15 October 2005

Over one hundred descendants of Coal Creek miners and guests participated in the tour of historic Cross Mountain Mine sites and a fund raising concert for the restoration of Briceville Church on this perfect October Saturday.  They came from Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Georgia to visit the abandoned mine portal, Cross Mountain Miners’ Circle Cemetery, and Briceville Cemetery and learned about the 84 miners who died on December 9, 1911 and the five who were rescued by engineers and apparatus crews from the U.S. Bureau of Mines.  They were also treated to a concert by Tony Thomas and the Mystery Mountain Boys, the choir from the First Baptist Church of Briceville, and the Slover Sisters to raise funds to restore historic Briceville Community Church.

James Wood and Carl Leinart
descendants of Cross Mountain Miners
Luther Wood and Lonzo Haynes look over
old photos at the abandoned mine portal.

Click on image to enlarge:

Rescued miner Arthur Thomas Scott
pictured at top of photo,
about eight years after
Cross Mountain Mine disaster


Arthur Thomas Scott was one of the miners rescued in 1911.  His grandson, James E. Scott, told about how Arthur Scott, Theodore (Dore) Irish, Irving Smith, Milton Henderson, and William Henderson had isolated themselves in a room of the mine to await rescue.  They stuffed their clothes in holes of a barricade wall they built to protect themselves from afterdamp (primarily carbon monoxide) that had formed after the explosion.  According to the Bureau of Mines report of the rescue, Arthur Scott periodically left the barricade to get water for the trapped miners from tubs that were used to water mules.  The miners were rescued 58 hours after the explosion, one of the first successful rescues by the Bureau of Mines.

James Scott, grandson of rescued
miner Arthur Scott, with his wife
and daughter, pictured with the Cross
Mountain Mine portal in the background

James also told about how his great-grandfather, R.J. Lester, the father-in-law of Arthur Scott, had died at Cross Mountain.  He was found by rescuers holding a small boy.  After Arthur Scott was rescued, he had to tell his wife how her father, R. J., had died in the explosion.

Robert Davis and Don Williams represented their grandfathers, two Welsh Cross Mountain miners who lived to tell tales about the disaster.   Henry Davis had a premonition that morning in 1911.  He and his sons refused to work in the Cross Mountain Mine that day, fearing a disaster.  Colonel Isaac Williams had been barred from working in the Cross Mountain Mine that Saturday in 1911 because he had previously refused to cross a picket line.

Tony Thomas and the Mystery Mountain
Boys performed at the benefit concert
to raise matching funds for the
restoration of historic Briceville Church

Briceville Church Trustee, Anna Mae
Evans holds the hat that was passed
around to collect $906.23 towards
the church building restoration project

Special thanks to Mr. Bob Swisher of Premium Coal Company who cleared off the site of the abandoned Cross Mountain Mine portal and placed crushed stone on the path to the mine.  Bob told how he had blocked the abandoned portal opening with stone in 1954 for safety reasons.  We also thank the landowner, Coal Creek Company, for permitting us access to visit the abandoned portal and the participants who donated $906.23 for restoring the church that was built in 1888 by Welsh coal miners.  The money will go toward matching a $25,000 restoration grant from the Tennessee Historical Commission of the Department of Environment and Conservation.

Finally, we thank Anderson County officials Mayor Rex Lynch, Highway Superintendent Gary Long, and Sheriff Bill White for paving Circle Cemetery Road and clearing the thick vegetation off the steep bank below Briceville Community Church in preparation for the events.

Descendants and guests gather
around the monument and graves at
Cross Mountain Miners Circle
Cemetery in Briceville

Click on images below to view more photos from the day's events:

Photos of descendants and guests visiting the Cross Mountain Miners' Circle.  Barry Thacker, PE, the President of Coal Creek Watershed Foundation presented the history lesson and acted as tour guide for the day.
Don Duncan (At right in photo
in suspenders and hat) traveled
from Illinois to share photos
of his ancestors, Aaron
and Elijah Duncan
Photos taken at Briceville Cemetery:  This church and cemetery document the turbulent history of the Coal Creek Watershed.  From 1891 to 1892, miners fought the Tennessee Militia over the use of convict labor in area coal mines during the Coal Creek War.  The church was a temporary jail for miners captured by the militiamen.  Also, twenty-one (21) of the 300 miners killed in the May 19, 1902 Fraterville Mine explosion and the December 9, 1911 Cross Mountain Mine explosion are buried here.  
Photos of the descendants and guests visiting the site of the Cross Mountain mine portal where the disaster took place on 9 December 1911. The area around the abandoned portal is now the coal preparation plant of Premium Coal Company.

Coal miner Bob Swisher tells
the crowd how he found the
site when he began mining
in Coal Creek over
50 years ago.

Cross Mountain Mine Portal
Descendants James Wood, Lee Robbins, and Carl Leinart stand in front of the old mine portal.
Carl Leinart looks toward the mine portal where his grandfather Americus Alonzo Haynes (Lonzo) perished Miner Bob Swisher Bob allowed participants to take a lump of coal as a memento of their visit.
Concert Photos: The guests were treated to music by The Mystery Mountain Boys, singers from the First Baptist Church of Briceville, and the Slover sisters, among folks who told stories of what this historic church built by Welsh immigrant coal miners in 1888, means to them and the history of Coal Creek. Elmer Phillips played the Bass Fiddle
The Slover sisters (Claretta Davis and Linda Slover Lindsay) who opened the singing program, have 11 ancestors who died in the Cross Mountain and Fraterville Mine disasters. 
First Baptist Church of Briceville singers entertained the group with several beautiful hymns.
Middle school students, Hannah Russell and Kyle Leinart (standing) were recognized for their participation in the Coal Creek Science and Engineering Camp at University of Tennessee last summer.

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