Restoration of Fort Anderson on

Militia Hill by Coal Creek Scholars

and other volunteers


Saturday, 14 November 2015

If you want to see TONS
more photos of the day
visit Flickr at:

At the completion of our work, volunteers surround
the cannon which is aimed at the
town of Coal Creek just like during the Coal Creek War

Coal Creek Scholars learned today that a job gets done quickly when you have lots of volunteers to help.  That’s what happened on the cold Saturday morning of 14 November 2015 when twelve Scholars and eleven other volunteers continued the on-going restoration work at Fort Anderson on Militia Hill.

Each of the students had been there before as part of their annual history field trip at Briceville School.  Some even helped plant American chestnuts or place mulch in the parking area, while others had helped install the eleven historical markers around the property as shown at and, so they knew the historical significance of the site.

Girls don't need chainsaws!

What most had not seen before was the new cannon emplacement.  With its strategic location overlooking the Wye Gap in Walden Ridge and the town of Coal Creek, artillery at Fort Anderson could control access to the valley during the Coal Creek War.  That scene was on display today.

Convicts were first brought to Coal Creek in 1877 to replace striking Welsh miners in the Wye Community.  More Coal Creek miners lost their jobs in 1891 when convicts were brought to mines in Briceville.  Coal Creek miners met with Governor Buck Buchanan about losing their jobs, but were told that Tennessee had a revenue problem and needed the convict lease system.

Elected officials offered no help, so Coal Creek miners captured guards and convicts, put them on trains to Knoxville, and burned convict stockades.  Each time, miners sent telegrams to the Governor, informing him that convicts would not be allowed in Coal Creek.

Soldiers and convicts then cut trees on Militia Hill in January 1892 to build Fort Anderson as the base of operations for the Tennessee National Guard to fight miners who opposed the use of convicts in Tennessee coal mines during the Coal Creek War.  When attacked by miners, the Tennessee Militia would fire mud-filled cans through the Wye Gap in Walden Ridge into the town of Coal Creek to restore order.

The fort was abandoned in late 1893/early 1894 when newly-elected Governor Peter Turney fulfilled a campaign promise and the Tennessee Legislature appropriated funds to build Brushy Mountain State Prison, Coal Mine, and Coke Ovens, thus ending the convict lease system in Tennessee.

The workday was led by Gary Tackett, the Sentry of Militia Hill, who has worked the past several years getting the site ready for school field trips now that the Coal Creek Labor Saga is part of the state’s education curriculum for 5th, 8th, and 11th graders.

Volunteers planted more American chestnuts

Pat Holm and her husband Larry volunteered with us today.
Her company Leidos has contributed to the
Coal Creek Scholarship Fund.

Tom Kesterson, the great, great, grandson of David R. Thomas volunteered and learned how Barry Thacker teaches Coal Creek history in Tennessee classrooms as a living historian by portraying David R. Thomas    

Pat Holm from Leidos in Oak Ridge attended and we informed Scholars how Leidos has contributed to the Coal Creek Scholarship Fund, which helps them to go college.

A special treat for us was the participation of Chip Throckmorton and his son James, who is a freshman in civil engineering at UT.  They are the son and grandson of one of our mentors, Ray Throckmorton.

Life is good in Coal Creek and we hope the same is true for you.

Coal Creek mining descendent Tom Kesterson and
and scholar Seth Taylor show off their
American chestnut planting

Coal Creek scholar college freshmen, Emily and Kim Phillips
continue to volunteer and mentor others

Sean Foster blowing leaves and prettying-up
the historic area where the cannon is mounted

Coal Creek Scholars participating in the event included:

Foster, Benny
Foster, Sean
Housley, Jeffery
Housley, Jessica
Long, Krystina
Long, Paul
Lovely, Jackie
Payne, Javen
Phillips, Emily
Phillips, Kimberly
Taylor, Seth
Wilson, Isaiah

Other volunteers included:

Holm, Larry
Holm, Pat
Kesterson, Tom
Moore, Carol
Mr. and Mrs. Housley
Phillips, Ruby
Tackett, Gary (the Sentry of Militia Hill)
Thacker, Barry
Throckmorton, Chip
Throckmorton, James 


Click to learn more about our
Coal Creek
Scholars Program

If you want to see TONS
more photos of the day
visit Flickr at:



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