Embree Iron Company

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This plain stationery for Embree Iron doesn't reflect the 112 year turbulent history behind the company which was formed in 1903 by interests from New York and Chicago.

Elihu and Elijah Embree began acquiring land and iron works in Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington County, between 1808 and 1812.  Sons of Thomas Embree, a Quaker preacher who moved to Washington County from Pennsylvania around 1780, they were third generation iron workers succesfully operating Pactolus Ironworks in Kingsport. By 1815, the Embrees had a "furnace, forge, rolling mill, and nail factory at Thomasville in Bumpass Cove." Thomasville would later be renamed Embreeville.

Best known for his publication, The Emancipator, Elihu Embree died in 1820, leaving the operations to Elijah.  Land rich, but cash poor, Elijah was soon "crippled by a lack of ready money."  Elijah died in 1847 owning "70,000 acres of land, an iron furnace, and other valuable properties," which were sold to R. L. Blair & Bros, who had been partners with Elijah. The Blair heirs eventually sold the company to a British syndicate in 1889, who established the Embreeville Freehold Land, Iron and Railway Company, Ltd.  This company built a modern furnace and fifteen miles of railway to Johnson City.

According to a Johnson City Press article from the Mary Hardin McCown Collection, dated February 8, 1942, Charles Wheeler and C. P. Perin of New York, bought the company in 1903, and renamed it Embree Iron Company.  Hydraulic mining proved unsuccessful, and the company closed in 1909.  In 1913, Embree Iron reopened with the intention to mine solely zinc.  Business boomed as boarding houses and small log homes were built to accomodate workers, some traveling on foot over the mountains to work in Embreeville.  Railways were also built to haul ore and workers to and from the mines.  Zinc and lead were the main interests and were shipped throughout the United States through the end of World War I.  By 1939, the interest had turned to manganese, according to the book History of Washington County Tennessee. The book describes the Embree Iron Company as "the largest producer of metallurgical-grade manganese concentrates in the United States."  The company liquidated in 1946 when the manganese reserves were exhausted.

Photographs below are of the Old Embreeville Furnace, Embreeville Iron Works, and Embreeville Men.

Note:  More information about the history of the Embree family is available at:

Embree Iron Company