In the eventful year of 1862, a band of five planters and mechanics erected a blast furnace in Bibb County. Calling themselves The Bibb County Iron Company, and naming their thirty six high stack Bibb, the partners had little idea of the events that would engulf their efforts over the coming years. In any case they had begun their project under the leadership of Caswell Campbell Huckabee, an iron-making neophyte.
Huckabee’s lack of experience in the iron industry was offset by his relationship with Johnathan Newton Smith, a forge operator at Six Mile. Other partners in the new venture were Samuel Green Wilson, a Tuscaloosa County planter who would serve as furnace manager; J.D. Nance, a Bibb County saw and grist mill operator; and Gray Huckabee, a fellow New Bern planter.
The brick furnace was soon completed and was producing a surprisingly superior grade of iron. Although the Confederacy had interest in the undertaking, the partners simply wanted to sell their iron to the highest bidder. Often this happened to be local farmers and cotton planters who needed the metal for plows and other farm implements. Colin McRae, the Confederate Ordinance Bureau agent in Selma, complained to Richmond that the Bibb County Iron Company did not “seem disposed to risk a dollar of their own money for the benefit of their country.”
In 1862 the Confederate government passed two laws allowing the Confederacy to advance fifty percent of the construction costs of “manufactories of vital ores, iron and small arms” and, in addition, permitted advances of one-third the value of contracts covering purchases of coal and iron. Huckabee, as superintendent of the works, signed agreements obligating 1,000 tons of pig iron per year for three years and for erecting a rolling mill. Â For his cooperation and good faith, his company received an advance of $20,000 in Confederate bonds.
In 1863 the Confederacy, under ever increasing pressure for the production of the armaments of war, told C.C Huckabee that he could do one of three things. Either let the Confederate government have all of the iron produced at the Bibb furnace or sell or lease the works to the Confederate State of America. The final choice was really no choice at all. If Huckabee refused, the government would simply confiscate the property . On September 9th, 1863 the Bibb County Iron Company sold the works to the Confederacy for $600,000. Included in the deal were nine slaves, seventy mules, forty-one oxen, twenty carts, twenty wheelbarrows and two hundred axes. For the duration of it’s existence it would prove to be the only ironworks actually owned by the Confederate States of America.