GEM COAL' NAME COINED AFTER ITS BLUE BLAZE CAPTURED ATTENTION AT WOOLRIDGE
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.
This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
The writer has located
an interesting story concerning the discovery of coal in the Jellico
region. It deals with the detection of the coal in a hog wallow, and
was told by Col. B.H. Hutchcraft of Kentucky. The Colonel was the first
to explore the coal beds of this territory.
Col. Hutchcraft was a visitor in Knoxville
on Tuesday, February 11, 1913, attending the annual convention of the
Southern Appalachian Coal Operators' Association. He told that in the
spring of 1882 he started from Livingston, Ky., along the newly surveyed
L.&N. Railroad line, prospecting for coal.
The Colonel stated that he had made a
sixty-mile journey through woodland and field, which was a sparsely
populated country at the time. He arrived at the point on the Tennessee
and Kentucky line now known as Jellico. Col. Hutchcraft stopped and
talked with a citizen named Uriah Patterson. Mr. Patterson informed
him that a large coal formation existed on his property. The Colonel
inquired if there were any places in the mountains where hogs wallowed
or where deer had settled.
Getting directions, the Colonel shouldered
a pick and climbed the mountain to his designated locations. A few hours
later he discovered the vein of coal that has since become famous throughout
the world. He stated that he dug into the mountain and pulled down several
hundred pounds of this coal. He then later cleared away the leaves,
built a fire and placed the coal upon the blaze. He was totally surprised
when the coal burned rather rapidly into an inferno mounting several
feet into the air.
Colonel Hutchcraft then secured a large block of this coal, placed it
on the pommel of his saddle, and carried it sixty miles back to Livingston.
A few days later the first coal company was organized to develop coal
in the vicinity of Jellico, which afterwards was known as the old Woolridge
Soon after the vein of coal had been located
Col. Hutchcraft discovered the Blue Gem vein, which was situated about
119 feet below the Jellico vein in the same mountain. Shortly after
this discovery he had carried some of the coal to the home of Col. Sam
Woolridge. This coal burned so fiercely the blaze occasioned comment
from members of the family. Col. Woolridge asked Hutchcraft what kind
of coal it was, and looking at the fire, then later at the coal, the
latter saw the blue blazes of the slate on the coal showing brightly
in the glow of the fire and he immediately replied: "It is the
Blue Gem Coal." And this is how the name originated.
CIVIL WAR REUNION
A past news item,
taken from an old Jacksboro newspaper in 1909, tells of a Grand Army
of the Republic (G.A.R.Union) reunion at Newcomb in Campbell County
on September 17-18, 1909. The soldiers were under the sponsorship of
the A.C. Baird G.A.R. Post, who held their annual reunion on the past
Friday and Saturday.
Tents were pitched in a grove at night
in Newcomb. The war camp fires were built, and the beef and sweet potatoes
were broiled in the old war time fashion.
The old heroes recounted their war experiences
and told of the hardships they endured during the struggle of 1861-65.
They sang the battle and march songs and indulged in playing pranks.
They also enjoyed discussing some of the pastime pleasures which they
enjoyed in the army, imitating in many ways very vividly the warfare
through which they passed from 1861 to 1865 during the American Civil
There was a rather large attendance of
the citizens, men, women and children of Newcomb and Jellico and various
other parts of Campbell County. An assortment of parties were attended
and many speeches during the two days of the encampment were made. Also,
good singing was enjoyed and the entire time was one of gratification.
The camp commissary was amply supplied
with provisions such as potatoes, beef, bread and pork, crackers, "sow-belly,"
and hard tack. When eating time came, everybody ate and was filled.
The occasion, as a whole, was very delightful and highly enjoyed.
At the close of the exercise the old soldiers
were numbered and it was found that since the last reunion at this place,
four years earlier, eleven of the old noble heroes had fought their
last battle and answered their last roll call and had been mustered
into the Grand Army of God. And now they had advanced to the high rank
of the Heavenly Host where they will serve eternally and await the coming
of their comrades.
The comrades present at the meeting were
as follows: A.J. Artist, D.H. Rosier, Archie Doyle, Menual Main, M.E.
Rosier, W.H. Smith, George Snodderly, Green A. Gregory, B.F. Fox, John
Smiddy, Elijah Moore, Calvin Allen, Wm. M. Davis, John W. Cates of Newcomb;
James Smiddy, Wm. Baird, E.R. Davis, Jellico; P.P. Baird, Cupp; Wm.
Petree, Saxton, Ky.; Hiram Baird, John Dickerson, Elk Valley; Wm. Allen
and Sylvester Cooper, Jacksboro.