Unbroken Circles at Cross Mountain Mine

100th anniversary of the mine disaster

9 December 2011


December 9, 2011, marked the 100th anniversary of the Cross Mountain Mine explosion in Briceville.  Tradition counts in the Coal Creek watershed of Anderson County, and it was on display today.  CLICK TO VIEW HISTORY OF MINE EXPLOSION

Descendants came from as far as Texas to sit in the little Welsh church, built by their ancestors in 1888, and hear its bell toll 84 times for miners who died a century ago.  Rev. Tom Byrge eulogized them in prayer, and then Tony Thomas and Judy Carson praised them in song. 

LISTEN TO Tony & Judy singing Cross Mountain song
to us on YouTube at:

Tony sings Fraterville Mine song to us:

Descendants and attendees at Circle Cemetery

They came from throughout Tennessee and beyond to stand and call the names of their kinfolk once more.  Becky Haunert from Indiana read the farewells of Eugene Ault and Alonzo Wood.  She told how she still carries a charm bracelet holding a piece of coal, a gift from her mother to remember her heritage. 
Carolyn Harmon McCafferty from Alabama read the farewell letter her grandfather, Powell Harmon, wrote before suffocating in the Fraterville Mine in 1902, where he told his sons Henry and Condy to never work in the coal mines.  With the loss of his father, Condy never married but supported his mother, brothers, and sisters until he died in the Cross Mountain Mine.


Coal People Magazine article
January / February 2012
Message from the Darkness


Carolyn Harmon McCafferty, granddaughter
of Powell Harmon reads his farewell message

Bobby Swisher from the Tennessee
Division of Mine Safety read an excerpt from
Welsh mine-owner and rescuer Philip Francis' book

Welsh mine-owner, Philip Francis, helped in the removal of bodies from Fraterville and in the rescue at Cross Mountain.  Bobby Swisher, an engineer with the Tennessee Mine Safety Division, recited the words written by Francis long ago, “On the inside, you must forget the cries of women and children and also forget many dangers that surround you in the mine. You have a duty to perform to a fellow miner and to remove dead bodies to their relatives on the outside.”  
Briceville Elementary School students celebrated their heritage by competing in an eisteddfod to document the oral history of Cross Mountain Mine.  Eistedd means "to sit" in Welsh and Jacob Sharp won top prize.  His essay tells how his ancestor Billy Stonecipher had an infected finger and his wife convinced him not to work the day the mine exploded in Briceville.  Billy then assisted in the rescue of five miners from the mine.   

Engineer Barry Thacker with
Jacob Sharp the winner of the
Eisteddfod Competition

Nathan Jobe
was 1st runner-up

Skylar Mozingo &
Brooklyn Dugger
were second runners-up
All 200 strong who attended the memorial service gave thanks for the five miners rescued 58 hours after the explosion by engineers and apparatus crews from the U.S. Bureau of Mines, and for what came later. 

In 1911, the number of coal mining fatalities nationwide totaled 2,656, and had been on an upward trend since the start of the century. The turning point for mine safety in this country came when headlines across the world exploded with “FIVE ALIVE IN CROSS MOUNTAIN MINE.”

Their legacy is today’s 99% reduction in the coal-mining fatality rate from a century ago.

Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA)
personnel received a round of applause

Irvin Hooker, District Manager from the Mine Safety and Health Administration in Barbourville, his assistant district manager Dennis Cotton, and members of his staff stood and were recognized with an ovation from attendees.    
Descendants of miners buried in Briceville pressed an oval plaque into wet concrete to commemorate the listing of Cross Mountain Miners’ Circle on the National Register of Historic Places, while Tony Thomas and Briceville students sang, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” 

Briceville students sing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken"
along with Tony Thomas at historic Circle Cemetery




The Circle Cemetery's National Register of
Historic Places plaque was mounted

How the Cross Mountain mine portal looks today

Tennessee coal miners created a living memorial to Cross Mountain miners this year by planting half a million trees on mine sites backfilled using the Forestry Reclamation Approach.  Descendants enriched that region-wide memorial by planting six American chestnut seedlings beside the old Cross Mountain Mine portal -- one for each of the five miners rescued in 1911 and one for mine rescue crews then and now.  They were assisted by Anderson County commissioners Tim Isbel and John Alley. 

Descendants plant American chestnut trees
at the site of Cross Mountain mine portal

Anderson County Commissioners
John Alley (L) and Tim Isbel (R) with
Carol Moore

Friday, December 16, 2011, marks another important anniversary in Briceville, the 10th annual Coal Creek Scholars Day.  New community leaders are not picked from trees, they grow through education.

College students and graduates from Briceville will once again return to their former school in Slatestone Hollow and say words such as, “Ten years ago, I sat in this seat and if I can go to college, so can you.”  They will then challenge Briceville fourth and fifth graders to follow in their footsteps, and join Principal Sandra Patton in asking, “Will the circle be unbroken?”

What better way to honor the memory of Cross Mountain miners?  Hear the angels sing along.

Click on images below to enlarge:

Memorial Service at historic Briceville Church
built in 1888 by Welsh immigrant coal miners:


Crowd at historic Circle Cemetery in Briceville, TN:

Gathering at the site of the Cross Mountain Mine portal where the mine explosion occurred 100 years ago today:



The Knoxville News Sentinel 10 December 2011
Unearthing memories (PDF)   and online at

TELEVISION:  NBC - WBIR-TV John Henry, Multimedia Journalist 9 December 2011
100 years later, East TN remembers mine disaster

The Courier News 11 December 2011
A miners' legacy (PDF)

The Knoxville News Sentinel 4 December 2011
The cries of widows and children - Briceville marks 100 years since explosion tore community apart AND
Friday's Cross Mountain Mine centennial includes ceremonies, tours

The Courier News 13 November 2011
Messages from the past...Messages for the future

The Courier News 13 November 2011
Fraterville mine disaster alters a community

The DESCENDANTS!!  You made this so special!
Megan Dugger, Coal Creek Scholar, who assisted Carol Moore at the event
Tony Thomas, Judy Carson, and Patsy Thomas for providing beautiful music
   LISTEN TO CROSS MOUNTAIN SONG ON YOUTUBE AT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMOSnU2VlT4
Rev. Tom Byrge with Clinton Baptist Association for leading us in prayer
Roger Bullock, M & R Bus Company
The Coal Creek Company and Southern Coal Corporation for allowing access to the old mine site
Bob Swisher, retired mine owner, who hosted us and gave us a history lesson at the Cross Mountain mine site

And we thank Bailey Francis for his research on descendants of the Cross Mountain miners at http://www.seventyyearsinthecoalmines.org/crossmtn.html.


Partial List of Attendees

Gordon and Helen Reed
Fred Brown - Knoxville News Sentinel
Paul Efird - Knoxville News Sentinel
Barry Thacker, P.E. - Coal Creek Watershed Foundation
Carol Moore - Coal Creek Watershed Foundation
Dennis Cotton - ADM MSHA
Gordon Cox
George McGrew
Tom Howard
Ronnie Riggs
Karl Zimmerman (H. A. Irish relative)
Russ and Mary Anne Rickard
James and Linda Slover Lindsay (Slover and Foust relative)
Carolyn and Melvin McCafferty (Condy Harmon relative)
Bill Lyon - Coal Creek Company
Kelly Keisling - State Representative
Bill Dison
Bob McGhee
Sandra Patton - Principal Briceville Elementary
Kenny Dixon - MSHA
Foster Brock - MSHA
Ben Ward - MSHA
Charles Barton - MSHA
Janis H. Bishop
Carolyn Weseman (Tom Martin relative)
Alma Kay Martin (Tom Martin relative)
Harry Shatz
Kathy Sarvis
Jean Brichetto
Steven Eggleston
Sarah Longnecker
Jamison Stalsworth
Diana Stevens
Jennifer Beeman
Larry Beeman
Arlene Cole - TN Black Lung Program
Jennifer Robbins - TN Black Lung Program
Sandy Webbar - TN Black Lung Program
J. Powell Harmon (Condy Harmon relative)
Larry Harmon (Condy Harmon relative)
Robert Davis (Aaron Duncan and Elizah Frost Duncan relative)
Candy Fore (Conda Harmon relative)
Joe Stephens (Robbins and Ridenour relative)
Irvin T. Hooker - MSHA District 7 Manager
David Landrum (Alonzo Haynes relative)
Inez Landrum (Alonzo Haynes relative)
Joe Leinart (Alonzo Haynes relative)
Ed and Deb Bernard
Tammy Bolinger
Charles Barton - MSHA
Jim Myers
Glenda Tolliver
Katie Jones (Duncan relative)
Lester Cox - MSHA
Carl and Pamela Duncan (E.F. Duncan, Aaron Duncan, and Isaac Duncan relative)
Penny, Casey, Sandy, Chris, Troy, and Michael (Condy Harmon relative)
Robbyn Romine
Mark Morgan - Norris Dam State Park
Beth and Jerry Van Fossen
Dimple Thompson
Ed Bradley
Gene Oliver
Eliza Oliver
Christian Oliver
Becky Wills Haunert (H.A. and Dore Irish relative)
William Dison
Brent Galloway - Coal Creek Company
Ann and Greg Campbell
Neal Burton
Jocelyn Griffo (James, Eunis, and David Robbins relative)
Susan Gaworecki
David Bolling - Oliver Springs City Manager
David Hughes
Audrey Duncan
Tomeka Mozingo
Josh Johnson
Freddy and Helen Smith
Billie McNamara
Katie, Maranda, Elisa, and Houston Vandergriff
Charles Boshears
Christine George
Mary George
Drew, Bobby, and Gwen Justice
Amy Morgan - Coal Creek Company
George Neeley
Mark Muse
Anthony and Martha Caldwell
Roger Hooks (Henry Burton relative)
Tim Isbel - Anderson County Commissioner
Steve McKamey (McKamey relative)
Jason Brock (F.A. and John Duff relative)
Rosalie and John Alley (Dezern relative)
Daphne Windham (Thomas Marlow relative)
Barbara and Nadia Titus (Condy Harmon relative)
Debra Cox
Georgia Jobe
Rochelle Phillips
Keith Clark
Louise Nelson (Dezern relative)
Dorothy Ehann (Will Irick relative)
Edward Ehmann
David James (Rev. John Moore relative)
Robert Swisher
Wanda and William Perry (Arthur Scott and R.J. Lester relative)
Savanna Eagleton
Briceville 4th and 5th grade classes and Nathan Jobe & Brooklyn Dugger

clmoore@geoe.com or 865-584-0344 Ext. 102


[Master Plan] [Map] [Photo Gallery]
[Bank Stabilization Projects]
[Deadwood Removal Days] [Discovery Day 2000] [Scrape, Paint & Clean Day 2000
[Historic Fraterville Mine Disaster Field Trip 2001] [Fraterville Mine Disaster 100th Anniversary]
[Coal Creek War and Mining Disasters] [Mine Reclamation Lessons]
[CMD] [Economic Benefits] [Motor Discovery Trail] [Historic Cemeteries]
[Partners] [Schools in Watershed] [Mark the Trail Day]
[Awards] [Coal Creek Health Days]
[Briceville School History Field Trips] [Ghost Stories]
[Trout Stuff] [Join Us] [Eastern Coal Region Roundtable]
[Articles in the News] [Dream Contest]

Copyright© Coal Creek Watershed Foundation, Inc. 2000 through 2021