History of Campbell County, Tennessee
 

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COMPLETION OF KNOXVILLE, OHIO RAILROADS OPENED UP EAST TENNESSEE: ONE OF NATION'S RICHEST AREAS

By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.  This article was published in the LaFollette Press.

    

     Part I

     The source of this article is taken from the "Knoxville Daily Tribune," dated Sunday, May 6, 1883. The composition tells of the advent of the coal scene in Campbell County. The article goes as such:


     The completion of the Knoxville and Ohio Railroad opens up one of the richest regions in the United States. From Knoxville the roads cuts east across East Tennessee in a direction almost due north, striking the Kentucky State Line at the end of its 66 miles. From this point which is now called Jellico the distance to Louisville over the Knoxville branch of the L. and N. is 200 miles. The whole line traverses one of the finest mineral regions of the South, but we shall speak only of that portion which lies in East Tennessee.

     With a party of gentlemen interested in the mining of coal, we visited a few days ago the coalmines which are being opened near the State line. Within a distance of three miles, three mines are now in operation. These are all in the spurs of the Jellico mountain range, which lies west of the railroad. From a point three of four miles south of the State line the railroad runs through a level plain, which is bounded on the east by the rugged but unbroken chain of Pine Mountain, while on the west it is notched by the numerous spurs of Jellico Mountain. Of these spurs there are perhaps six or seven between Newcomb and Jellico, all pointing in an easterly direction and all abruptly ending within half a mile to a mile of the railroad. These mountain spurs are filled with inexhaustible beds of coal easy of access. Of course these coal beds extend through the Jellico Mountains, miles and miles to the west, but are in that region as yet inaccessible. These spurs, which are themselves mountains a thousand feet high, will demand our attention A description of one will do for all, for the same coal veins extend through them all.

     The valley or plain through which the railroad passes rests upon a bed of coal, from five feet to twenty feet below the surface, according to the undulations of the valley. Near the railroad at Newcomb the creek has exposed this bed of coal in several places. The vein is nearly three feet thick, and underlies the whole region. An examination of the mountain side will reveal no less than six other seams of coal above each other varying from sixty to two hundred feet apart in perpendicular distance, the upper vein being probably six hundred feet above the one which underlies the bottom of the valley. Some of these veins are only one or two feet thick while the best one is 52 inches in thickness. This is the vein which all the companies are working or preparing to work in their respective mountains. It is the sixth vein counting from the bottom and is probably 500 feet above the level of the valley. The upper vein which is a hundred feet above the large one is said to be cannel coal. The vein which is over a hundred feet below the thick vein is said to be the best coking coal yet discovered in East Tennessee. This vein is something more than three feet in thickness and is quite soft and brittle. A chunk of it weighing several pounds can be easily crushed in the hands breaking into small glistening pieces as large as a hickory nut or smaller. The coke made from this coal has great strength is close in texture and has the metallic ring and lustre. A careful analysis of this coke shows that it contains 92.6 percent of fixed carbon, 3.7 percent of moisture, 2,7 of ash and 1 percent of volatile matter while it contains less than three-fourths of one percent of sulphur.

Part II
Jellico Mountain Coal Company

     This company was organized nearly two years ago under the name of the "Jellico Mountain Coal, Coke, Mining and Transportation Company," with a capital of $300,000. The company is composed principally of capitalists from Lexington Kentucky. Col. Samuel L. Woolridge is President, Thomas Mitchell, Secretary and Treasurer; Bret R. Hutchcraft, General Contracting Agent and James W. Fox, Superintendent and Engineer.

     At the invitation of Mr. Hutchcraft we visited the Jellico mines, leaving the railroad at Newcomb Station. A railroad has been built from Newcomb up to the mines about a mile distant. All the several? which was very light was finished grading months ago, and the ties are all down and ready for the iron. At the end of this road, which is a broad gauge, is the Tip house. Here the coal is to be delivered from the team cars, screened, loaded into the railroad cars and weighed. Here are two scales arranged so that two cars can be filled at one time, one with fine coal and one with lump coal.

     The whole operation is controlled by one person, stationed in the upper story of the Tip house. From the Tip house there is a tram railroad about seven hundred yards long, the upper end reaching within 500 feet of the mouth of the mines. This tramway ascends a grade of 80 feet stopping at the foot of an incline. Here is the engine house. From this point the tram cars loaded with coal will descend by their own weight to the Tip house and will be brought back empty propelled by the power of a stationary communicated by an endless chain.

     From the engine house an incline has been built 453 feet long, up to the mines. It ascends a perpendicular height of about 200 feet. The loaded tram cars will descend this incline, turn at the engine house and pass on down to the Tip house. The weight of the descending cars will, by means of a drum, pull the empty cars up the incline. At the top of the incline is the blacksmith shop, toolhouse and general store house for mining supplies.

     On reaching the top of the incline we found nearly all the available space around the mouth of the mines covered with huge heaps of coal, which had been dug out of the mountain in driving the entries and opening the mines. More than 5,000 tons of coal has already been mined and is ready for shipment. Two entries have been made into the 52-inch vein of coal on the north face of the mountain. These entries are about 300 feet apart. One has been dug straight into the mountain over 1,000 feet and the other to a distance of nearly 900 feet. The entrance is a tunnel into the mountain is an opening six feet high and nearly as wide and of course follows the coal bed.

     In company with the assistant superintendent, Horace E. Fox, we went into the mines. We took lamps in our hands and got into a tram car which was drawn into the mines by a mule. As we proceeded into the heart of the mountain we were conscious of going up a slight grade. In fact the dip of the coal seam is such that the mines are perfectly drained without using any artificial means. About 600 feet from the mouth of the entrance is a cross entrance which connects the two main entrances. Several cross and side entrances have been made from the main shafts, some of them cutting several hundred feet into the coal bed.

     From the outside parallel with the main entrances and about feet from them are airways. These are five feet high and five feet wide extending the full length of the main shafts. These are made for the purpose of ventilating the mines. There is only a single force of mines working now, but the mines are ready for a double force of two hundred hands as soon as the company can begin to ship the coal. About sixty rooms have already been turned. This coal is very easily mined. In the center of the vein is a mining seam. That is, there is a streak of very soft coal several inches in thickness separating the top and bottom layers of the coal bed. The miner with his pick digs out this soft coal, after which a few strokes break off the harder coal above and below in large chunks. In such coal as this miners can easily make $2 to $3 a day.
 

Standard Coal and Coke Company

     The mines of the Standard Coal and Coke Company are situated nearly a mile south of the Jellico mines and but little more than half a mile from Newcomb. This company owns two mountains, including several thousand acres of coal lands. The property could not be purchased now for $100,000 and a few years it will be valued at several times that amount. The principal owner of these mines is Major E.E.McCrosky, of Knoxville. Captain McClure, a former East Tennessean, now of Cincinnati, and Joseph Chandler, of Sevier County, are members of the company. The coal in these mountains does not differ in structure, composition of the size of the veins from that of the Jellico mines, but is more accessible, and can be mined at somewhat less expense.

     The railroad to one of the mines of the Standard Company will be about half a mile long and the road to the other will be less than a mile. The only expense of building these roads will be for the iron and the ties. No grading will be necessary because the approaches to the mines are almost perfectly level. From the mines tram cars will bring the coal down an easy graded narrow gauge to the chute where the coal will be screened, the railroad cars loaded and the coal weighed. The empty tram cars will be taken to the mines by a small locomotive engine. By this arrangement the objectionable features of an incline are avoided, and the natural location of the mines renders the loading of the coal less expensive. Hands have been at work for several months driving the entries for the Standard Company, and large quantities of coal have already been dug out. Two entries have been driven in one of the mountains, and one in the other. The coal will be in the market this summer. If necessary 400 miners could be put to work in the Standard mines, but perhaps not more than half that number will be employed this year.

     The Standard Company has a large sawmill near the mines to manufacture lumber to be used in the company's building and for constructing houses for the miners. These lands are covered with fine timber.
 

(Material for this article was submitted by personnel from the Campbell County Historical Society 

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