History field trip with descendants of
Welsh miner/engineer
David R.Thomas of Coal Creek
on Saturday, 10 September 2016

The group standing at Drummond Bridge where miner
Dick Drummond was hung during the Coal Creek War

Descendents standing at the headstone of
David R. Thomas in Leach Cemetery

Jayne Caldwell Gossett from Smyrna, TN, and her kin visited Coal Creek today to see where several generations of her family lived after the Civil War.  She told how she would practice at her grandmother’s piano, which sat beside two huge oil paintings of “an old man and an old woman.”  When she would look up, she swears those “old people” were looking at her.  Her uncle inherited the paintings upon her grandmother’s death, even though he did not know the identity of the two “old people.”  

In 2012, she watched the podcast of a lecture by Dr. Eirug Davies of Harvard University when he spoke at the East Tennessee History Center at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oqezdCBHyE.   Imagine her surprise when she saw photographs of her great-great-grandparents, David R. and Prudence Levi Thomas.  Jayne said the hair stood up on the back of her neck when she realized that beside the photograph of Prudence was a photo of the “old woman” from the oil painting.

Jayne later learned that the “old woman” was her great-great-great grandmother, Betsey Richards Levi, who was the sister of the three Richards brothers that started the Knoxville Iron and Coal Company in Knoxville.  The “old man” was her great-great-great grandfather, Dr. Joseph Levi. 

We had the pleasure of showing descendants of the Thomas family of Coal Creek the headstones of their great grandfather (R. M. Rowe), great-great grandparents (David R. and Prudence Levi Thomas), and great-great-great grandparents (Rees R. and Margaret Thomas)—they will have to visit Old Gray Cemetery in Knoxville to find the headstones of Dr. Joseph and Betsey Richards Levi.

Jayne requested that Barry Thacker lead the tour in character as David R. Thomas.  She showed us the wedding portraits of David and Prudence Thomas from 1868.  Barry says, “Now I understand why I can’t recall what kind of tie I wore back then because it was always covered by chin whiskers” and “Dang, my wife was hot!”

As requested, we are adding slides of a few things we discussed on the tour (i.e. the American chestnut restoration project by students at Lake City Middle School and information about famous painter Anna Catherine Wiley from Coal Creek, TN. 


We are also including the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFnra54Yk44, which is an interview of Welsh miner Richard Jenkins (who changed his name to Richard Burton when he became an actor).  The Burton interview reveals the psyche’ of the Welsh miners who came to Coal Creek after the Civil War.  It also explains how David R. Thomas was able to marry a doctor’s daughter as described by Burton’s “muscular buttocks” story.


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