Saturday, May 19th, 2007

"Gone but not forgotten"

On the 105th anniversary of the Fraterville Mine Disaster, over 140 descendants and friends attended a free tour of several of the historic mine disaster sites. 
On May 19, 1902, after a violent explosion at 7:30 a.m., the mines grew still in Fraterville.  The public was invited to participate in a free bus tour on the 105th anniversary of this disaster to honor the 216 men and boys who perished.  As documented on many of their headstones, they are “gone, but not forgotten”

Tour attendees take the walk to the Fraterville Mine Site.   The tour was free, courtesy of the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation, Inc. 


Watch video by NBC WBIR-TV

Read Courier News article

Ten of the Fraterville miners left farewell messages before they suffocated.  Those messages were published in newspapers nationwide and raised public awareness about the dangers of early 20th century coal mining. 

Fraterville Miners' Circle
at Leach Cemetery
listed on the National Register
of Historic Places

Photo of the
Fraterville Mine
in 1902

Click on image to enlarge

Rescue parties went through the
Thistle Mine portal to access the
Fraterville Mine after the

Friends and relatives gathering
outside the adjacent Thistle Mine
awaiting word of the rescue efforts

First Stop:  Leach Cemetery where 89 Fraterville miners are buried.   Fraterville Miners’ Circle in Leach Cemetery, is in Lake City, Tennessee.  Lake City was formerly known as the town of Coal Creek.  The Miners' Circle's was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, our Nation's official list of cultural resources which define who we are as a people and a Nation.
The tall monument in the background stands in the center of the graves that are placed in concentric circles.  It has the names of the Fraterville miners carved into it so we may never forget the names of the miners who worked so we can have easier lives today.
Second Stop:  In Longfield Cemetery, we saw where the family of Jacob Vowell honored his final request by burying Jacob and his son Elbert in the same grave near Jacob’s infant son Eddie, who had died in 1899.  Also, see the grave of Condy Harmon who did not follow the advice in his father Powell Harmon’s farewell message (i.e. my boys, Henry and Condy, never work in the coal mines). 

Longfield Cemetery caretaker JoAnn Hill thanks the crowd

Karen Haefeker from Florida, the great, great, great grandaughter of Jacob Vowell reads his farewell message at his and his son Elbert's gravesite where they were buried together as their farewell message requested.
Our tour guide, Barry Thacker, assists one of the descendants of Powell Harmon as they read Powell's farewell message at his gravesite where he is buried next to  his son Condy who died nine years later in the Cross Mountain Mine Disaster of December 9, 1911.
Louise Nelson, the granddaughter of David Dezern, is interviewed for a documentary about the mine disaster.
Third Stop:  Fraterville Itinerant Miners Cemetery located in the back of Owen & Zenith Bailey's back yard.  Bodies recovered from the mine were brought by rail to this point to be identified and claimed by their families.  The unidentified migrant workers' bodies who were not claimed were buried here.
Fourth Stop:  The Fraterville Mine Disaster site.  Where families and rescue workers gathered at the time of the mine disaster.  Descendants and friends shared a special moment on this 105th anniversary of the mine disaster.
Ernie Dezearn (left) stands in front of the mine entrance.  He is a descendant of Went Dezearn who was the only one of the six brothers not in the mine the day of the disaster.  Five brothers and two of their brothers-in-law perished in the disaster.  Records show DeZern was spelled several different ways.
Dave Hightower traveled from Michigan to attend the tour and honor his ancestors James and Bart Hightower.

If you would like to contribute to the care of the historic cemeteries visited on the tour today, or you would like to assist in furthering the education of the students from Briceville School, please use the following addresses:

c/o David Dew
P.O. Box 455
Lake City, TN 37769

c/o JoAnn Hill
P.O. Box 187
Lake City, TN 37769

c/o Ms. Anna Mae Evans
P.O. Box 294
Briceville, TN 37710

Coal Creek Watershed Foundation
3502 Overlook Circle
Knoxville, TN 37909

Links to other Fraterville Mine Disaster events

[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]

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