ASME-Landmark:Jackson Ferry Shot Tower


The Jackson Ferry Shot Tower—where small lead projectiles were produced by "dropping" them in a free fall—is the only one of its kind in Wythe County and is one of only three such remaining antiquities in the nation.

Colonel John Chiswell, aristocrat, discovered outcroppings of lead all along the New River and formed a partnership to mine the lead. Fort Chiswell was built to protect the mines. Years later, after the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jackson purchased land in the vicinity of the mines and founded a ferry crossing of the New River. His shot tower was completed in 1812 and produced shot until 1839.

The ancient drop principle of shot towers has been known for centuries. At the top of the device, lead is melted and poured through a sizing sieve to produce small droplets. Surface tension causes the molten drops to assume a spherical shape during a 150-foot fall through still, cool air. Solidifying as it falls, the shot is collected and cooled in a water-filled container at the bottom.

The Jackson Ferry Shot Tower is unique because the design comprises a 75-foot tower and a 75-foot shaft. A horizontal tunnel 150 feet long connected the bottom of the shaft to the riverbank, providing access for removing the cooled shot and refilling the water container from the nearby New River.

In 1964, the shot tower and surrounding land were restored and established as the Shot Tower Historical State Park. See ASME website for more information