The following article originally appeared in the Rome News-Tribune, April 29, 1973, just after the establishment of the Rome Area Heritage Foundation.
Rome Heritage Foundation officers named
With election of officers held in the meeting rooms of the First National Bank last Thursday afternoon the recently formed Rome Area Heritage Foundation began its initial year of operation, dedicating its efforts to the preservation of information and relics of historical importance to the community. Elected from a board of 28 directors were Ellis Hale, president; John Maddox, secretary; Howard Markel, treasurer; four vice presidents, Mrs. Warren Gilbert, John Morrison, Joel Sulzbacher and Nevin Patton. Other directors include Hardin Byars, A.W. Ledbetter, W.M. Towers, Wesley Johnson, Hugh Keown, Mrs. Ralph Farmer, Mrs. Jack Rogers, W.G. Owen, Mrs. Joe Franklin, Mrs. Robert Sachs, Joel Jones, Ralph Ayers, Emory Brock, Ted Hunter, Don Biggers, Yancey Lipscomb, Dr. C.J. Wyatt, Mrs. Lucius Smith, Mrs. Lyons Heyman, Billy Maddox and Gaynelle Grizzard.
Although just officially organized, the foundation has made a firm first step in its program to preserve and display mementos of Rome’s past in the purchase of a massive old machine shop lathe, once used by the famous Noble Foundry, which was acquired at an auction of the Brewer and Taylor Foundry assets on April 14. This impressive old machine was moved by city personnel and equipment under the director of City Manager Bruce Hamler and his staff to the civic clubhouse grounds where it will be placed on display under shelter of a suitable canopy until permanent housing for it can be arranged.
The lathe is a durable relic of days when the Noble family, whose iron works stood on the site of today’s Southeastern Mills, manufactured steam engines, boilers, furnaces and industrial machinery for a market extending widely across the southeastern states. Nay steamboat engines were made by the Nobles with the help of the big lathe, and many parts for the first railroad locomotive manufactured in the south—the 125-ton “Alfred Shorter,” running on the Rome Railroad line to Kingston—were made on it in 1857.
During the Civil War, it was used to turn out artillery pieces for the Confederate Army; cannons made by the Nobles are still on display, with caissons and “limbers,” or ammunition carts, at such government maintained historical facilities as the Springfield Arsenal.
The lathe is 126 years old, made in Nashua, N.H. in 1847 and shipped to Rome shortly after the Nobles’ opened their iron works here in 1855. Too massive for rails, it was transported by sea to Mobile, Ala., barged up the Alabama and Coosa Rivers to shoal water at Wetumpka and hauled piecemeal by oxcarts from there to Rome. It measures 16 feet in length, and its cutting face permits a 10-foot swing; its actual weight is not known, but its great bulk saved it from destruction at the hands of Union troops who burned the iron works during the evacuation of Rome in November of 1864. A few mended gears show scars of that long-ago attack, and the massive face plate bears marks of Yankee sledge hammers, but, the machine itself is still quite serviceable.
Used by the Brewer and Taylor Foundry from 1963 until that firm’s recent closing it has handled constructions weighing up to 18,000 pounds. Previously it saw long use at the Davis Foundry, which extended from the site of today’s country courthouse annex toward the Oostanaula River, and was owned before that by the Bowie, George and Terhune Machine Works on the site of today’s Rome News-Tribune. Previous to 1881 it was in the possession of John J. Seay, onetime Rome mayor, steamboat line operator and owner of the Rome Tribune, who bought the Noble Foundry interests when that family moved to Anniston, Ala.
Of interest to the newly founded Rome Area Heritage Foundation is the program approved last year by Gov. Jimmy Carter in which the Georgia Heritage Trust Commission, designed to prevent loss of historical landmarks, has named 28 specific sites for possible acquisition under this $12-million-dollar program. Among these have been mentioned possible state purchase of the MacLean Marshall virgin forest, the L.A. Dean home of “Coligni,” and a wooded area on the Blacks Bluff Road which supports unique plant life peculiar to this area.
Civic organizations supporting the new Rome Area Heritage Foundation are the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce, the Carnegie Library, the Northwest Georgia Historical and Genealogical Society, the Junior Service League, Berry Schools Museum, Chiaha Art Guild and the Rome Federated Garden Clubs.