Potential for Mining History Tourism in Coal Creek

Link to article by Fred Brown
in the Knoxville News Sentinel

Associated Press article in Tennessean

Link to article in Courier News by Johanne Jean-Jacques

Link to article in the Oak Ridger

Link to article in the
Courier News

Have you ever considered the potential for tourism in Coal Creek?  From the Welsh miners who settled after the Civil War to the Coal Creek War, Fraterville Mine disaster, and Cross Mountain Mine disaster, there is a lot of history to see in Coal Creek.

The Foundation has acquired property from the Camp family heirs at the abandoned Fraterville Mine, Fort Anderson on Militia Hill, and Convict Miners Cemetery.  Let’s dream for a minute about what could be done if property at the remaining historic sites in the watershed could be acquired, restored, and opened to the public.  Fraterville Miners’ Circle and Briceville Church/Cemetery are already listed on the National Register of Historic Places and restoration of Briceville Church is underway.  Cross Mountain Miners’ Circle has been nominated and we expect that it will be listed on the National Register in 2006.  That will be a good starting point. 

Descendants of Fraterville Miners
at the abandoned mine portal on the
100th anniversary of the explosion

What if the old Convict Mine property in the Wye Community could be added to the Militia Hill property to create Coal Creek War Battlefield Park?  Fort Anderson, which was built by the state militia and convicts in 1892 as a base to fight miners who opposed the convict lease system, could be restored and listed on the National Register.  So could Convict Miners Cemetery and its estimated 200 graves.  Wetlands could be built downstream of the Convict Mine to improve the quality of water discharging from the mine.  Furthermore, the old coal refuse piles at the Fraterville Mine could be reclaimed to create Fraterville Mine Disaster Park and it too could be listed on the National Register.

George Camp, whose family heirs
donated the property at the abandoned
Fraterville Mine, Fort Anderson on Militia
Hill, and Convict Miners Cemetery

Photo of cannon on Militia Hill
during Coal Creek War

What if the abandoned Norfolk-Southern railroad line with historic sites like Drummond Bridge, Thistle Switch, and Itinerant Miners Cemetery could be acquired, converted to rails-to-trails as the Coal Creek Miners Trail, and placed on the National Register?  What if the trail could be extended to Cross Mountain Miners’ Circle?  That would connect six sites on the National Register of Historic Places with a hiking and biking trail.  What if the state makes the trail and historic sites a state park or the federal government designates it a National Historical Park?

Getting the infrastructure in place is important, but folks also expect to see clean water in recreational areas.  There are a few problem sites, but water quality in Coal Creek is generally good.  Streams in the coal-bearing part of the watershed are all classified by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation as fully supporting in all the categories assessed.  Abandoned mine land reclamation projects at the Fraterville Mine and the Convict Mine would make water quality even better. 

This smallmouth bass was one of 21
different species of fish collected on
Coal Creek Health Day 2005
by Briceville students

Camp family heir Nancy Montgomery
presents the deed to the historic
land that she donated to the foundation
to Barry Thacker, PE, President of CCWF

Militia Hill is less than two miles from Exits 128 and 129 of I-75.  Tourists have easy access and could spend a day, weekend, or a week hiking and biking on the Miners Trail to see where all the history occurred and to commune with nature.

Millions of people visit the Smoky Mountains each year because they can do all sorts of things for free in the National Park.  By having a free recreational area to visit, tourists have money available to spend on nice places to stay, eat, shop, and be entertained when they are not in the National Park.  The same could be true for Coal Creek. 

Whether or not that dream is realized depends on what folks wish to do with the land they own at the other historic sites in the watershed.

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