Source: Times Free Press | Frank Robbins | August 20, 2017
At the turn of the last century, the thriving mining community of Battelle, Ala., straddled a north-south line along the foot of Lookout Mountain five miles north of Valley Head. Forest, today, has reclaimed the area, and no building remains to cast the aura of the old ghost town.
The settlement once included hundreds of houses, a school, a commissary, a hotel and a post office, in addition to the furnace and coke ovens. Water from a spring was pumped into a large wooden tank and piped into surrounding homes. The “History of DeKalb County” notes that only scattered brick, piles of rotted lumber and an occasional piece of metal mark the ruins of Battelle.
Mining prospectors in the late 1800s in Northeast Alabama found pockets of an acceptable grade of iron ore, coal and limestone, the ingredients for making pig iron. In 1902, Col. John Gordon Battelle and other Ohio mining speculators formed The Lookout Mountain Land Co.
Although he already had large investments in the iron and steel industry in Ohio and the Midwest, Battelle took a great personal interest in the operation and moved to the site to supervise the mining activity. Within a few short years however, its mineral deposits became too scarce for his operation to compete with those being developed in the Birmingham area.
In 1905, the furnace was placed on a standby basis. During World War I, the British government purchased the furnace and shipped it to Calcutta, India.
Once the mining operations ceased at Battelle, the better homes were sold, and people moved away. The Belcher Lumber Co. of Centerville operated in the area for a few years in the 1940s. In 1969, the Alabama Great Southern Railroad train derailed and propane tanks exploded. News accounts gave the site of the wreck as Battelle, Ala. Today few in the county have heard of the early 1900s boom of Battelle.