102nd Anniversary of the
May 19, 1902 Fraterville Mine Disaster

On Saturday, May 15, 2004, descendants and folks hungry for history gathered at Briceville School to take a tour of several of the historic areas in Coal Creek.  It was a very special tour in memory of the over 200 men and boys who perished in the Fraterville Mine Disaster 102 years ago.  Descendants came to Tennessee from many states to pay respect to their lost family and learn more about the rich coal mining history of Coal Creek, Tennessee.  Some family members met for the first time.  Many found the answers to mysteries in their family's history.  Over 140 people participated in the tour.  The tour was free and was sponsored by the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation (CCWF).

The following is a photo gallery of the tour.  Click on image to enlarge:

For more information on the historic cemeteries where the Fraterville miners are buried, visit our Historic Cemeteries page.

First stop was Longfield Cemetery where folks gathered around the headstone of Jacob Vowell who was buried in the same grave as his son Elbert.  Jacob wrote one of the poignant farewell messages that was read around the world. Greg Gaylor, descendant of Jacob Vowell, read Jacob's message over his and Elbert's headstone.  It was a very special moment for the crowd.
Tour guide and President of CCWF, Barry Thacker, PE, explained the Coal Creek history at each stop. Musicians entertained us with their special songs at the cemeteries.
Mary Davies, (second from left) is the granddaughter of Jacob Vowell.  Her mother was Jacob's daughter Lilly.  She is surrounded by more descendants of Jacob's.

Gale Jones (R) and Mossie Taylor at the monument of George Adkins and son Condy Adkins who were killed in Fraterville.  George was the foreman of the Fraterville Mine.  Gale and Mossie had never seen this monument to their family members.

Descendants of brothers Edward and Joseph Smiddy who were killed in the mine. Descendant Libby Smiddy shared a photo of Edward's and Joseph's uncle Lewis Smiddy.
Descendants of miners David, Lewis and Andrew Stansberry gather around their headstones at Longfield Cemetery.
Boy Scout Andy Harness discusses his new kiosk that he built honoring the miners buried at Longfield Cemetery as part of his Eagle Scout project. Jacob Vowell's granddaughter Mary Davies reads the historic information on Andy's kiosk.
Andy with his parents Don and Debbie Harness. Attendees explore Longfield Cemetery headstones.
Second stop was Leach Cemetery where 89 of the Fraterville miners are buried.  The musicians played more music for us.

DeZern family descendants gather around family headstones.  DeZern was spelled several different ways.  Five brothers and two of their brothers-in-law perished that day.

Attendees made rubbings of their family names listed on the monument to the miners that is located in the center of the concentric circles of the miners' graves.

Jeannie and Henry Pitts at the headstone of ancestor Charley Brooks.  There were four Brooks killed in the mine.

The Pitts shared a photo of Maggie Brooks when she was maybe 8-10 years old. Maggie was the daughter of miner Charley Brooks.  She was two months old when her daddy died in the mine.

Eagle Scout Drew Justice joined us at Leach Cemetery to show us his kiosk that was unveiled at the 100th anniversary tour in 2002. 
Third stop was the Itinerant Miners Cemetery located in the back yard of Owen and Zenith Bailey.  Note the fieldstone at the base of the tree marking the grave of one of the unknown miners who were  buried at the site where their bodies were brought out of the mine by train.
Barry talking about the history of the mine disaster.

Owen Bailey (center) discusses his family's history in mining.  His father walked from North Carolina to find work as a blacksmith in the Fraterville Mine.

The group hiked into the woods to the spot where the entrance of the Fraterville Mine was located and imagined what that scene must have been like 102 years ago at the time of the mine explosion.

The mine entrance was located on the bank to the far right of the crowd.

Views of crowd gathering
at mine site...

Walking the trail the miners took back then.  They must have been very lean and muscular from all the walking they did to get to their jobs and then working in the mines. Crowd gathers in Fraterville at end of tour.

Special thanks to:

bulletTony Thomas and his friends known as The Mystery Mountain Boys who graced us with their beautiful music during the cemetery stops.  Their new CD, "The Mystery Mountain Boys, Reunited" was just released.
bulletBoy Scout Andy Harness, who attended the tour and showed off his new kiosk built in honor of the miners buried at Longfield Cemetery.  Andy took on this project for his Eagle Scout ranking requirement.
bulletEagle Scout Drew Justice, who unveiled his kiosk at Leach Cemetery at the 100th anniversary tour in 2002, attended today's tour and discussed his kiosk and provided bottled water to the thirsty crowd.
bulletOwen and Zenith Bailey, who allowed us to gather in their back yard at the site where the itinerant miners are buried.
bulletMrs. Arthorine Wilson and Ms. Nancy Montgomery, who allowed us to cross their property to gain access to the Fraterville Mine site.
bulletRev. Roy and Della Daugherty for ringing the historic Briceville Church bell at the beginning of the tour.  The bell was rung at the original memorial service in honor of each miner who perished in the mine.
bulletClear Branch Baptist Church for allowing us access to their church for our mid-tour restroom break.
bulletPrincipal Tom Braden of Briceville School for allowing us to gather at the school to catch the buses for the tour.
bulletWally Pressley for assisting with getting everyone signed in and on the buses.

Links to Fraterville Anniversary Tours

If you wish to send a contribution for the care of the cemeteries visited on the tour, or to further the education of Briceville School students, please use the following addresses.  Donations are tax deductible.

c/o David Dew
P.O. Box 455
Lake City, TN 37769
c/o Rev. Harvey Sherlin
Longfield Baptist Church
P.O. Box 743
Lake City, TN 37769
c/o Ms. Anna Mae Evans
P.O. Box 294
Briceville, TN 37710
c/o Coal Creek Watershed Foundation
3502 Overlook Circle
Knoxville, TN 37909

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