rhe First Jmrou race l Zexas
ROBERT L. JONES
T HE PRODUCTION OF IRON AND STEEL in Texas has made
phenomenal growth since World War II. The industry
is not new, however, for an iron furnace was built and
operated in the state more than a century ago.
Much has been written of some of the furnaces that were put
into operation in the years just before and after the Civil War,
but of the first furnace built in 1847 by Jefferson S. Nash, little
is known. Because the records have been scattered and many
have disappeared, Nash, the father of the iron industry in Texas,
has become a legendary figure. The time and place of his death
have not been determined, and as far as is known, his last resting
place is an unmarked grave somewhere in Northeast Texas.
A native of Georgia, born in 1804,1 Nash came to Texas by
way of Tennessee. In 1846 he was settled as a planter in Cass
County,2 where he became enthusiastic over the possibilities of
developing the iron resources of Northeast Texas.
There has been much disagreement over the character of Nash's
business venture-even the location of his plant has been disputed
-but these questions, it is believed, are no longer debatable. It
is known that in 1847 Nash began the erection of a furnace on
the Walter H. Gilbert headright. The location was then in Cass
County, about sixteen miles west of the thriving port city of
Jefferson.4 This area was later included in Marion County, which
was created and organized in 186o.
Nash planned to build a furnace for smelting ore and a foundry
in which to make such items as the consuming public might
demand. The furnace was built and successfully operated, but
1United States Census, 1850 (MSS., Returns for Cass County, Texas, Archives,
Texas State Library), 745-
2Texas Confederate Home Registration Book (MSS., Archives, Texas State Li-
SNorthern Standard (Clarksville), June 23, 1847.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 63, July 1959 - April, 1960. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101186/. Accessed June 2, 2015.