What is Coal Creek? Where is Coal Creek? What happened to make the name “Coal Creek” infamous? This relatively new museum will show you the history of the region’s coal mining history, including the exploitive convict lease system that resulted in a literal war, and the later disasters at the Fraterville and Cross Mountain mines.
After the Civil War, prisons in the South overflowed. Unwilling to pay the costs of mass incarceration, the Southern states turned their convicts from liabilities into assets by “leasing” them out to work in mines, on plantations, and for the railroads. By 1877, the owners began to use convict labor to replace striking miners and to crush labor unrest and keep their profits flowing.
No solution could be found until the miners from Coal Creek Valley took matters into their own hands by going to war with the state of Tennessee from 1891 to 1892. The violence drew national attention, ultimately resulting in the end of the convict lease system in Tennessee.
The later disasters, which took the lives of some of those same “war” veterans, drew attention to the dangers of mining, resulting in reforms.
Relive the history here at the museum and see why the town it’s in sought to shed it’s bloody reputation by changing its name.
Coal Creek Miners Museum, Rocky Top, Tennessee