Austinville in Wythe County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
History of the Shot Tower
Shot Tower Historical State Park
English Immigrant Thomas Jackson, came to the United States through Baltimore to answer a call from Moses Austin, who was hiring experts in the vocation of mining and lead works. Jackson was an industrialist and experienced miner who brought with him the trade secret of "drop shot", a process that was refined by craftsman William Watts of Bristol, England.
The Shot Tower took over five years to build and was completed in 1807. According to research and tax records it was the first factory to mass-produce shot on American soil. The ammunition produced here was for shotguns, particularly "fowling shot", for the local communities.
Manufacturing at the tower ceased in 1839 thus ending it's grandeur as a producer of fine shot.
Drop Shot Process
Workers would hoist the lead to the top of the tower by means of block and tackle which used livestock, ropes and a system of pulleys.
Sizing sieves were like big pasta strainers with different sized holes in the sieves. Using multiple sieves gave them the advantage of making more than one size of shot.
Once the molten lead was poured into the sieve, it free fell through the tower into a kettle of water at the bottom. Water did not cool the shot; however, it acted as a cushion to prevent deforming the shot.
The shot was then retrieved, dried, and polished with graphite to be sold on site or shipped down river to near by towns.
(illustration) The tower stands 75 feet tall with a shaft in the center that goes an additional 75 feet into the ground, which made the total drop 150 feet the necessary height to form a perfect round ball. At the base of the river was an access tunnel that would allow workers to retrieve shot from the bottom of the shaft.
Norfolk and Western Rail Road Co. collapsed the tunnel when they brought the rail line through to prevent a potential catastrophe.
Photo: Courtesy of WCC, W.R. Chitwood MD collection
Erected by Shot Tower Historical State Park.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceSettlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1807.
Location. 36° 52.204′ N, 80° 52.223′ W. Marker is in Austinville, Virginia, in Wythe County. Marker can be reached from Shottower Road (Virginia Route 624) 0.3 miles west of Fort Chiswell Road (Virginia Route 52), on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 283 Pauley Flatwoods Rd, Austinville VA 24312, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Shot Tower at Jackson's Ferry (here, next to this marker); Shot Tower Historical State Park (within shouting distance of this marker); Jackson's Ferry (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); River Crossing Old & New (about 500 feet away); Jacksons Ferry and Shot Tower (approx. 0.2 miles away); The New River (approx. 0.4 miles away); a different marker also named New River (approx. 0.6 miles away); Railroad Depot (approx. 1.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Austinville.
Also see . . .
1. Shot Tower State Park. Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation (Submitted on May 18, 2022.)
2. Jackson Ferry Shot Tower. Wikipedia (Submitted on May 18, 2022.)
Credits. This page was last revised on May 19, 2022. It was originally submitted on May 18, 2022, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 67 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on May 18, 2022, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.