Fraterville Mine Disaster Tour
May 19, 2001
(99th Anniversary)

Historic Photo Prize
Winner of $100
Click on image to enlarge

ChesleyVandergriff.JPG (13807 bytes)Chesley Vandergriff, Miner killed in Fraterville Mine Explosion 
Photo submitted by great grandson, 
Ed Vandergriff

Hundreds of headstones in the Coal Creek watershed bear the date May 19, 1902, when approximately 200 miners were killed in the Fraterville Mine Explosion.  Many contain a common epitaph: gone but not forgotten. Others include poignant farewell messages written by the miners before they perished from noxious gases formed from the explosion.

On the 99th anniversary of the disaster, 120 descendants and guests remembered the accomplishments and sacrifices of these men by visiting their graves and the site of their death, the abandoned Fraterville Mine.  In their youth, many fought the Tennessee Militia over the use of convict miners during the Coal Creek War of 1891 to 1892.  According to the program Chain Gangs on THE HISTORY CHANNEL: "the free miners of Coal Creek are credited with abolishing the convict lease system in the South, an institution that was worse than slavery".  Younger brothers, sons, and nephews of Fraterville miners were among the 84 men and boys who died in the 1911 Cross Mountain Mine explosion in Briceville.

Increased public awareness over the hazards of coal mining, from disasters like Fraterville, resulted in the formation of the U.S. Bureau of Mines in 1910.  Five miners were rescued from the Cross Mountain Mine Explosion by engineers and apparatus crews from the Bureau of Mines, their first successful mine rescue operation.  In the early 1900's, thousands of coal miners died each year.  In 2000, coal mine fatalities in the United States numbered 38.  Today, coal mining is no more dangerous than many other professions.

The legacy of the Fraterville miners....abolished the convict lease system in the South, made working conditions safer for future miners, and fueled the industrial revolution.... rivals that of any comparable group its size in history.

Click on image to enlarge

FraTour1.JPG (46592 bytes)Mr. Owen Bailey (right) telling how his father walked from North Carolina in 1895, to find work as a blacksmith in the mines of Coal Creek.  Transient miners killed in the Fraterville Disaster are buried in his backyard.  They are not included in the fatality list because their names were not known.
FraTour2.JPG (43604 bytes)Tony Thomas and Linda Gunderson performing songs about Coal Creek beside the field stones marking the graves of the itinerant miners. FraTour3.JPG (38345 bytes)Hike from Fraterville Itinerant Cemetery toward the old Fraterville Mine along the route of the previous railroad trestle.
FraTour4.JPG (60994 bytes)Hike across gob pile (waste rock mined with the coal from the Fraterville Mine) toward the abandoned mine entrance. FraTour5.JPG (51996 bytes)Foundation of steam engine building (foreground) that was used to pull coal cars from the Fraterville Mine (background).
FraTour6.JPG (48129 bytes)Hikers standing in front of the steam engine building foundation (left) and the abandoned mine entry (right). FraTour7.JPG (45551 bytes)Tony Thomas and Linda Gunderson performing "When the Mines Grew Still in Fratersville" at the headstone of Powell Harmon in Longfield Cemetery.  Powell Harmon's farewell message ended with "My boys, Henry and Conda, never work in the coal mines".  Conda Harmon, who is buried next to his father, died in the 1911 Cross Mountain mine disaster.
FraTour8.JPG (37939 bytes)Barry Thacker reading the farewell message of Jacob Vowell who asked to be buried in the same grave as his 14-year old son Elbert who died in the Fraterville Mine with him.  They asked to be buried next to Jacob's younger son Eddie.  Jacob and Elbert share a common headstone next to the headstone of Edward Vowell in Longfield Cemetery.  Scouts from Troop 120 (left) talking to Carl WebFraTour9.JPG (48861 bytes)b, the grandson of Conda Webb who died at Fraterville.  Mr. Webb explained that "Conda" was a common name among the Welsh, and that his family moved to Ohio after the death of his grandfather.
FraTour10.JPG (31403 bytes)Exploring Longfield Cemetery. FraTour11.JPG (33512 bytes)Drew Justice (right) talking to Mr. George Sipe (left), the great grandson of William Murray who died at Fraterville.  Drew is doing his Eagle Project on the Fraterville Miners who are buried in Leach Cemetery.
FraTour12.JPG (35088 bytes)Mr. Carl Fritts from Georgia (center) is a descendant of Nicholas Massengill who died at Fraterville.  Mr. Fritts has developed a web site about the Fraterville Mine Disaster. FraTour13.JPG (30886 bytes)Hollywood Whaley (left) and George Sipe (right) making a rubbing from the Fraterville Disaster Monument in Leach Cemetery.
FraTour14.JPG (18395 bytes)Justin Rhea making a rubbing from the monument. fifth17.JPG (35138 bytes)Farewell message of James Elliott from his headstone in Leach Cemetery.

Exploring Leach Cemetery....

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Links to Fraterville Anniversary Tours

List of participants:

Anderson, Josh

Bailey, Linda Sun

Bailey, Owen

Bailey, Zenith

Bishop, Janis

Bishop, Paul

Bishop, Roger

Bodas, Clarence

Bodas, Gerry

Bolinger, Tammy

Bostic, Dale

Bostic, Lynn

Brantley, Brian

Carden, Blanche

Carden, Gene

Carden, Nina

Carden, Wallace

Coggins, Allen

Coker, Alice

Cooper, Dotty

Daugherty, Everette

Daugherty, Ovie

Davis, Charles

Detwiler, James

Doyle, George

Dunlap, Julian

Edmonds, Jack

Edmonds, Linda

Enix, Chris

Flinchem, Dan

Flinchem, Jack

Flinchem, Opal

Foster, Al

Foster, Grace

Foust, Jerry

Fritts, Carl

Gawarecki, Susan

Goddard, Jim

Hackworth, Christopher

Hackworth, Kenneith

Hackworth, Mandy

Hackworth, Teresa

Hawkins, Lou

Hensley, Mildred

Hensley, Rev. H.C.

Herren, Carla

Holmes, Karen

Howard, Tom

Justice, Bobby

Justice, Drew

Justice, Gwen

Lady, Bill

Lady, Richard

Lady, Ruth

Large, Madeline


Ledford, Cheryl

Ledford, Paul

Lee, Darlene

LeFevers, Jim

Leighton, Breanne

Leighton, Breanne

Lickliter, Charlotte

Lickliter, Michael

Lynn, Autumn

Massey, Richard

Massey, Vicki

McCulloch, Drew

Mocsari, Malissa

Mocsari, Whitney

Montgomery, Joanna

Montgomery, Nancy

Moore, Carol

Noonan, Amyu

Ogle, Christy

Ogle, Cody

Paylor, Jack

Paylor, Mary

Phillips, Bonnie

Phillips, Rosemary

Phillips, Terry

Pressley, Wally

Rhea, Justin

Rhea, Tim

Riester, Laura

Riggs, Ronnie

Roettger, Juanita

Russell, Billie

Russell, Emily

Russell, Hannah

Schultz, Elizabeth

Settles, Sharon

Sherlin, Harvey

Sipe, George

Sipe, Martha

Smith, Donna

Tackett, Ralph

Thacker, Barry

Thomas, Pat

Thomas, Tony

Thurman, John

Vandergriff, Amanda

Vandergriff, Ashley

Vandergriff, Ed

Vandergriff, Marie

Webb, Carl

Webb, Mae

Wet, Sammie

Whaley, Mark

Whitson, Gail

Whitson, T.L.

Worley, Susie


Tour Guides:  Lynn Bostic, Carol Moore, Gwen Justice, Dale Bostic, Barry Thacker

Musicians:  Tony Thomas and Linda Gunderson

Photographers:  Dale Bostic, Hollywood Whaley, Carol Moore, Barry Thacker

Special thanks to Mr. Owen Bailey and Ms. Nancy Montgomery for giving us permission to visit historic sites on their property, and M&R Bus Company for providing transportation.  Also, thanks to Lake City Cracker Barrel and McDonald's for allowing all of us to bombard them for a mid-tour break.

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