History of Campbell County, Tennessee

Time Line


By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. 

This article was taken from the fine works of Marshall McGhee and Gene White. Title of the book is, “Briceville, The Town That Coal Built.”

     Two young Civil Engineers, in 1835, by the name of Henry H. Wiley and William S. McEwen, created an affiliation and entered, surveyed, and secured grants on most all the mountain lands in Anderson County, as well as countless acres in Campbell and Morgan counties in Tennessee. This work was completed in approximately 1848.

     Corporations were later formed to secure their holdings. They were Coal Creek Mining and Manufacturing Company, Poplar Creek Coal and Iron Company, and the Tennessee Mining and Manufacturing Company.

     Johnathan Heck was considered another pioneer who secured numerous mountain grants, and later created the Coal Creek Consolidated Coal Company. He ultimately deeded the grants to the aforementioned companies. After Heck’s death, the Coal Creek Mining and Manufacturing Company purchased his assets in Anderson and Campbell counties. Heck created the original Royal Consolidated Coal Company mines later operated by George Chandler and William Pless.

     A fourth man, Senator Calvin S. Brice of Ohio, was an investment banker with offices located in New York City. He took great interest in many developments in the South. His main interest was the old East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad (now the Southern R.R.), and in the Knoxville and Ohio R.R. This operation later became the Coal Creek Branch from Knoxville to Jellico. Brice was also a significant stockholder in the Coal Creek Mining and Manufacturing Company. Briceville was named for Senator Brice.

     (Coal Creek, now Lake City, acquired its name from the creek that runs through town, not from the coal deposits on its watershed. The name of the creek was named for a man “Cole.” Old deeds, etc., spell the name of this stream as “Cole” Creek, not “Coal” Creek. Upon the arrival of the railroad, and a depot constructed, the official name was changed to “Coal Creek.”)

     Certainly through the influence of Senator Brice, the railroad was extended, in 1888, to the present Cross Mountain or Slatestone mine. In 1889 another branch was finished to the Tennessee Mines. The old Knoxville Iron Company lease is dated February 17, 1888. Upon extension of the Tennessee railroad line, the Minersville Mine was underway in 1904.

     Farming and timber were the two main sources of income in early Briceville, Tennessee. The coal had been in the area for millions of years, but extracting and shipping it were the two drawbacks. Much of the land was owned by the Coal Creek Mining and Manufacturing Company except for the small homesteads and land grants given to the military individuals.

     Some coal mining was performed prior to the Civil War (1861-1865). Transportation for this process was performed via the river/streams system, or by wagons to Clinton where the coal was loaded onto a train. In 1873, after the Civil War had ended, four companies were in operation: Wiley, Gear and Company; Coal Creek Coal Co.; Knoxville Iron Co., and McEwen and Wiley.

     The Knoxville Iron Company owned a large rolling mill and foundry in Knoxville. Management felt that mining the coal for their own use would be cheaper and beneficial to the rolling mill.

     McEwen and Wiley were stockholders in Coal Creek Mining and Manufacturing and were mining on their own land. Operations were halted after a while to devote full time to leasing the land, which in turn, would produce a royalty for each ton of coal mined. The royalty at one time was 1/4 cents per bushel. Many folks with mineral rights sold their portions for a flat fee, while others held out for a royalty fee on each ton. If the folks had held out for the latter, they would have retired rich. There was 36,000 tons of coal shipped in 1871.

     The railroad was eventually extended from Coal Creek to Slatestone in 1888, and to Minersville in 1889, with more mines opening and more coal being shipped.

     Other coal companies included Minersville Coal Co., Andy’s Ridge Coal Co., and Royal Coal and Coke Co. In Briceville (1991) there were 21 coal seams with only 8 workable. The others were considered unfit due to outcroppings and coal not thick enough, and other specific reasons. At the time, the two most prosperous moneymakers were the Coal Creek and the Peewee seams.

     Mine openings were the Shamrock Mine in 1888, with John Jeffers as superintendent. The Tennessee Coal Mine Co. also opened in 1888, with T. J. Davis as superintendent. The latter had two openings, the Keystone and the Monitor. During this time there were 20 dwellings. Travel to the company commissary was one mile.

     The Knoxville Iron Co. was the leading producer; they producing 1000,000 tons of coal in 1885. Coal prices in Knoxville at the time were $3.75 per ton with delivery set at 25 cents per ton.

     The S&H and Premium Coal Companies were in operation in Briceville in 1991. The workers consisted of 75 people in four deep mines and three surface pits, producing 4,000 tons of coal per week.

     Superintendent of Keystone in 1891 was David Davis. Wages in the mine were: foreman, above ground, $2.22 per day; mechanic, $1.80 per day; laborers, $1.28 per day; men [children] under 16 years of age, 44 cents per day; below ground foreman, $2.36 per day; miners, $1.89 per day; laborers, $1.65 per day.

     The miners suffered through many grievances, one being that there was no check weighman. And-so, they simply had to trust the company check weighman completely. They had no bath houses in which to cleanse themselves after a hard, dirty day at work. A company requirement was that they were to stay underground whether there were coal cars for them to load or not. Out of the miners own pockets they paid for their working utensils, shovels, picks, carbide lights and carbide, black powder, oil, fuses, wedges, four-bit bits for drilling the coal, etc.

     If it was a dry mine, they breathed the coal dust. If it was a wet mine, they were exposed to dampness the entire working day. A cold lunch was always on the menu.

     Receiving pay in scrip was an ongoing grievance. Commissary prices were outrageous. Powder, $2.25; fuses, 80 cents; picks, $1.00; four-foot bits, $2.50. At other competitive stores the prices were: powder, $2.00; fuses, 60 cents; picks, 75 cents; four-foot bits, $2.00.

     Groceries at the commissary were flour, 90 cents; sugar, 8 1/2 to 10 cents; potatoes, $1.40. Other stores: flour, 80 cents; sugar, 5 1/2 to 8 cents; potatoes, $1.00

Time Line

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