EXCERPTS FROM "THE
LAND OF THE LAKE " AS
WRITTEN BY DR. G.L. RIDENOUR (PART II)
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas
Many thanks to the personnel at the Campbell County Historical
Society for allowing me to use this material .
Dr. Ridenour's book, "The Land of the Lake " can
be purchased through the Campbell County Historical
Society at LaFollette , Tennessee
LAFOLLETTE -- TYPICAL MINING CAMP
LaFollette, in its early days of its
industrial development was a distinct coal mining camp. Americans from
many segments of came and worked the local mines. A very large group
of African Americans were enrolled from Alabama and other southern
states. Scarcely a week had passed when a shooting match occurred that
often ended in a killing.
Soon a thousand people were living in shanties and boxed houses around
the gap. Paved streets were absent and problems soon arose as to where
to house all the workers. Swiftly, without any definite plans, hastily
temporary buildings were being constructed. Summer clouds of dust were
driven by the gust of winds, which sometimes caused chaos. Winter and
spring found the streets soaked after the heavy rains which caused
the many wagons to get stuck. Disgusted workers would leave their wagons
up to the hubs in the mud.
"Man broke through," "Wagon
sunk." One furious
ox team driver early one morning drove a long stake into the street
and putting an old coat and hat on it hitched his stalled yoke of oxen
to the stake, as his protest against the condition of the street.
INCIDENTALS IN CAMPBELL COUNTY
In 1897 the railroad
to Vasper was completed and construction of one of the South's largest
iron furnaces was begun. Coke ovens were built at Ivy Dell and coal
mines were opened nearby at Peabody.
After the railroad was
built to LaFollette herds of cattle and sheep, flocks of turkeys, and
droves of swine were less seen on the way to market. Farmers then assumed
it would be more profitable for the drovers to turn butchers and well
their meats to the coal camps that had sprung up at the public works.
The practice of pasturing cattle in the flatwoods and on the commons
was gradually discontinued. All this in spite of the older citizens
longing for a return to the time of the free range.
COAL IS RUN AT
the railroad was built through the mountains to LaFollette, Dr. A.
Gatliff, at Gatliff, now Cotula, began "running coal." Henry
Wynn, a Welsh miner, had prospected through the mountains during the
Middlesboro promotion and had been in charge of mining operations at
Big Creek Gap, built the Wynne camp on Davis Creek.
Throughout the boom days of the coal industry the Wynne Memorial Church
was built between Cotula and Wynn. The church was so large that its
capacity was built around a town of 3,000 people.
On Hog Camp Branch coal camps were built at Remy, Jackson, Westbourne
and White Oak. The R.O. Campbell interests consolidated the camps and
later John J. Eagan, well-known for many years in the Federal Council
of Churches, led in providing a large industrial Y.M.C.A. for the men
employed in the mine.
Habersham became a thriving mining and lumber center. At one time
the three-story hotel did a booming business. Mines were opened at
Rich Mountain, Kimberly and Morley. An Italian company operated a mine
above Habersham on Davis Creek.
The roads at first from the camps along the railroad were little more
than trails and were almost impassable at certain times of the year.
Travelers on mule rode
by scenes little changed from the pioneer times. During this time the
Reverend Peter C. Perkins did splendid work in many mountain communities
as missionary pastor. The Reverend Joseph M. Newport was perhaps the
minister of longest continuous service of the county. He served as
minister after the time in which he had returned from service in the
THE PARADE OF THE IMPOUNDED STOCK
the incorporation of LaFollette cattle and livestock were allowed to
graze on the commons. An ordinance was passed authorizing the building
of a pound and the appointment of a pound master to keep stock out
of the limits of the town.
Several owners of milk cows had to pay the customary fines to have
their stock released from the pound. One night the pound master had
the cattle, mules and horses of several farmers around town, including
the stock of the Sharps, Queeners and Dossetts.
Within the impounded stock was an old gray mule owned by the Lincoln
Sutton, who had been accustomed to belling the mule and turning him
out to graze at night during the summer months. Word of the capture
of the stock was carried to all the farmers just at daybreak. Henderson
Dossett and his hands, the Queeners and their neighbors, Casper W.
Sharp, R.H. Sharp, and friends gathered at the pound. Link Sutton appeared
on the scene wearing a coon skin cap and carrying a hog rifle, along
with an old fashioned shot pouch and powder horn. Sutton had come for
The pound master refused
to release the imprisoned stock, but the farmers did his duty for him.
During the opening of the pound master got in the way of Casper Sharp's
blacksmith whip, and was run away by this effectual weapon. Sutton
mounted his mule and led the procession of stock through the main street
of the town. Several men and boys helped the farmers drive the stock
to the town limits and beyond the jurisdiction of the town law. While
the parade passed through town business was suspended. The only casualty
was the loss of dignity of the pound master who fled from the expert
use of a blacksmith whip.
COLONEL COLYER GETS DOSE OF COCKLEBURRS
One of the most famous trials in LaFollette occurred during one of
the exciting political fights in the early days of the town. Colonel
A.S. Colyer, Nashville, was staying at one of the hotels and was taking
part in the election. The colonel wore his hair long as was the custom
of profession men of a previous generation. It occurred to some young
men about town that a great deal of excitement would result if Colonel
Colyer's well-groomed hair was filled with cockleburs.
One night several young men invaded the lobby of the hotel and left
the colonel in such misery that the services of a barber with shears
were necessary t relieve the victim of the fuffonery.
Warrants were sworn out
for the young men who had assaulted the colonel with cockleburs. The
trial lasted the better part of a day and the colonel withdrew from
the political arena in Campbell County.
MYSTERIOUS MURDER SOLVED
Several years after the above incident, Glen Mayes operated
a coal mine in Titus Hollow. One night the cabin in which Mayes lived
alone burned. Upon investigation a few charred bones were found in
the ashes. Accordingly, the remains of the deceased coal operator were
collected and interred with appropriate funeral services. Several suspects
were arrested and lodged in jail.
But several months later Mayes was found in the Virginia coal field
alive and showing no signs of cremation. Mayes explained the cabin
murder. Before leaving Titus Hollow Mayes placed a pile of cross ties
on the carcass of a calf from which he had removed the hoofs and jawbones.
Setting fire to the cabin, he disappeared. The burned cabin, the disappearance
of Mayes, the finding of the bones were the facts of a circumstantial
evidence in a murder case that lacked a motive