12 May 2021


Barry Thacker P.E. and Carol Moore of the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation awarded Basn Copr scholarships totaling $25,000 to four recipients on Monday, 12 May 2021, at Copper Basin High School.  Joining them at the awards ceremony was Coal Creek Scholar, Casey Swindall. She got her Master of Business Administration degree at UT Chattanooga, where she met her husband.  They now have two children and Casey owns her own real estate business in Chattanooga.  She served as a role model at the ceremony to illustrate that if she can go to college and live the American Dream, so can Copper Basin students.

Ashley Payne was awarded a $10,000 scholarship.  Jacob Smith, Baylee Ballew, and Bradley Ballew were each awarded $5,000 scholarships. 

The Basn Copr scholarships are offered to graduates of Copper Basin High School to assist them in attending college or technical school.  The scholarships are named in honor of the Welsh copper miners who settled in the Copper Basin before the Civil War and are given in tribute to our dear friend Dr. Eirug Davies, professor of Welsh Literature at Harvard University, who passed last December.  Basn Copr is Welsh for Copper Basin.

Our engineering company started the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation 21 years ago as a community service effort to improve water quality in the Coal Creek watershed north of Knoxville.  We fell in love with the kids at Briceville Elementary school there and started a scholarship program, which has awarded over $500,000 to help 62 students from Briceville go to college.  Our scholarship recipients are now engineers, scientists, teachers, nurses, and small business owners, with one doctor and one lawyer.

So why are we now awarding scholarships to Copper Basin students?  For the past four years, we have planted blight-resistant American chestnut hybrids with Copper Basin students from Ginger Montgomery’s class and have been struck with the work-ethic and character of the students—they know the power of the words please and thank you.  We concluded that awarding a scholarship to a Copper Basin student would honor Dr. Eirug Davies.  Tree planting events shown at


We asked Ginger to provide background information and essays from students about improving the quality of life in the Copper Basin, so we could select one student to receive scholarship assistance. All four essays that she provided are good, but the one by Ashley Payne is outstanding.  As shown in the adjacent sidebar, it is written around the quote, “Maybe you have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”   

Barry’s 13-year-old granddaughter Katherine reviewed the essays and said, “Oh, Papaw, they all deserve scholarships.”  Barry proposed to Carol that CCWF give scholarships to not one, but to all four students.  Carol asked, “How can we afford to give scholarship assistance to all of them in addition to our commitment to Briceville students?”  Barry’s response: “Maybe we have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”



FROM "THE WELSH OF TENNESSEE" by Dr. Eirug Davies of Harvard University: “The Swansea area in Wales was noted for its unique way of processing copper and so it comes as no surprise to find that a limited number from that area could be found near Tennessee’s southern border and where metal was being extracted…they could very well be the first collect group from Wales to have settled in Tennessee.”  

A letter written in Welsh and translated into English from Dr. Davies’ book says: [There were Welshmen here in Ducktown before the war digging and smelting copper. Those works were started by Messrs. William Edwards a Thomas Merchant from the Swansea area. The copper ore in Ducktown attracted many Welshmen to that area before the war; but by today [1892] all of them have scattered to different parts of Tennessee and Georgia. It was last year that the last of the Welsh, Mr. Edward Morgan, left the place. By now those from this country have learnt from the Welsh, and are as capable as them in extracting the copper.]


My favorite quote is “Maybe you have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”  My mamaw has always told me that if there is something blocking my way, then move it.


I am studying for the Certified Nursing Assistant test. Passing the CNA test will allow me to work part time while I go to school.   Saturday morning I will get up at 6:00 am, drive an hour and a half to take a three hour test, and then come home to get ready for prom in the afternoon. I would love to spend the day getting my nails done and being pampered, but when the test is only offered on Prom day, you just move that mountain by doing both. Fancy nails are overrated.  


I would like to pursue a career working with animals as a vet tech. The vet tech program at Chattanooga State is a two year degree. I realize that it may take me three years to complete the program because I need extra time for hard subjects. I just have to remember it isn’t about being the fastest, it is about determination. I can move this mountain, one shovel of dirt at a time.

Some people dream of money and fame. I look forward to a small house with several animals, a few kids and lots of love.  My community is a great place to live if you have stable employment. This scholarship would help me develop the stability I will need to be able to stay here. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

Copper Basin students planting trees with their teacher Ginger Montgomery

Coal Creek Scholar Casey Swindall, Ginger Montgomery,
Carol Moore and Barry Thacker P.E.

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