Funding for the field trip was provided
by Schnabel Engineering and CCWF


Coal Creek history comes
to life for Briceville School
4th & 5th graders

18th Annual History
Field Trip

18 May 2018

View lots more pictures from the day here:

Students from Briceville’s fourth and fifth grade classes got a lesson on Coal Creek history from Welsh miner/engineer David R. Thomas, who was born in Carmarthen, South Wales in 1839. 

Mr. Thomas told how he came to Coal Creek after the American Civil War as part of a contingent of Welsh miners who developed a coal mine to fuel the mills of the Knoxville Iron Company.  He lost his job to convict labor in 1877, but found work in the Fraterville Mine where he later became an apprentice to engineer C. G. Popp, which qualified him for his job as an engineer with the Provident Insurance Company.

Mr. Thomas explained how miners met at Thistle Switch, located between Briceville and Fraterville, in 1891 to devise a plan for ending convict leasing.  After the meeting, the miners captured the convict stockade in Briceville.  Miners marched the guards and convicts along the railroad tracks to the train depot in the town of Coal Creek and put them on a train to Knoxville.  They then learned how Governor Buck Buchanan visited Briceville at a meeting with miners in Tennessee Hollow to justify convict leasing.  Miners did not buy his explanation, which led to additional hostilities. 

Our first stop today was at Drummond Bridge where students saw the notch in the bridge from where Dick Drummond was lynched during the Coal Creek War. 

At Fort Anderson on Militia Hill, students got to see the breastworks dug around the fort where the Tennessee National Guard had its base of operations during the Coal Creek War.  At the cannon atop Militia Hill, Thomas told how miners lost the final battle, but won the war to abolish convict leasing in Tennessee—Governor Buchanan lost his re-election bid and was replaced by Governor Peter Turney who convinced the legislature to appropriate money to build Brushy Mountain State Prison and Coal Mine.


At the former Coal Creek Train Depot, students learned about the Gunfight at the Coal Creek Train Depot.  Most people have heard of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, which killed three.  Do you know that four died in the Gunfight at the Coal Creek Train Depot in 1904?  


At Fraterville Miners Circle in Leach Cemetery, students heard stories about the worst disaster in the history of mining in the South where 216 men and boys died on May 19, 1902.   Thomas told of being on the rescue crew that found 26 miners trapped behind a barricade.  Ten of those miners wrote farewell letters to their families before suffocating.  All the letters had two common topics—God and family—which tells you all you need to know about life’s priorities in 1902.

At Longfield Cemetery, students read the farewell letters of Jacob Vowell and Powell Harmon over their headstones.  Students then competed in the 2016 Dixie Eisteddfod for the best historical fiction essay.  The original Dixie Eisteddfod was held in 1890 in Knoxville, which was attended by Welsh miners from 10 states.  It was how they preserved their language and culture at a time when it was illegal to even speak the Welsh language in Great Britain. 


View lots more pictures from the day here:


Do you know that two of the sites visited today—
Fort Anderson on Militia Hill and
Fraterville Miners Circle—are listed on the
National Register of Historical Places?
 Do you know that the Coal Creek labor saga is now
part of Tennessee’s education curriculum?  

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