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After seizing the Briceville stockade, the Coal Creek miners sent a telegram to Governor Buchanan, stating their actions were taken to defend their property and wages and asking for his intervention.

Oct. 31, Coal Creek War - Zinn Education Project

On July 16, Buchanan, escorted by three Tennessee state militia companies, two from Chattanooga and one from Knoxville, led the convicts back to Briceville. After the governor's speech, Merrell rebutted it, claiming that the governor had not bothered to enforce laws regarding scrip or checkweighmen and calling the state government a " disgrace to a civilized country. The governor left militiamen under Colonel Granville Sevier , a great-grandson of John Sevier , to guard the stockade.

On the morning of July 20, an estimated 2, miners armed with shotguns, rifles, and pistols again surrounded the Briceville stockade. The miners' ranks had been bolstered by an influx of miners from the border town of Jellico and several hundred miners from Kentucky, some of whom had successfully removed convicts from two Kentucky mines five years earlier.

After gaining an assurance that no company property would be damaged, Sevier, seeing the futility of resisting such a large force, surrendered.

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The miners again marched the convicts to Coal Creek and put them on a train back to Knoxville. Later that day, the miners marched on the Knoxville Iron Company mine near Coal Creek, which also used convict labor, forced the guards at its stockade to surrender, and likewise sent its convicts to Knoxville. On July 21, , Governor Buchanan travelled to Knoxville, where he again summoned the militia. Over a four-day period, the governor met with a committee of local figures friendly to the miners' interests, namely attorney J.

Ginny Savage Ayers on Mother Jones and the Miner Rebellion at Paint and Cabin Creeks

On July 23, Williams and Webb went to Coal Creek to address the miners, echoing the governor's plea for patience. Williams assured the miners that the governor supported an end to convict-leasing, but said it would take time to change the law. The miners thus agreed to a day truce after the governor assured them he would call a special session of the Tennessee state legislature and recommend the lease law be repealed.

The convict laborers returned on July During the truce, Merrell and Irish traveled around the state, giving speeches to rally support for the miners' cause. On August 31, Buchanan called a special session of the state legislature to consider the convict lease issue. One question before the legislature was whether or not the state could terminate the leasing contract it had signed, which did not expire until December 31, Another issue was what to do with convicts should the convict-leasing system be terminated. After three weeks of debate, the legislature adjourned on September 21, taking little action other than making it a felony to interfere with the leasing system and authorizing the governor to take any necessary action to protect the system.

The case moved quickly through the courts, reaching the Tennessee State Supreme Court in October Chief Justice Peter Turney , however, ruled against the miners, essentially citing the sanctity of contracts. On October 28, , the committee representing the Coal Creek miners' interests announced they were resigning, denounced the legislature, and issued a subtle call to arms.

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Several company buildings were destroyed or looted, but the stockade was spared. Over convicts were freed and supplied with fresh food and civilian clothes by the insurgents, who urged them not to commit further crimes. On November 2, another band burned the stockade at Oliver Springs, freeing convicts. In response to the outbreak, a second truce was negotiated in which the miners agreed to allow the return of convicts to Coal Creek and Oliver Springs, but not Briceville, where TCMC president B. Jenkins had grown disgruntled with convict labor. The state dispatched eighty-four militiamen under the command of J.

Keller Anderson to guard the convict stockade at Coal Creek and a small force to guard the one at Oliver Springs.

Anderson built Fort Anderson on what came to be known as "Militia Hill", overlooking Coal Creek via the Walden Ridge water gap, which was outfitted with a Gatling gun , and the convicts returned to the Coal Creek Valley on January 31, Relations between the militiamen, most of whom were from middle or west Tennessee, and the people of Coal Creek soured quickly. Merrell wrote to Governor Buchanan complaining of the troops' behavior, and for several months miners and soldiers indiscriminately shot at one another, with either side blaming the other for provoking it.

By summer , dozens of newspapers and magazines nationwide, including The New York Times , the Alabama Sentinel , and Harper's Weekly , had sent correspondents to the Coal Creek region to cover the conflict.

go to site Sentiment was initially pro-miner, although as violent outbreaks continued and militiamen were killed, sentiment began to shift. While the East Tennessee mining companies were moving away from convict labor, the state's primary lessee, TCI, remained stalwartly dedicated to using convict leasing at its South Tennessee mines. When Cumberland Coal balked at using convicts at its Oliver Springs mine, TCI purchased the mine's lease, giving it a direct foothold in the Anderson County coalfields. As the company minimized the work of its free laborers, however, tensions steadily rose. Shortly afterward, a larger group of miners reconvened at the stockade, and its guards finally surrendered.

The stockade was burned, and the convicts were put on a train and sent to Nashville. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond. Role plays and writing activities project high school students into real-life situations to explore the history and contemporary reality of employment and unemployment in the U. Book — Non-fiction. By Mark Nowak.


An expose of the coal industry using a combination of poetry, images, first person testimonies, and newspaper accounts. By Jeff Biggers.

The untold history of coal mining in the U. Written and directed by John Sayles. The Tennessee Legislature abolished the act of leasing prisoners in and constructed the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary as a result. Several mining disasters brought national attention to the Triangle area in the early s. In at the nearby Fraterville Mine miners lost their lives in an explosion. The town lost all but three of its adult males. In TVA began construction of wind power generators on Buffalo Mountain which bisects the Triangle north and south.

Surrounding the facility is some of the most foreboding terrain that escapees would have to deal with. The heavily wooded mountains of the Cumberland Plateau made escapes infrequent. The most famous escape was James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of Martin Luther King, who escaped in with six other inmates. Ray was captured in two days only a few miles from the prison. The prison closed in