Invitation to tour
Fraterville Mine disaster sites
on the 110th anniversary of
the explosion and be
interviewed for upcoming book
by author Fred Brown

19 May 2012


WHO: Descendants of Coal Creek miners and those interested in preserving Tennessee mining history
WHAT: Participate in a tour of Fraterville Miners’ Circle at Leach Cemetery, Longfield Cemetery, Fraterville Itinerant Miners’ Cemetery, and the abandoned mine portal.  Also, this is an opportunity to discuss your family history with award-winning author Fred Brown who is gathering information for a book on Coal Creek history.

Historical Highway Marker along
Fraterville Miners’ Memorial Highway

WHEN: 9:00 am until noon on Saturday, 19 May 2012, the 110th anniversary of the Fraterville Mine explosion.
WHERE: Park at Clear Branch Baptist Church, 103 New Clear Branch Road, Lake City, TN  37769.  While there, we will tour the Fraterville Miners’ Circle at Leach Cemetery and share stories about the history of the explosion with Fred Brown.  Buses will then transport you to the other stops on the tour before returning to Clear Branch Baptist Church.  (See map below)
HOW: Reserve a seat on the bus by contacting Carol Moore at (865) 584-0344 or It’s free, provided you RSVP in advance.

Fraterville Miners’ Circle during
dedication ceremony for its listing on the
National Register of Historic Places

Life was good after Coal Creek miners fought the Tennessee National Guard to abolish the convict lease system in the Coal Creek War (1891 to 1892).  Miners built new schools, churches, roads, and even an opera house. 

Disaster struck on 19 May 1902 when the Fraterville Mine exploded, killing all 216 miners.  Twenty-six of the miners barricaded themselves in rooms of the mine and lived long enough to write farewell letters before suffocating.  Only three adult males were left alive in the town of Fraterville and it remains the worst disaster in the history of mining in the South.

Do you know that a coal miner’s daughter from Coal Creek recently got front-page news coverage?  Her grandfather, Henry Howard Wiley, was a founder of Coal Creek Mining and Manufacturing Company (now The Coal Creek Company), which has been the major landowner in the watershed since 1872.  PDF of story.

Do you know that the Knoxville News Sentinel judged the Fraterville Mine explosion as one of the top stories it covered during its 125-year history?   

Eighty-nine of the miners who perished are buried in concentric circles around a monument at Fraterville Miners’ Circle.  The monument lists the names of 184 miners, but itinerant miners also died in the explosion.  They are reportedly buried beside the railroad spur leading to the abandoned Fraterville Mine portal, and their names are unknown.

Coal Creek miners and their families rebuilt from the ashes, but disaster struck again on 9 December 1911 when the Cross Mountain Mine exploded in Briceville.  Although 84 miners died, five were rescued by engineers and apparatus crews during one of the first successful mine rescues by the U. S. Bureau of Mines.

Some families in the Coal Creek watershed were impacted by all three major events.  We encourage descendants to share stories about their families, so Fred can chronicle them in his new book.

Coal People Magazine article
January / February 2012
Message from the Darkness

Do you know that the book, The Welsh of Tennessee by Dr. Eirug Davies, chronicles the exploits of the Welsh who helped pioneer Tennessee’s fledgling iron and coal industries?  One of them, David R. Thomas, retired from the Fraterville Mine three months before the great explosion.  He had the foresight to donate to Harvard University his unique collection of Welsh books published in America.  His story will be told over his headstone in Leach Cemetery during the tour.


For example, at least ten of the Fraterville miners wrote farewell letters.  During previous tours, descendants shared stories of additional letters, so do more exist?  Also, who were the itinerant miners buried beside the railroad spur in Fraterville?  A ground-penetrating radar study will be performed by Briceville students and UT archaeologists to assess the number of graves present, but we need clues as to the identities of the miners buried there. 

We need your help so Fred Brown can answer those questions and more.     

For questions about the tour, and to reserve a seat on the bus, please contact Carol Moore at (865) 584-0344 or


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