For One More Breath: The Fraterville Mine Disaster

"Oh God, For One More Breath..."

Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to visit this site. The Fraterville Mine Disaster of 1902 remains one of the worst in U.S. history and is an important, and unfortunately often overlooked, staple in the local heritage and shaping of East Tennessee and Anderson County, in particular. For One More Breath is the result of efforts by the Boy Scouts of America, the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation, miner descendants & community members' support. This and the other portions of the above linked BSA Eagle Scout Project are dedicated to the families and the memory of those who are "gone, but not forgotten."

-Drew Justice, Eagle Scout, BSA Troop 120, Lake City, TN

"Gone But Not Forgotten"

"The Fraterville Mine Explosion was one of the worst in our area. About 184 men and boys were killed." This number is now believed to be closer to 216. "There were 11 black men killed in the Fraterville explosion, but most books make no mention of them. The explosion happened early in the morning on May 19, 1902, just a little while after the men and boys had entered the mines. Boys as young as 14 years old worked in the mines at that time, because there were no laws preventing a child from doing this kind of work. The explosion occurred on a Monday morning, but it was late Thursday night before all of the bodies were recovered."

    "The rescue work began immediately. Men came from all the surrounding areas to help. But, the work was endless, with men changing shifts as the work continued. The "Black Damp," a poisonous gas from the explosion, killed them all. No one came out alive. While most were killed instantly, some were in small passages and lived a short while. Others escaped to entryways and other parts of the mines, away from the explosion, and were able to live several hours before they died from a lack of oxygen. It is reported that several men lived long enough to write letters to their families. The rescue effort was impossible because of all the fallen rock and slate and dirt churned up by the explosion. Also, the mine had endless branches that had to be searched. After the explosion, the little town of Fraterville, was devastated. It is said that only 3 adult men from that town had not reported to work that day, and were left alive. Many women lost every male member of their family."

-excerpt from Let Me Tell You About Coal Creek by Laura Wilson Locke Gary with Genene M. Smith