I wanted to post a little more history about the Iron Works. This is excerpted, added to and edited for brevity without permission from a brochure published by the Rockingham County Historical Society, written by Lindley S. Butler;
Speedwell Furnace (locally known as the Ironworks) was important as a crossroads store, polling place and grist mill for nearly one hundred and fifty years. As the site of one of the few colonial ironworks in the state, Speedwell Furnace offers the historian much information about the little known North Carolina iron industry. (It was illegal during the colonial period to smelt iron. Iron was only allowed to be imported from England.) Furthermore, around Speedwell furnace was an important bivouac fortified during Nathaniel Greene’s southern campaign, which led to the final defeat of the British at Yorktown and to American independence.
Troublesome Creek became the location of Speedwell Furnace for two reasons – water power and available iron ore. The creek crosses the extreme northern end of a belt of titaniferous iron ore that runs from Davidson County to southern Rockingham County. The ore has too high a concentration of titanium dioxide to be a good source of iron, which may explain why Speedwell Furnace only operated successfully for two years.
The first ironworks was established in 1770. The advent of the War for Independence brought a resolution from the Provincial Congress in 1776 “ to purchase and repair the iron works in Guilford County (now Rockingham County) for casting pieces of ordinance, shot and other warlike implements for the use of this Province.”
In 1781, during General Greene’s epic retreat to the Dan River following the battle of The (Hanna’s) Cowpens, several roads in the area were involved in the complicated maneuvering by both armies. While in pursuit of Colonel Otho William’s Light Infantry, British Colonel Banstre Tarleton’s Cavalry camped at the ironworks on February 13th
Following the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15th
, the American army retreated to Speedwell Furnace and remained there several days to recuperate. General Greene had chosen the site as the location of a second battle with Cornwallis, whom he expected to pursue. The attack never came, as the British had been badly mauled by the Americans and they were very low on supplies. It is assumed that the forge and furnace were in ruins at the end of the war.
In 1784 Peter and Constantine Perkins attempted to establish another ironworks on the site, but it appears not to have succeeded. It was sold to George Hairston and John Marr, who operated the furnace until 1792. George Washington visited the ironworks during his southern tour in 1791.
By 1810 the works had become a grist mill owned by James Patrick. Alexander Sneed reported that “Flour of the first quality is manufactured here, which finds a ready market at Petersburg and Fayetteville.”
The Patrick family continued to own a share of the property until after the Civil War. In 1870 the mill produced 600 barrels of flour, 3700 bushels of cornmeal, and the sawmill handled 40,000 feet of lumber. The mill burned and was rebuilt in 1915. It continued to operate under various owners until after WWII, when it was finally closed.