Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Brownsport Furnace park offers an interpretive of an old Pig Iron smelting furnace. The crumbling ruins of Brownsport Furnace, the first hot-blast furnace built in Tennessee, are the centerpiece of an isolated Decatur County park. The furnace was used for melting iron ore, the most valuable mineral in Decatur and adjoining counties of Hardin, Wayne, and Henderson. The brick and stone furnace stack and parts of the base of the old charging bridge remain from this sizable early iron operation. Operations began in the 1840s and closed out in in 1878. It was fortunate that it was located so close to the river that several heavy loads of pig iron could be hauled daily to the landing to be picked up by steamboats.
Enslaved individuals helped construct the furnace, commissary, trails and cabins for workers. Ore was dug from surrounding hills and hauled in carts to a flattened-off hillside overlooking the furnace proper. There the ore was transferred to wheelbarrows and rolled by hand across a strong ramp and dumped in the top of the furnace. Piles of wood or charcoal were interspersed within the furnace between layers of the ore. The fire was kindled at the bottom with just enough air admitted through the damper hole to make the fire burn hottest. The molten iron was poured into molds to make pans, pots and other goods, or into bars called “pigs” that were sold to forges for the manufacture of other goods.