The Company Town

By Carson Camp, as it appeared in The Running Water Historical News - Marion County, TN - June, 1995
As operations continued, a company town was constructed at the base of the mountain along with a huge company store or "commissary" (Sequachee 17 April 1902:2). This store allowed the company to pay wages in script redeemable only at the company store.
The first coke ovens were built in 1902, directly behind the commissary, and the stone for the retaining walls were quarried from property near the incline. These first 24 double block beehive coke ovens were constructed to convert the unusable mineral to a high grade industrial coke. The soft nature of bituminous coal mined from the Sewanee coal seam of the Cumberland Plateau on Fredonia Mountain, though a good quality of coal, was not suitable for domestic purposes (Sequachee 6 March 1902:1). But the ovens allowed coke o be made from what was otherwise worthless coal.

In 1904 Douglas Coal and Coke ceased to exist due to labor problems and from problems in separating dirt or "rash" from the coal (Sequachee 7 April 1904:1). Closed temporarily the operation reopened within the year with new investors, but each met with disappointment and failures as a coal washer was needed to remove the dirt from the coal.
In 1906, the facilities began to once again thrive. New owners changed the name to the Chattanooga Iron and Coal Company and with new capital began designing a steam powered coal washer and additional coke ovens to make the operation more profitable (Sequachee 15 March 1906:1). With the coal washer effectively removing the unwanted dirt, the operation continued to grow until 1916 when a boiler explosion destroyed the washer and damaged the incline tipple (Sequachee 1916:2). This was the beginning of the end.
A new coal washer was constructed along with one hundred new coke ovens and a six mile long railroad up the Little Brush Creek to new mine openings. But the expense of the new washer, reportedly at one million dollars, and its failure to wash coal properly pushed Chattanooga Iron and Coal Corporation into bankruptcy. By 1927 the industry closed, never again to open.

What to learn more? Try these topics.

The Tennessee Coal Fields
The Boom Years in Dunlap
Preserving Our History
Reconstructing Our History


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The Sequatchie Valley Historical Association
114 Walnut Street Dunlap, Tennessee 37327
(423) 949-2156

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