John Fulenwider, Lincoln County Ironmaker

A sketch of an early ironworks in Rockingham County. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.On September 4, 1826, early industrialist John Fulenwider died.

Born in Switzerland in 1756, Fulenwider moved to North Carolina with his family and settled in Rowan County. After fighting on the Patriot side at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill, he took up iron manufacturing, along with many others who received land grants of 3,000 acres and tax deferrals under the state’s 1788 “Act to Encourage the Building of Iron Works.”

Fulenwider landed in Lincoln County, finding that it provided all of the essential ingredients for success: iron ore, trees for charcoal, limestone and falling water. He established two forges around 1795, with the one at High Shoals becoming his most important foundry.

His works produced nails, farm and kitchen implements, bar iron and wagon wheels, and he developed one of the earliest methods for making pig iron. During the War of 1812, the High Shoals ironworks produced cannon balls for use by the American army. The works operated for more than 70 years, until 1875.

At his death in 1826, Fulenwider left more than 20,000 acres of land and accumulated wealth to his heirs. He is remembered as part of an important cadre of entrepreneurs who spurred the development of iron manufacturing.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.