Bessemer City History
In the year 1754, King George II of England granted land to James Ormand. That land was located in what then was known as Tryon County, Carolina. Mr. Ormand established the Ormand Mining Company, and that company helped in the establishment of Bessemer City.
The Old Ormand Furnace is the oldest stack of its kind in America. This is where they processed some of the iron ore that was mined in this area. Its has an elusive history, but one story is that it was built to make cannon balls for use in the Revolutionary War.
Tryon County was split in 1846, and part of it became Gaston County. In 1893 Bessemer City was chartered as a city in Gaston County. Mr. John Askew Smith was one of the founders of Bessemer City. A house that he built in the early 1900’s was called “Highacre,” and is now owned by the Eury family, who live in it currently. The Old Ormand Furnace still exists, but is used as a picnic ground and gathering place for the Ormand Family Reunion, one of the oldest family reunions in America, it has been held annually ever since 1897.
Agriculture was the chief occupation at that time, corn and cotton were the main crops. Cotton mills started to prosper in this area at about that time, also. The population of Bessemer City at the time of its charter was very small, there were only a few families in town, but by 1900 it had grown to between 500 and 600 people.
In 1895, Stonewall Jackson Durham and John M. Odell incorpored Southern Cotton Mills and as their first venture completed and opened the failed Smith/Pinchback Mill. A series of textile mills opened by Smith and Pinchback; Durham and Odell; Frank, Robert and Max Goldberg; as well as the Ragan Spinning Company, gave Bessemer City its industrial foundation.
Today Bessemer City is still in the mining business. One of our largest industries is FMC Lithium, Inc. They are the largest producers of lithium in both Americas. Lithium is used in pharmaceuticals, batteries, ceramics, etc.
There is also still some agriculture in the form of Kiser’s Dairy Farm, among others. Mr. Kiser is a descendent of one of the founding families of Bessemer City and he has about 200 animals. Recently, many diversified industries have discovered the many assets of Bessemer City and have chosen the opportunity to grow and prosper with us.