History of Campbell County, Tennessee

Time Line


By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. 

Many thanks to the personnel at the Campbell County Historical Society for allowing me to use this material . Dr. Ridenour's book, "The Land of the Lake " can be purchased through the Campbell County Historical Society at LaFollette , Tennessee


     LaFollette, in its early days of its industrial development was a distinct coal mining camp. Americans from many segments of came and worked the local mines. A very large group of African Americans were enrolled from Alabama and other southern states. Scarcely a week had passed when a shooting match occurred that often ended in a killing.

     Soon a thousand people were living in shanties and boxed houses around the gap. Paved streets were absent and problems soon arose as to where to house all the workers. Swiftly, without any definite plans, hastily temporary buildings were being constructed. Summer clouds of dust were driven by the gust of winds, which sometimes caused chaos. Winter and spring found the streets soaked after the heavy rains which caused the many wagons to get stuck. Disgusted workers would leave their wagons up to the hubs in the mud.

     "Man broke through," "Wagon sunk." One furious ox team driver early one morning drove a long stake into the street and putting an old coat and hat on it hitched his stalled yoke of oxen to the stake, as his protest against the condition of the street.


     In 1897 the railroad to Vasper was completed and construction of one of the South's largest iron furnaces was begun. Coke ovens were built at Ivy Dell and coal mines were opened nearby at Peabody.

     After the railroad was built to LaFollette herds of cattle and sheep, flocks of turkeys, and droves of swine were less seen on the way to market. Farmers then assumed it would be more profitable for the drovers to turn butchers and well their meats to the coal camps that had sprung up at the public works. The practice of pasturing cattle in the flatwoods and on the commons was gradually discontinued. All this in spite of the older citizens longing for a return to the time of the free range.


     After the railroad was built through the mountains to LaFollette, Dr. A. Gatliff, at Gatliff, now Cotula, began "running coal." Henry Wynn, a Welsh miner, had prospected through the mountains during the Middlesboro promotion and had been in charge of mining operations at Big Creek Gap, built the Wynne camp on Davis Creek.

     Throughout the boom days of the coal industry the Wynne Memorial Church was built between Cotula and Wynn. The church was so large that its capacity was built around a town of 3,000 people.

     On Hog Camp Branch coal camps were built at Remy, Jackson, Westbourne and White Oak. The R.O. Campbell interests consolidated the camps and later John J. Eagan, well-known for many years in the Federal Council of Churches, led in providing a large industrial Y.M.C.A. for the men employed in the mine.

     Habersham became a thriving mining and lumber center. At one time the three-story hotel did a booming business. Mines were opened at Rich Mountain, Kimberly and Morley. An Italian company operated a mine above Habersham on Davis Creek.

     The roads at first from the camps along the railroad were little more than trails and were almost impassable at certain times of the year.

     Travelers on mule rode by scenes little changed from the pioneer times. During this time the Reverend Peter C. Perkins did splendid work in many mountain communities as missionary pastor. The Reverend Joseph M. Newport was perhaps the minister of longest continuous service of the county. He served as minister after the time in which he had returned from service in the Spanish-American War.


     Until the incorporation of LaFollette cattle and livestock were allowed to graze on the commons. An ordinance was passed authorizing the building of a pound and the appointment of a pound master to keep stock out of the limits of the town.

     Several owners of milk cows had to pay the customary fines to have their stock released from the pound. One night the pound master had the cattle, mules and horses of several farmers around town, including the stock of the Sharps, Queeners and Dossetts.

     Within the impounded stock was an old gray mule owned by the Lincoln Sutton, who had been accustomed to belling the mule and turning him out to graze at night during the summer months. Word of the capture of the stock was carried to all the farmers just at daybreak. Henderson Dossett and his hands, the Queeners and their neighbors, Casper W. Sharp, R.H. Sharp, and friends gathered at the pound. Link Sutton appeared on the scene wearing a coon skin cap and carrying a hog rifle, along with an old fashioned shot pouch and powder horn. Sutton had come for his mule!

     The pound master refused to release the imprisoned stock, but the farmers did his duty for him. During the opening of the pound master got in the way of Casper Sharp's blacksmith whip, and was run away by this effectual weapon. Sutton mounted his mule and led the procession of stock through the main street of the town. Several men and boys helped the farmers drive the stock to the town limits and beyond the jurisdiction of the town law. While the parade passed through town business was suspended. The only casualty was the loss of dignity of the pound master who fled from the expert use of a blacksmith whip.


     One of the most famous trials in LaFollette occurred during one of the exciting political fights in the early days of the town. Colonel A.S. Colyer, Nashville, was staying at one of the hotels and was taking part in the election. The colonel wore his hair long as was the custom of profession men of a previous generation. It occurred to some young men about town that a great deal of excitement would result if Colonel Colyer's well-groomed hair was filled with cockleburs.

     One night several young men invaded the lobby of the hotel and left the colonel in such misery that the services of a barber with shears were necessary t relieve the victim of the fuffonery.

     Warrants were sworn out for the young men who had assaulted the colonel with cockleburs. The trial lasted the better part of a day and the colonel withdrew from the political arena in Campbell County.


     Several years after the above incident, Glen Mayes operated a coal mine in Titus Hollow. One night the cabin in which Mayes lived alone burned. Upon investigation a few charred bones were found in the ashes. Accordingly, the remains of the deceased coal operator were collected and interred with appropriate funeral services. Several suspects were arrested and lodged in jail.

     But several months later Mayes was found in the Virginia coal field alive and showing no signs of cremation. Mayes explained the cabin murder. Before leaving Titus Hollow Mayes placed a pile of cross ties on the carcass of a calf from which he had removed the hoofs and jawbones. Setting fire to the cabin, he disappeared. The burned cabin, the disappearance of Mayes, the finding of the bones were the facts of a circumstantial evidence in a murder case that lacked a motive

Time Line

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