History and Ecology
Field Trip with Briceville and
 Elk Valley Elementary
School Students

Friday, May 16, 2008

Welsh miners settled in Coal Creek after the Civil War, but many of them lost their jobs when convict laborers were brought to work in area mines by the State of Tennessee in 1877.  Some of the Welsh miners who lost their jobs, and their families, moved north along the railroad and settled in Elk Valley. 

Fort Anderson on Militia Hill as seen looking
up from the convict stockade during
the Coal Creek War
(From Harpers Weekly Magazine, 1892)

After more miners lost their jobs to the convict lease system in 1891, miners went to war with the State of Tennessee during the Coal Creek War.  Miners from Elk Valley rallied to support the miners of Coal Creek in their fight to oppose the use of convicts in the mines.  Although the miners lost the final battle, they won the war when the Tennessee General Assembly abolished the convict lease system in 1895 and built Brushy Mountain State Prison.

After the Fraterville Mine exploded in 1902, Coal Creek miners again sought help from the miners of Elk Valley.  Phillip Francis, a Welsh miner from Jellico, travelled by train with miners from Jellico and Elk Valley to assist with rescue efforts, and then to recover the bodies of the 216 miners who died at Fraterville. 

Click on small images to enlarge:

Students reading the farewell
message of Powell Harmon and Jacob Vowell
as they visit Leach Cemetery

On May 16, 2008, 5th and 6th grade students from Elk Valley Elementary School travelled to Coal Creek and joined 4th and 5th grade students from Briceville Elementary School on a tour of historic sites. 
At Militia Hill, we visited the site where the Tennessee Militia built Fort Anderson as a base to fight the miners who opposed the use of convicts in the mines.  Soldiers and convicts cleared the trees from Militia Hill during construction of the fort in 1892.  At that time before the chestnut blight, one in four trees in Appalachian forests was an American chestnut.  Students planted American chestnut trees to begin restoration of the site. 

Students planted an American
Chestnut at Militia Hill

At Leach Cemetery, we visited the graves of miners who died after the Fraterville Mine explosion and read the farewell letters they wrote.  At Norris Dam we learned about efforts to restore native warm-water fish species to Coal Creek that are reluctant to migrate through the cold water of the Clinch River to repopulate Coal Creek now that water quality has improved.  We also discussed how Tennesseans still get 64% of our electricity from coal-fired power plants.
Last, but not least, students will ate lunch at Cracker Barrel before returning to their respective schools.

Click on small images to enlarge:

Fraterville Miners' Circle placed on the
National Register of Historic Places in 2005

Students retrace the steps of the storming
of Fort Anderson during the
Coal Creek War

Click on image for PDF of pages
"Tennessee Blue Book -- A History of  Tennessee"
about the Coal Creek War


Click on image to enlarge

Historical marker at
Briceville Elementary School

Click on image to enlarge:

Briceville students made a stop at historic Drummond Bridge where Dick Drummond was hung during the Coal Creek War of 1891-1892

Students with the last name of "Elliott" stopped at the grave of Fraterville miner James Elliott whose farewell message is inscribed on his headstone at Leach Cemetery

Students received bandanas to wear which was the uniform of the Coal Creek miners during the Coal Creek War


at Militia



Let's eat at
Cracker Barrel!!!

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