Today’s blast furnaces are distant cousins to the iron works of the early colonial era. One such operation – possibly the first successful iron works in the colonies – is the Tubal Works in Virginia. Started by Colonel Alexander Spotswood nearly 300 years ago, it later became known as Spotswood Furnace.
Spotswood was sent by Lord Orkney to be the Governor’s representative to the Virginia Colony in 1710. Having discovered iron ore and abundant natural resources, Spotswood appealed to Great Britain for the necessary funds to construct an iron enterprise. These funds were refused, so Spotswood built the Tubal iron blast furnace in 1714 with private funds. Slave labor was not prevalent at this time, and German indentured servants who knew the iron-making trade were brought in to a company town a few miles from the furnace. This town is still known as Germanna.