Hodges Mine

“A county which forgets its past will have no future worth remembering.”  —Edith Fouche1

Imagine that you are a farmer in rural Bartow County in the late 1930s. You
grow corn and cotton, you cut hay, you have a vegetable garden and a few animals: a
milk cow, maybe a couple of pigs, some chickens, probably a mule or two for pulling
the plow. Or maybe you grow timber on your land and have a sawmill nearby. And
then someone comes along and offers you money just so they can dig around on
your land—mineral rights, they called it. That’s a likely scenario played out with the
landowners of what would become Hodges Mine.

Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Bartow County has one
of the most diverse mineral compositions on earth. It is home to some of the earliest
and most extensive mining in the Deep South. “600 million years ago… upheavals
and volcanic activity created what would become one of the richest mineral
deposits in the country, known in mining circles as the Cartersville Mining
District….Cartersville is unique in the Western Hemisphere for the minerals in its
soil, the driving force behind its development in the 19th and early 20th centuries. ”2
The history of Mark Cooper and his iron works, the town of Etowah (its ruins
submerged beneath Allatoona Lake) and Sherman’s destruction of the iron works
during his march to Atlanta form the first part of the story of mining in Bartow
County. However, mining did not end after the Civil War. In the 1900s, the focus
shifted to iron ore:
“From its earliest days Bartow County has been an important location for
various mining enterprises. First iron ore and saltpeter were extracted, then
ochre, barite, limestone, and manganese.

“For more than a century the mining industry provided jobs for
hundreds of Bartow County residents. At first the work was done by hand
with picks and shovels, with dynamite being used quite frequently to blast
through large rock deposits. During the 1920s and 1930s it was common to
read in the local newspaper of miners killed by explosions at mining sites.”3
The quest for iron ore led to mining operations across Bartow County.
“About 1900, there were large iron ore deposits opened throughout
the district. Railroads were built from the main railroad lines to the iron
deposits. The major producers were Joel Hurt, Sims Momford, Barney Sloan,
William S. Peebles. The output was used by furnaces in Tennessee and
Alabama. In 1939, Fred Knight, Sr. and Frank Smith built the first iron ore
washer in Georgia to be built after the Great Depression. Later, John W.
Hodge built a washer and became one of the biggest shippers in the
South and contributed to the progress of Bartow County.” 4(emphasis
added)

John Hodge bought mineral rights from landowners “all over Bartow County.
He probably mined a thousand acres,” said Harry Pugliese5. Historical researcher
and author Richard Wright noted that Hodge also mined extensively in Cherokee
county, with several “serious” mining sites near Canton6. This article, however,
focuses on Hodges’ mining operation in an area roughly bounded by Euharlee Road,
Taylorsville-Macedonia Road, Old Alabama Road, and Hodges Mine Road
(contemporary road names), known familiarly as Hodges Mine and covering
somewhat less than 200 acres.

Sonja Fields, whose Euharlee Road land abuts the Hodges Mine property,
recalls that her father, Grady Gentry, knew John Hodge and was glad to sell the
mineral rights to his land. “He didn’t mind because they paid him well,” she said.7
“Think about the time,” said Wright. “Bartow County suffered a lot during the Civil
War. Afterwards, the area was very poor. Here comes Hodge bringing in industrial
dollars. He’d have some support.”

Hodges Mine began operation in 1942. Iron ore that was mined from the site
was taken to Taylorsville, then sent by train to Birmingham Steel Mill for use in the
war effort.

Taylorsville resident Edward Colston’s grandparents farmed near the mining
operation. Miners used dynamite to break down 10’x10’ rocks called “gonnit,” so
that it could be hauled away for processing. “Chunks of them would fly through the
air and land three-fourths of a mile away on our farm,” he recollected.8
Long-time local resident Harry Pugliese said that evidence of a Native
American presence on the Hodges mine site was destroyed in the mining process.
At one time, the mining pits were flat top mountains, the site of an Indian village. As
Hodges pushed off the top soil, he found fire pits and the hogan circles that marked
each Native American home. Although local folk contacted the Georgia Historical
Society, the residents didn’t have the time or money to stop Hodges as he continued
bulldozing ceaselessly. The land was so carved up by the mining process that it
would be impossible to reconstruct any settlement that might have been there.
However, Colston said that he and his sons have found arrow heads and spear
heads on Hodges Mine land, evidence of a Native American presence.

“Hodges was quite a character. He bulldozed across Chulio Road, what we
now call Euharlee Road. We tried to stop him because that was our road to Rome,
but he kept going. He even tried to bulldoze the old Macedonia Church cemetery,
saying he owned the mineral rights to the land beneath the graves. A group of
armed citizens kept vigil in the cemetery all night until the sheriff could get there
the next day and stop Hodges.” (Pugliese)

Ore mining continued into the 1950s, until the good ore that was easily
accessible played out. They needed water to run the sluice, and in digging deeper
and deeper pits, they hit a vein of water that delivered 500 gallons per minute, far
too much for any pump to handle, and they lost one of their big steam shovels to the
rapidly rising water. “They literally lost their equipment, buried under the water,”
said Pugliese. “It was too expensive to continue.” Imported ore also contributed to
the demise of local mining, according to Tony Smith, son of miner Frank Dodd
Smith: “During the 1960s, the steel mills in Birmingham and Gadsden, Alabama,
began to buy their Iron ore from Africa and South America, and quit buying Iron ore
from Georgia. Since then, there has been no active Iron ore mining.”9

One commercial enterprise on part of the land after mining ceased was a
chicken operation. “Wesley Harrison ran those chicken houses,” recalled Joel Boss10.
The unpopulated land, hilly terrain, and deep water holes drew uninvited visitors.
“People would go hang out there because it was sort of desolate. Nobody watched
them,” said Sonja Fields. Young men on motorcycles challenged gravity on the hills.
People fished in the deep waters. “When I was a little boy, they’d take me to the lake.
There was a deep lake on the site, at least 100 feet deep. People would fish there; it
had lots of fish,” Boss said.

The Hodges mine site is zoned for agriculture and mining, which is actually a
form of agriculture. Part of it is now timberland. Inland Container bought some of
the land and harvests timber. That is one of the best uses of the land, according to
Pugliese, as the trees replenish the soil. While all of the history of the land may
never be known, Wright noted, “People who have lived here all their lives often
don’t realize how neat this place is and how worth preserving. You’ve got a nice
piece of American history in Bartow County.”

———–
1 “A quote in Edith Fouche’s papers at Valley View from Thomas Spencer, March 15,
1949” is the attribution for this quote found on the cover of An Inventory of Historic
Sites in Bartow County, Final Report. Published by Etowah Valley Historical Society,
February 2006.
2 Aued, Blake. “Earth’s rich bounty: New Riverside carries on Cartersville’s mining
tradition.” The Daily Tribune News, Sunday, July 27 2003, 1C. In the files of Bartow
History Museum. Accessed June 4, 2013.
3 Unattributed note in the “Mining” file of the Etowah Historical Society. In the files
of Bartow History Museum. Accessed June 4, 2013.
4 Smith, Frank Dodd. “History of Mineral Operations and Exploration in Bartow
County, Georgia, U.S.A.” January, 1983. In the files of Bartow History Museum.
Accessed June 4, 2013.
5 Pugliese, Harry. Telephone interview. June 6, 2013.
6 Wright, Richard. Telephone interview. June 6, 2013.
7 Fields, Sonja. Telephone interview. June 2, 2013.
8 Colston, Edward. Telephone interview. June 4, 2013.
9 http://www.tony5m17h.net/location.html
10Boss, Joel. Telephone interview. June 5, 2013.