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W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library Manuscript Collections

Guide to the Brierfield Ironworks Records MSS.0212


University Libraries Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35487-0266

July 1985; November 2009


This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2012-11-21T10:40-0600

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Description Rules:

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

November 2012
Collection Title:

Brierfield Ironworks records

Unit ID:



University Libraries Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama


1.5 Linear feet


Bulk, 1866-1882




Financial and legal documents of the Brierfield Ironworks along with some correspondence and printed materials, dating from 1866 to 1882. The materials are divided into two main groups: (A) those materials generated during Josiah Gorgas' control of the ironworks (1866-1869), and (B) those materials generated during Thomas S. Alvis' control of the operations (1869-1873).


Brierfield Iron Works . (unknown date)

Processing Information:

Processed by

Glenda L. Brooks; updated by Kelly Beckham, 2009; updated by Martha Bace, 2012

Scope and Contents note

The materials contained within the Brierfield Ironworks collection span the lifetime of the ironworks. Although the Brierfield Ironworks operated from 1861 to 1894 with a few periods of inactivity, the materials in this collection date from 1864 to 1897.

The collection is primarily financial and legal documents along with some correspondence and printed materials. The bulk of the materials range in date from 1866-1882. The materials have been divided into two groups (A) those materials which were generated during Josiah Gorgas' control of the ironworks (1866-1869) and (B) those materials which were generated during Thomas S. Alvis' control of the operations (1869-1873). There is some overlap between the two because Alvis used the back of some of Gorgas' ledgers. In such cases, the ledger was placed in the appropriate group on the basis of the majority of the material, not the ledger as a whole.

The financial documents consist of various types of ledgers and account books in addition to bills and receipts and a promissory note. The legal documents include deeds to property and a lease in addition to legal agreements. The correspondence is entirely business correspondence while the printed materials consist of diplomas and a printed circular and a newspaper clipping.

Each of these groups contain financial documents and business correspondence, but all of the legal documents and printed materials are in the Alvis group.

The ledger that contains Josiah Gorgas' outgoing correspondence clearly reveals the logistical problems caused by the poor condition of the railroads at that time and the financial difficulties created by choosing ineffective agents. The financial papers indicate that Thomas S. Alvis was still somehow connected with the operation as late as 1882.

Preferred Citation:

Brierfield Ironworks Records, W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, University Libraries Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama.

Biographical/Historical note

The original Brierfield furnace complex was constructed by C. C. Huckabee in 1861. The complex was located in eastern Bibb County and was known as the Bibb works. The Confederate government purchased the works shortly after their completion and used the complex to produce iron for the naval and ordnance works at Selma. The operation continued until the works were ruined by a Union raiding party in 1865. At that point the Bibb works became the property of the Federal government.

The Canebrake Company, formed by Josiah Gorgas and Francis Strother Lyon with other investors, purchased the ironworks from the United States government in January of 1866 for $45,000. The complex was rebuilt and production began on 2 November 1866 at a rate of nine tons per day. Two months later Lyon turned the deed over to Gorgas, who became president of the newly formed Brierfield Ironworks. The operation was troubled by logistical and financial problems. On 2 August 1869, Gorgas leased the Brierfield Ironworks to Thomas S. Alvis. Alvis ran the operation until the economic depression of 1873 forced its closure.

William D. and Kearsley Carter of Louisville, Kentucky purchased the facilities in 1877 and reactivated the operation. Shortly afterward they incorporated the operation as the Bibb Furnace Company.

T. J. Peter assumed control in 1882 and along with C.C. Huckabee and Robert McCalley incorporated the Brierfield Coal and Iron Company. Foreclosure proceedings shut the operation down in the mid-1880s, but Peter reorganized the company into the Alabama Iron and Steel Company. In 1894 Peter lost the company and it changed hands several times that year, but after 1894 the ironworks were never in operation again.

This history was compiled from Bibb County, Alabama: The First Hundred Years, 1818-1918 by Rhoda Coleman Ellison (University, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 1984) and from Brierfield Ironworks Park: A Reconnaissance by James W. Parker and Cailup B. Curren, Jr. (in Special Collections, Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, University of Alabama).

Access Restrictions:


Usage Restrictions:


Acquisition Information:



Alvis, Thomas S. , fl. 1869-1873 (local)

Brierfield Iron Works . (unknown date) (local)

Gorgas, Josiah, 1818-1883 (Library_of_Congress_Name_Authority_File)

Alabama (localbroad)

Alabama Business and Industry (Local)

Bibb County (Ala.) (lcsh)

Blast furnaces (lcsh)

Business and Labor (localbroad)

Business records (aat)

Commercial correspondence (aat)

Deeds (aat)

Financial records (aat)

Iron industry and trade - Alabama - History - 19th Century (Local)

Legal documents (aat)

Technology and Industry (localbroad)

University of Alabama--Presidents (lcsh)

Gorgas--Blast furnace records. Box 733 Folder 1

Alvis--Commissary records. Box 733 Folder 2

Gorgas--Commissary records. Box 733 Folder 3

Gorgas--Outgoing business correspondence. Box 734 Folder 4

Gorgas--Accounts payable/accounts receivable. Box 734 Folder 5

Alvis--Customer accounts. Box 734 Folder 6

Alvis--Commissary records. Box 734 Folder 7

Alvis--Production records Box 735 Folder 8

Alvis--Commissary records Box 735 Folder 9

Alvis--Deeds and legal documents. Box 735 Folder 1

Alvis--Financial papers Box 735 Folder 2

Alvis--Incoming correspondence Box 735 Folder 3

Alvis--Miscellaneous Box 735 Folder 4