstate 75. The Adairsville Quarry was purchased by Vulcan from Georgia Marble in 1989 and produces limestone for crushed aggregate. On Highway 20, the Bartow Quarry is the site of Corbin Gneiss, the 1.2 billion-year-old rock formation. This granite formation is described as a cooled, volcanic dome much like the Stone Mountain formation, except Corbin Gneiss lies below ground. Vulcan began permitting in the early ’90s and shipped its first product from the Bartow Quarry in 1994.
“What we do is a crushed stone material, and of course, crushed stone is the primary ingredient in asphalt and concrete. It’s about 90 percent of concrete and it’s about 95 [percent] to 97 percent of asphalt,” said Vulcan Human Resources Vice President Jimmy Flemming. “So anytime you’re building a road, you’re going to have a certain amount of base material under the road and then of course you’re going to have asphalt over the top, so it uses an awful lot of stone. The average lane of highway uses about 10,000 tons per mile for just a single lane and the average home probably uses about 400 tons of material in the concrete, the driveway, shingles. There’s just so many other little products that utilize some of our materials.”
From the two Vulcan quarries in Bartow County, about 1 million tons of stone are extracted every year. That number is actually from current operation levels, which are a result of depressed economic conditions; during better times, the two Bartow County quarries could produce more to meet demand. Vulcan employs about 35 people in Bartow and has about $5 million of capital investment between the two local sites.
Much of the minerals extracted at New Riverside Ochre also go to the construction industry while one of the company’s products, barite, can be found in a wide range of finished goods. While celebrating a rich history in Cartersville and Bartow County, New Riverside looks forward to mining its reserves in both ochre and barite.
“New Riverside employs about 35 people. We have employed as many as 70, but we are the oldest continuously active mining operation in the Cartersville Mining District and probably in the Southeastern U.S.,” Bearden said. “We’ve got ochre reserves here at current levels to last for more than 40 years. The barite reserves we have are different. All mineral deposits are a finite resource. You can’t renew them. It’s not like planting soybeans or corn where you go out every year and plant it and get a new crop. What we have in the ground has been there for 200 million years, or longer in the case of barite, and in the case of ochre, it’s been there 600 million years.
“The ochre reserves are healthy — we’ve got more than 40 years, but on barite reserves, we’ve got about 10 years.”
New Riverside Ochre operates open-pit mines; current operations can be seen on Ga. Highway 293 just north of Emerson. A 150-foot drag line is extracting minerals about 100 feet below the surface of what is known as the Northern Deposit. New Riverside operations have literally shaped the face of Cartersville and surrounding areas.
James Ray Dellinger, who took over the family business upon the death of his father-in-law, mined the area that is now East Main Street before personally developing each lot. New Riverside currently owns about 800 acres of land between U.S. Highway 41 and Interstate 75, in addition to the Northern Deposit off Highway 293.
Another reclaimed mine, Big Tom, is now the site of construction for the new Emerson Elementary School. Big Tom was the first recorded barite mine in Bartow County. Just north of Big Tom, the Southern Deposit also has been reclaimed and is the site of the new Old Alabama Road connector.
“[In the late 1800s], ochre was being used to color linoleum used on flooring and in canvas cloth and most of it was coming from Peru,” Bearden said. “The ochre business continued at a low level for scores of years, and at one time, there were as many as 20 companies mining ochre in Cartersville. One by one they went out of business.
“New Riverside acquired most of those companies. The last ochre company was bought out by New Riverside in the ’60s, it was called Cherokee Ochre Co. ... We started out mining ochre, but in the same area here where ochre was mined in the late 1800s, we found barite in the overburden to the ochre and barite also began being sold in the late 1880s. New Riverside is the only company that still exists in this district mining ochre and barite, even though many companies have mined ochre and many companies have mined barite, and we are now the only mining company for ochre in the Western hemisphere.”
Ochre, a natural iron pigment, is used in purely aesthetic applications in the manufacturing of construction products. Ochre is used to color ready-mix concrete, masonry cement and other concrete products — such as bricks, ceramic tiles and paver stones — as well as grout, stains and the coloring of roofing granules attached to asphalt roofing shingles.
Barite, however, is used in a wider range of materials, from high-density concrete to foam padding. Barite’s usefulness stems from three attributes — it’s soft, heavy and chemically inert.
“The United States is the world’s largest consumer of barite and that’s because 80 percent of barite is used for the drilling of oil and gas,” Bearden said, explaining that barite’s weight is used to prevent blowouts in drilling. “The remaining 20 percent of the market is filler/extender [and chemical]. Because of the same three attributes, it’s used as a filler in polyurethane foams and carpet backing. Below the felt of a tennis ball is a rubber that has barite in it. Bowling balls have barite in them for weight — you can throw a 12-pound ball or a 50-pound ball, the 50-pound ball has more barite in it than the 12-pound ball.
“The third market is the chemical market. That’s the reason Chemical Products is here. Chemical Products was established in 1935. It was established and located where it is to use the barite that New Riverside mined. It was established by the Dellinger family and still remains under their ownership. New Riverside sells barite and they convert the barite, which is barium sulfate to barium carbonate and other chemicals.”
The creation of a secondary industry, such as Chemical Products Corporation, is one example of the multiplier effect mining has in the economic development of a region. The extraction of a raw material inherently supports job creation and retention for the manufacture of other goods utilizing products mined from the earth. Likewise, Bartow County’s mining legacy has had a lasting effect on the landscape of its business community.
At this year’s annual meeting of the Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development, Existing Industries Director Rachel Rowell gave credit to Stroup for his efforts in the iron industry for beginning a tradition of manufacturing in Bartow. His iron furnaces were located strategically in an area rich with iron ore deposits and paved the way for a number of industries to follow.
“Bartow County celebrated 175 years of manufacturing in 2012 thanks to pioneer furnace builder and iron master Jacob Stroup who is credited with establishing the iron industry in Bartow County,” Rowell said. “In 1837, Mr. Stroup constructed Bartow’s first blast furnace situated off of Stamp Creek and other industries followed, such as wagon and coffin factories, additional furnaces, a foundry, rolling mill, saw mill and grist mill operations. Though the manufacturing of iron ceased in the late 1880s, the mining of iron ore continued well into the 20th century.
“Though many manufacturers have come and gone since the days of Jacob Stroup and Goodyear — brands like Coca-Cola, Glad, GoldKist, Thrall Car, Unilever and United Plastics — all have had an impact on Bartow County and paved the way for other manufacturers to grow in our community. Today, we have more than 130 manufacturers that call Bartow County home and employ more than 23 percent of our workforce.”
Last year, the Etowah Valley Historical Society revitalized their online presence and created interactive maps accessible from www.evhsonline.org. Included on their new site is a map of known mines and mineral deposits. Although mines dot the landscape across all of Bartow County, the EVHS map illustrates the sheer volume of historic deposits, claims and mines on the eastern portion of Bartow County. Indicated by pick-and-shovel icons, hundreds of mining sites can be found on the EVHS Historic Mining in Bartow map.
Coming up later this month will be an opportunity to hear from geologist and professor Randy Kath about the Cartersville Fault and the significance of the Cartersville Mining District. Kath will be presenting Thursday, April 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the Clarence Brown Conference Center, 5450 Ga. Highway 20, Cartersville. The event is free and open to the public.