James Worley

by admin on October 3rd, 2003

Extract from Cumberland Furnace, A Frontier Industrial Village
by George E. Jackson


In 1820 Montgomery Bell had 83 slaves, making him o­ne of the largest slaveowners in the area. He educated and trained them for skilled jobs. Bell's most trustworthy and loyal assistant was James Worley. He was Bell's first slave, and he came with Bell to Tn.

James Worley is honored in John Livingston's biographical sketch of Montgomery Bell. Livingston wrote:

He [Worley} had worked with his master at the hatting trade, and was his most efficient and useful assistant in bringing order out of chaos in which he found the iron business when he commenced it. James frequently carried large quantities of iron and castings to New Orleans and Cincinnati, sold them and received the proceeds, and never a dollar lacking when he made a return of his stewardship…. James assisted him (Bell) in selecting ore banks and water powers, and indeed in every branch of his business. James Worley was a very shrewd, sensible, strong thinking man… and his master now states, that he is more indebted to James than to any o­ne else for much of his property.

When Bell built his last furnace in 1844, he paid tribute to his faithful assistant by naming it Worley Furnace. As Bell's agent, James Worley became Tn's first prominent African-American. Today, with Worley's help, Montgomery Bell is considered Tennessee's first capitalist and industrialist and is a legendary figure in Tennessee's folklore.

Order the full version of the book!

Cumberland Furnace, A frontier Industrial Village
By George E. Jackson, copyright 1994 by George E. Jackson
Published by : The Donning Company, Publishers

Any profit from the sale of this book will be equally divided between the Cumberland Furnace Historic Village, Inc., and the Dickson County Historical Society

To order: Send $12.50 ( includes shipping) to :

George E. Jackson
206 Bellwood Cir.
Dickson, Tn. 37055

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