May 19, 2005, 11:00 am until noon at Leach Cemetery, Lake City, Tennessee

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On Thursday, May 19, 2005, the 103rd anniversary of the Fraterville Mine disaster, a dedication ceremony will be held at Fraterville Miners’ Circle in Leach Cemetery, Lake City, Tennessee, beginning at 11:00 am.  Descendants of those miners and friends are invited to recognize its placement on the National Register of Historic Places, our Nation's official list of cultural resources which define who we are as a people and a Nation.  The ceremony will be a celebration of the lives of the miners, not their deaths.

Descendents of miners at
Fraterville Miners’ Circle
in Leach Cemetery

The miners who first came to Coal Creek after the Civil War were mostly Welsh immigrants.  They came to America because, in 1847, the English banned the use of the Welsh language.  Since their Sunday Schools were practiced in the Welsh language, that action impacted the way they worshipped.
In America, they were welcomed because they were experienced coal miners.  Here is where they found the freedoms that we often take for granted.  Nobody held guns to their heads, forcing them to work in the mines.  To the contrary, when their jobs were threatened by the convict lease system in 1891, they literally went to war with the Tennessee Militia to protect their jobs and their way of life during the Coal Creek War.
Most of the Welsh immigrants who came to Coal Creek were well educated, only in the Welsh language, not English.  The first thing they did was to build schools so their children, and those of miners who came later, could be educated in the English language.  That’s why so many of the Fraterville miners had the ability to write farewell messages after being trapped underground by the 1902 explosion.
Those farewell letters were printed in newspapers around the world.  From them, everybody in America knew the name of a coal miner.  They raised public awareness about the dangers of early 20th century coal mining, starting us down the long road toward safer working conditions in the mines today.  In 1902, 216 miners died in the Fraterville disaster alone.  Last year, 28 miners died in our Nation’s coal mines while producing the fuel that provided over half of the electricity we used in this country.

The Welsh miners celebrated their way of life by holding traditional eisteddfod cultural festivals.  At the ones in Knoxville in 1890 and Chattanooga in 1891, Welsh miners from Coal Creek and nine other states competed in literary and musical competitions.  Judges at those festivals dressed as Welsh druids.  After announcing the winners, one would draw his sword.  Not knowing if he was going to honor the winners or lop off their heads, participants yelled, “PEACE”, to guide his decision.  The judge then placed his sword at the feet of the winners to honor them.

In that tradition, area students are competing in the 2005 Coal Creek Eisteddfod Literary Competition by writing essays and poems about the Coal Creek miners.  They have sister-schools in Wales to learn more about Welsh traditions.  As part of the dedication ceremony at Leach Cemetery, winners of that competition will be announced by a judge dressed as a Welsh druid yielding a ceremonial sword.  Many of the Fraterville miners fought in the Coal Creek War.  Prior to the dedication ceremony, students will be visiting historic sites associated with the Coal Creek War where they will re-enact the Battle of Tennessee Hollow and the loading of soldiers and convicts on the train at the old Coal Creek train depot.  The public is invited.

The old town of Coal Creek, Tennessee, is now known as Lake City, but the community is recognizing its roots by hosting the 2005 Coal Creek Miners’ Festival.  The dedication and celebration at Fraterville Miners’ Circle marks the start of the three-day festival.

THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2005

  1. Opening remarks
  2. 2005 Coal Creek Eisteddfod Literary Competition Awards Ceremony
  3. Reading of farewell messages
  4. Mounting of National Register Marker while the names of the Fraterville miners are read
  5. Performance of songs about the miners by Tony Thomas and the Mystery Mountain Boys, and Jeff Barbra & Sarah Pirkle
  6. Closing remarks by descendants of the Fraterville miners

Students making rubbings of names
of the Fraterville miners

They were pioneers and heroes.  They helped fuel the industrial revolution, abolish the convict lease system in the South, make working conditions safer for miners today, and brought civilization to what was wilderness.  What they asked in return can be found in the words to a song written by Jeff Barbra for the original play about them, “Measured in Labor”, as follows:

Now I wonder if folks ever think about me
When they sleep in their warm homes at night
When they walk in the sunshine in the world up there
While I’m down here by carbide light

When my life here is over and my body it lies cold
And all of my work here is done
Don’t you spend any money for a stone over me
Just make sure that I rest in the sun

The public is invited to participate in this ceremony celebrating their lives.  For more details, contact Carol Moore at (865) 584-0344 or


Leave I-75 at exit 129 in Lake City and head south on Highway 25W.  Drive 2.4 miles on Highway 25W, passing several restaurants and motels, and then turn left on Clear Branch Road.  Continue north on Clear Branch Road for 0.4 miles and follow the signs to Leach Cemetery at Clear Branch Baptist Church on your left. 

See previous Fraterville Mining Disaster Anniversary Tours

[Master Plan] [Map] [Photo Gallery]
[Bank Stabilization Projects]
[Deadwood Removal Days] [Discovery Day 2000] [Scrape, Paint & Clean Day 2000
[Historic Fraterville Mine Disaster Field Trip 2001] [Fraterville Mine Disaster 100th Anniversary]
[Coal Creek War and Mining Disasters] [Mine Reclamation Lessons]
[CMD] [Economic Benefits] [Motor Discovery Trail] [Historic Cemeteries]
[Partners] [Schools in Watershed] [Mark the Trail Day]
[Awards] [Coal Creek Health Days]
[Briceville School History Field Trips] [Ghost Stories]
[Trout Stuff] [Join Us] [Eastern Coal Region Roundtable]
[Articles in the News] [Dream Contest]

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