Mining history in Dayton, Tennessee...

As a public history graduate student at Middle Tennessee State University I wrote a research paper on the copper mining industry in Southeast Tennessee, so this article in The Chattanooga Times Free Press is of particular interest to me. I hope you'll also find it of interest...

A view of the Dayton Coal and Iron Co.
Image: Tennessee State Library and Archives
Historian Jaime Woodcock, who works for Wildwood, Ga.-based Alexander Archaeological Consultants Inc., wants to uncover that past and get the Dayton Coal and Iron Co. site listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The designation can help with efforts to preserve and protect the site from vandals and development, but there is still lots to learn, Woodcock said.

“The point of the project is to fully assess what’s here and to determine the significance of this site,” she said.

The Dayton Coal and Iron Co. opened its first mine in 1882, and by 1890 was producing 211,465 tons of coal for the region. Between 1890 and 1892, the company operated 323 ovens, and by 1893 employed an estimated 450 workers.

Over time, however, "mining accidents, low market prices and labor strikes over pay had a negative impact" on the Dayton Coal and Iron Company...

After an explosion killed 29 miners at the Nelson Mine on Dec. 20, 1895, rescuers dug through the Dixon-Slope mine and tunneled under Richland Creek trying to retrieve the bodies.

The mine finally closed for good in the late 1920s under the ownership of the Cumberland Coal and Iron Co., she said.

By the 1930s, the Dayton Coal and Iron Co.’s foundry was closed down and demolished.

Click here to read more from The Chattanooga Times Free Press article.



Chuck Sherrill, Library Director said...

One of many undiscovered treasures among the manuscript collections of the TN State Library and Archives (TSLA) is a trove of letters about the copper mines in Polk County TN. The Mayfield family served as lawyers defending the mines against the many "smoke suits" filed by residents affected negatively by the mining operations in the early 20th century. The family's papers are on microfilm at TSLA.

Gordon said...

That's amazing! I'm very tempted to take a look at those letters. Might make for an interesting story for the blog. Thanks for sharing that information.

kata said...

Is there a list of names of miners who were killed in the 1895 explosion in Dayton Tenn? I live in Ohio and was interested if any of my ancestors were listed.

Gordon said...

Thanks for your question, "kata." I would suggest contacting the Tennessee State Library and Archives for information about that mine explosion, and for possible leads about your ancestors connected with that mine disaster. I'd also see if the Ducktown Basin Museum in Copper Basin, Tennessee has any records. Nearby, the Chattanooga Public Library's Local History and Genealogy Department might also be of help. Good luck with your search!

Unknown said...

Hope this is helpful,
Billy Henderson

PS My grandfather, William Henderson, is listed as killed in the accident.

Dayton, TN Mine Explosion, Dec 1895

Posted January 9th, 2008 by Teri
Thirty Killed by an Explosion in a Tennessee Mine
Twenty-nine Bodies Were Recovered - Only Three Workmen Were Rescued Alive, They Were Two Miles From the Entrance. The Mine Completely Wrecked.
Chattanooga, Dec. 21. Â Open lamps in a coal mine full of gas tells the cause of the horrible disaster which was visited upon the little town of Dayton. Dayton is a mining town of 4,000 people, located on the Cincinnati Southern railway, about 38 miles from this city. The leading industry is coal mining, and the Dayton Coal and Iron Company, a corporation owned mainly by English shareholders, operates the entire works.
The mines are two in number and are known as "sloping" mines. The opening of the mines is about 1 1/2 miles from the town, and the slope extends almost two miles from the mouth. One hundred and fifty-seven men were employed at the works mining coal. In entry No. 1, the most remote from the mouth, 30 men and boys were at work when the explosion took place. The explosion was terrific. The men in the entries No. 1, 2, 7 and 9 made a break for the mouth. All escaped except Tom Hawkins, whose exit was rendered impossible by the gas and who fell behind his fleeing comrades.
Oscar Hawkins was seriously burned and Jim Tucker and Ed Blackford slightly. In the meanwhile the mine had caved over entry No. 10. The escaping miners rapidly spread the news of the explosion.
Men, women, and children ran to the mouth of the mines crying and moaning. The miners made desperate attempts to reach their brethren, but after damp was too great. Several were overcome by the gaseous atmosphere and had to be carried from the mines. Powerful fans were put to work to pump fresh air into the entry, and finally the rescuing party was able to get close to the scene of the explosion to see the bodies lying in the mine.
Partial List of the Dead. A partial list of those in the mine follows:
Charles Washburn
William Brotherton
Cyrus Alexander
W. J. Miller
Jim Johnson
John Abel
W. J. Alexander
John Jack Ivester
Elder Morgan
Bart Hamilton
Robert Jewell
Floyd Jewell
Laney Walker
Oscar Hawkins
Lon Ferguson
William Henderson
John Manis
W. H. Davis
Homer Ellis
Tom Hawkins
John Loach
William Roddy
John Westerfield
The three latter are colored. In addition to these were two negroes not identified. All of these bodies have been recovered.
Chief Engineer Gibson led a party of miners into the main entry, and William McVelis led another rescuing party by way of what is known as the new slope. The choked damp forced the former party to retire, the chief engineer being carried out just as he was almost suffocated.
As nearly as the facts can be ascertained the gas was ignited in entry No. 10 by Tom Hawkins, the gas inspector, while in the performance of his duty. All of the miners in the entry escaped except Hawkins.
General Superintendent V. Ferguson has arrived from New York. Mr. Ferguson said that the men had been working in the mines with lamps, and he supposed the gas had caught these lamps.
Trenton Evening Times, Trenton NJ 21 Dec 1895

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