Reinhardt University History Program to Host Symposium: Etowah Valley Iron-Making and the Coming of the Civil War

Come Learn

• how the Etowah Valley became the major center of antebellum iron production in Georgia

• how Joseph E. Brown, Georgia’s governor, fought with Confederate President Jeff Davis over control of the Etowah Iron Works

• and how the Union Army targeted Etowah Valley industry as a key component of the Confederate bid for independence.

Hear little-known and never-heard-before stories

Learn about these topics and much more at Reinhardt’s inaugural regional history symposium: Etowah Valley Iron-Making and the Coming of the Civil War, to be held March 30 & 31 on Reinhardt’s campus in Waleska, Ga. This event is sponsored by the Reinhardt History Program and the Georgia Humanities Council.

“This symposium is the first in a series that will examine the history, culture and environment of the Etowah Valley,” said Dr. Ken Wheeler, professor of history, who has intensely studied the 19th century history of the Etowah Valley, including the origins of Reinhardt University and its role in the development of the area. “We are excited about telling little-known and never-heard-before stories that will dramatically reshape our understanding of the development of this region. We gladly invite the public to come share in what promises to be an enjoyable and eye-opening set of presentations.”

Tour Historic Iron Furnaces and Explore the Local History

Participants will learn from experts on industrialization and the antebellum iron industry across the Lower South, especially about the Etowah Valley during the Civil War era and its historical significance. The public will tour the remains of antebellum iron furnaces and be treated to lectures and discussions from humanities scholars.

Make your plans now to take part in this rare gathering of experts eager to share their findings! This event is free and the public is encouraged to attend. To register, please visit the online registration page, or call 770-720-5943.

Symposium Schedule

All activities are in the Bannister Glasshouse in the Hasty Student Life Center, unless otherwise noted.

Friday, March 30

  • 3:30 p.m. – Wear comfortable shoes and hop on the bus, as the furnace tour will leave from the W. Frank & Evelyn J. Gordy Center parking lot—Richard Wright will explain the antebellum industrial history of the Etowah Valley
  • 6 p.m. – Dinner is available for $6.50 per person at the Gordy Center
  • 7 p.m. – Plenary address from James Bennett on Moses Stroup and Iron-Making in the Deep South – Bannister Glasshouse, Hasty Student Life Center

Saturday, March 31

  • 8:30 a.m.– continental breakfast for participants 
  • 9 a.m. – Lecture from Kenneth Wheeler: “When Civil War Came to the Etowah Valley”
  • 10 a.m. – Remarks and panel discussion led by Richard Wright and David Parker, Ph.D., Kennesaw State University

Biographies of Program Leaders

Dr. Ken Wheeler

Kenneth H. Wheeler, Ph.D.

Professor of History at Reinhardt University, Wheeler has, with co-author Wright, delivered scholarly papers on the antebellum iron industry in the Etowah Valley to professional associations, including the American Historical Association.  Wheeler and Wright are also the co-authors of “New Men in the Old South: Joseph E. Brown and his Associates in Georgia’s Etowah Valley,” which appeared in the Georgia Historical Quarterly in 2009.

James R. Bennett

James R. Bennett

Bennett is an expert on Jacob and Moses Stroup, key Etowah Valley furnace builders and ironmakers who subsequently played instrumental roles in the development of the iron industry in Alabama.  He is the author of Tannehill and the Growth of the Alabama Iron Industry (1999).  He is also the Commissioner of Labor in Alabama, after having served as Secretary of State for Alabama from 1993 to 2003.

Richard Wright

G. Richard Wright

 A graduate of Reinhardt University, and a local history expert with special interest in the antebellum iron industry, Wright has partnered fully with Dr. Wheeler in their academic investigations, paper presentations, and publication, including their article in the Georgia Historical Quarterly and a paper, “The Stroup Family, the Etowah River Valley, and Technological Change in Georgia’s Antebellum Iron Industry,” presented to the Georgia Association of Historians.

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Georgia Humanities Council
The Georgia Humanities Council is a nonprofit organization working to ensure that humanities and culture remain an integral part of the lives of Georgians. For more >

One of major projects of the GHC is the The New Georgia Encyclopedia, which was developed by the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor of Georgia. Since 1998 the Council has led the planning and development efforts for the NGE.