Saturday, April 13, 2013

Coal Mine Exploration

Our little pipistrelle bat was still hanging out  in the mine when we went back with headlamps today. We went past where the mine forks, with the right fork being more of a room with wood posts jammed between the floor and ceiling. Several had failed so we decided that wasn't the way to go. We stayed on the main shaft (horizontal) and found a rail structure made of wood. This surprised us but we've since done research and found pictures of wood wheeled carts and wood rails used in European mines in the 1700's and early 1800's. We're thinking this mine is pre civil war but more work needs to be done to set any date. It could be much later and more indicative of the poverty in East TN after the civil war than anything else. I would appreciate any info anyone might have on this.

We noticed that little needle like crystals were on the wood in places. We found them on pieces of coal as well. Any idea as to what they could be? My Google-foo isn't working on them so far.


  1. I do not know what mineral is in the wood to make those crystals, but it sounds like a great science mystery to follow upon. Be careful in those old mines.

  2. I got thrown out of a coal mine once in Wise, Va. True Story.

  3. I know this an older post on your site, but I've recently discovered your blog and found a lot of the stuff on here very familiar, and I would like to fill in on some information.

    I grew up in Whites Creek, and the "old-timers" that resided in the area use to tell me of Eagle Furnace Works, which was an ore smelting works and also the present name of an area on the Roane County side of Whites Creek. Since Eagle Furnace was in operation prior to the beginning of the Civil War, it's highly likely that the remains of that coal mine you explored are pre-Civil War in origin and was most probably use to provide coal for the smelting process.

    1. We think these mines were used to fire a forge that was actually on Whites Creek. According to refences we have run across the Gordon forge produced 18 tons of iron in 1856 to Eagle Furnace's 9 tons the same year. It appears that the Creek's periodic flooding may have hampered continuing operations and shifting iron production to Eagle Furnace. Of course the Civil War change everything.

      I'm glad to have your input, Kevin. There are various and contradictory references to be had so all of this should include a "We think" modifier.

  4. Appreciate your information on that site, I had totally forgotten about the Gordon Forge. For reasons unbeknownst to me, it's always Eagle Furnace that's referenced instead of Gordon when the area's coal mining activities or just general history are brought up.

    But great to know that some remnants of that activity are left. It wasn't too great for the area environmentally when mining was taken place, but it still is, I think, an important reminder of what kinds of occupations the first European inhabitants of Whites Creek and lower Roane County were engaged when prior to and just after the Civil War.

    By the way, the pictures you post of the Whites Creek Gorge are awesome, and brings some good recognition to an area that is not well-known even in southeast Tennessee.