Trout, American Chestnuts, and Coal Creek Mining History:
10th Annual History/Ecology Field Trip for Briceville School

14 May 2010

Teacher Robin Lindsay led the Briceville students in raising rainbow trout from eggs in an indoor hatchery and American chestnut tree indoor nursery this school year.  During the 10th annual history/ecology field trip for the 4th and 5th graders, trout were released to Coal Creek and American chestnut seedlings were planted at Militia Hill.  The trout eggs were provided by TWRA's Duane Oyer who also provided advice and guidance throughout the project.

Trout fry were released at each of the locations as follows: 

bulletSlatestone Creek where it drains into Coal Creek at Briceville School
bulletCoal Creek at Drummond Bridge where Dick Drummond was hung during the Coal Creek War of 1891-1892
bulletRight Fork of Coal Creek at First Baptist Church in Lake City

Briceville students say goodbye to their bucket of
trout babies before releasing into Coal Creek

Tank with trout raised by Briceville students for
release into Coal Creek which runs right
beside their school

Students from the entire school participated in the release of the trout at the school, and the 4th and 5th grade classes released the trout at historic Drummond Bridge and the Right Fork of Coal Creek.

The temperature of Coal Creek was cool today.  Within the next month or so, Coal Creek will warm to the point where the fry will need to migrate downstream to the Clinch River tailwater to survive.  The Right Fork of Coal Creek is spring-fed, so water temperature there should remain within the survivable range for most, if not all, of the year. 

Our goal is for some of the trout fry released to Coal Creek to return to spawn after they grow into adults. Before releasing trout to Coal Creek, impacts to the native species were considered.  As part of our planning, fisheries biologists from TVA, TWRA, and UT were consulted to verify that our proposed release locations should not adversely impact native species, particularly those species involved in the on-going Coal Creek Fish Restoration Project


Briceville students release a batch of trout fry
in Coal Creek alongside their school

Teachers (L to R): Gladys Stooksbury, Robin
Lindsay, Shannon Foster, & Christy Carroll

Joyce A. Coombs, Research Associate with the University of Tennessee Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, recently announced that Charlie Saylor and a TVA crew were collecting fish from Coal Creek on 4/22/2010 for an aquarium and found 3 adult male rainbow darters in excellent health with no tags. All were in one riffle. They were at the Fraterville bridge (where our bank restoration was completed). No fish were released at this site so they believe they are emigrating and/or beginning to repopulate preferred habitats!

History lesson at Militia Hill before planting
of American chestnut trees

After releasing the trout fry, students visited historic Militia Hill at Fort Anderson built during the Coal Creek War.  Over ten years after the Coal Creek War, Chinese chestnuts were imported for planting in a park in New York City.  Unknown at the time, the Chinese chestnut carries a fungus that proved fatal to the American chestnut.  By the mid-1900s, the American chestnut was nearly eliminated as a species during the American chestnut blight pandemic.

The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) is developing a hybrid that is 94% American chestnut and 6% Chinese chestnut.  The hybrid will retain the virtues of the American chestnut as a large forest tree with a sweet-tasting nut, but with the blight-resistance of its Chinese cousin.  

In honor of the miners who fought to abolish the use of convicts in the mines, we planted pure American chestnut seedlings.  We are experimenting with planting techniques and locations using the pure American chestnuts to gain experience for the day when blight-resistant hybrids are ready for planting. 

After a trip to Cracker Barrel for lunch, students ended their field trip at Briceville Church and Cemetery where miners from both the Fraterville Mine Disaster of 1902 and the Cross Mountain Mine Disaster of 1911 are buried.  Inside the church sanctuary students learned how engineers and apparatus crews from the U.S. Bureau of Mines rescued 5 miners at Cross Mountain, but 84 miners perished before they could be rescued. 

Coal Creek Watershed Foundation President
Barry Thacker PE, gives the students a history
inside Briceville Church

View from Eugene & Taylor Ault's headstone
looking down on Briceville Church and cemetery

Before he died in the Cross Mountain Mine, Eugene Ault left a farewell message written on a barricade wall that said:

Dear Father, Mother, Brothers, and Sisters, I guess I come to die.  Well I started out and come to the side track and Alonzo Wood is with me.  Air is not much now.  Well, all be good and I aim to pray to God to save me and all of you.  Tell Clarence to wear out my clothes, give him my trunk.  I guess I'll never be with you any more.  So goodbye.  Give them all my love.  Give Bessie Robbins a stickpin of mine.  Tell her goodbye.

Eugene Ault’s farewell message is inscribed on his headstone.

So why are students wearing bandanas?  Coal Creek miners fought the Tennessee Militia over the use of convict labor in the mines during the Coal Creek War from 1891 to 1892.  Miners wore bandanas to show they were in the miners' army.  We wear bandanas during our history field trips as the miners did during their war.

Click on images to view more photos:

Release of baby trout raised by
the Briceville students:

Release at
Briceville Schoo

Trout release at
Drummond Bridge:

Students at site of
hanging of Dick
Drummond during
the Coal Creek War

Found a friend

Release at
Right Fork of
Coal Creek:


Visit to historic Militia Hill for Coal Creek history lesson and planting of American chestnuts:


Students join hands to
envision the size
of the original
American chestnuts

This tree was named
Colonel Anderson
or "Andy"


Group photo around
tree named Dick Drummond

This tree named
Gov. Buck Buchanan
or "Buck"

Kids named their
tree "Bob"
The students asked how their trees were doing that they planted at Beech Grove in April.  Here are some photos taken on 14 May 2010:
Lunch at Cracker Barrel:    
Visit to historic Briceville Church for history lesson and viewing of interior:


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