Thursday evening, local officials were joined by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally at the Coal Creek Miners Museum in Rocky Top for a wreath ceremony marking the 120th anniversary of the 1902 Fraterville Mine Disaster.
The explosion on May 19th, 1902 killed 216 men and is still considered one of the worst mining accidents in US history.
As the Tennessee State Library & Archives remembers, “miners investigating a collapsed wall ignited a pocket of methane gas and caused an explosion. Most of the miners were killed in the initial explosion, but 26 barricaded themselves into a passage before suffocating hours later. Knowing there was no hope for rescue, they wrote notes to their loved ones on the walls. The town of Fraterville was devastated by the loss as all but three of the town’s men were killed.”
89 of those miners are buried in the Fraterville Miners’ Circle in the Leach Cemetery, located behind Clear Branch Baptist Church. A monument at the center of the circle bears the names of all 184 miners who were identified. On May 19th, 2005, the circle was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Prior to that, in the late 1800s, the community of Coal Creek, now known as Rocky Top, became famous across the nation for several significant historical, including the “Coal Creek War,” one of the largest labor uprisings in the country’s history.
The area’s rich coal-mining history is also the subject of a new exhibit at the Lenoir Museum in Norris that opened on Thursday as well.
As we have been reminding you on our Community Bulletin Board, the East Tennessee Coal Miners Reunion will be held from 10:00 am to 2 at the Coal Creek Miners Museum, which is located at 201 South Main Street in Rocky Top. Saturday’s event is free, everyone is welcome, and there will be free hot dogs and live music. Visitors are encouraged to tour the museum and explore nearby historical sites.