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Official Website of Lookout Mountain Alabama

The Dekalb County Tourist Association welcomes you to Lookout Mountain Alabama


Suggested travels plans to Lookout Mountain 

History of DeKalb County Alabama -  The Ruins of Battelle

At the turn of the century, the thriving mining community of Battelle was spread in a north – south line along the foot of Lookout Mountain five miles north of Valley Head, Alabama. Today the forest has reclaimed the whole area and not a single building remains to cast the aura of the ghost town. Today scattered brick, piles of rotted lumber, an occasional piece of metal, mark the ruins of Battelle. Here and there a tame rosebush still fights for survival among the weeds and vines and a row of jonquils looks strangely out of place.

It is difficult to realize that the settlement here once included hundreds of houses, a school, a commissary, a hotel and post office, in addition to the furnace and coke ovens. Battelle had a water system with water from a spring that was pumped into a large wooden tank and then piped into the surrounding homes.

Most of the historical data and old photographs of Battelle have been provided by the first child born at Battelle, Robert N. Mann. Mann is the Cherokee County Historian and president of the Cherokee County Historical Society.

Mining prospectors found pockets of a fairly good grade of iron ore, coal and limestone. All the ingredients for making pig iron. The Lookout Mountain Iron Company was consequently formed by a group of Ohio mining speculators, headed by Colonel John Gordon Battelle. Although he already had large investments in the iron and steel industry in Ohio and the Middle West, Battelle took a great personal interest in the operation to which he gave his name. He moved there and personally supervised the mine activity until it was determined that the mineral deposits were of insufficient quality or quantity to compete with the mines being developed in the Birmingham area. In 1905 the furnace was placed on a standby basis and the houses and other properties gradually liquidated.

During World War I, the British government purchased the furnace, which was then dismantled and shipped to Calcutta, India.

Although Battelle’s financial venture in DeKalb County proved unsuccessful; he did very well with other investments. When he died in 1918 he left $4,000,000 to his only son, Gordon. The younger Battelle, who died in 1923, willed the fortune to the Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio.

After the mining company ceased operations at Battelle and the better homes were sold and moved, there was never much activity in the community. The Belcher Lumber Company of Centerville operated there for a few years in the 1940’s. In more recent years many people of the county had never heard of 1900’s boom of Battelle. In 1969 when the Alabama Great Southern Train derailed and propane tanks exploded there, news accounts gave the site of the wreck as Battelle. Anyone with sufficient curiosity to make a bumpy five mile ride and do a little hiking can still find what remains of the ruins of Battelle.

One tragedy occurred at Battelle during the mining operations. A man named Drew Hester was working at the top of an 85 foot furnace when he fell from the stack into the molten iron. A legend grew over the years that, on dark nights, Drew Hester’s screams could still be heard, piercing the darkness of the forest-covered ridges as the phantom spirit re-enacted the fiery death scene. At times adventurous thrill seekers test their nerves by walking toward the supposedly haunted site of Battelle.

Historic Marker denotes the Valley Head location of Battelle

This Historic Marker of the Battelle Mining Community can be found in the "Triangle" of Valley Head.

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