Coal mining is one of the industries that rebuilt the South after the Civil War. Coal mining created a booming town in North Anderson County called Coal Creek while providing much needed jobs and energy to the area. After the Civil War, prisons in the South overflowed causing the southern states to create the “convict lease system” which turned prisoners from liabilities into assets by leasing them to work in mines, plantations, and railroads. There were only three ways out of the convict labor system: escape, self-mutilation, or death. In 1877, business owners and politicians started using convict laborers to replace striking mine workers to crush labor unrest. Prison and labor reform movements of the time saw no end in sight for this cruel institution. Then, free miners from Coal Creek found a solution by going to war with the State of Tennessee from 1891 to 1892. Tennessee ended its convict lease system and the rest of the South soon followed suit.
Many of the miners who survived the Coal Creek War died in mine disasters at the Fraterville Mine in 1902 and the Cross Mountain Mine in 1911. These disasters, which killed 300 men and boys in Coal Creek, helped raise public awareness of the dangers of mining. Safety reforms, brought about in response to these disasters and others, have helped save thousands of lives in mines throughout this country. Relive the history and explore the scenic mountains and streams of Coal Creek by traveling the Coal Creek Miners Trail.
Coal Creek changed its name in 1936 to Lake City after the completion of nearby Norris Dam, which formed Norris Lake. On November 7, 2013, Lake City’s city council voted to ask the Tennessee General Assembly to amend the city charter to change the name of the city to Rocky Top, Tennessee.
Today, Rocky Top is home to fishing guide services, hiking trails, and the famous Devil’s Triangle. The Devil’s Triangle is 45 miles of twists and turns through the rural mountains of East Tennessee and deep in the heart of East Tennessee’s mining country.