The Beginning of a New Era

Post #7 in the Cumberland County Series

You always hear about town hauntings, especially in the south. But what many do not know is that Cumberland County has some skeletons in its closet too. It is said that a ghost haunts the courthouse. She stares out the window looking at where the hanging tree was in 1899 because her love died there. 

On April 13, 1899 Crossville’s first hanging took place on the courthouse lawn. The man hanged was Hiram Hall. His mother had convinced him that his wife, Ida Bell Hassler was no good and that he needed to murder her. It took him three attempts but finally on the third try he successfully drowned her in the family well on the morning of August 18, 1897. 

The night before Hiram’s hanging, A.L. Garrison spent the night with him in his cell while Hiram wrote his entire confession for the sheriff’s department. In order to receive his confession, A.L. was also to take Hiram’s body back to his home to be buried peacefully. 

The morning of Hiram’s hanging A.L. took his confession to the Chronicle and had copies made and then proceeded to sell them for 10 cents a piece. 

A new age had come to Crossville, TN that took many by storm: hangings, railroads, industry, prosperity, politics, and war. The simple way of life that many had moved there for was ending, but the town needed to grow. 

The first train engine stopped in Crossville, TN on September 19, 1900 and what followed was numerous businesses and opportunities. 

“Crossville was incorporated in 1901, and the city and county boomed economically because of the new railroad and the timber and coal enterprises. This prosperity made the county free of debt in 1900 for the first time since its creation.” (Cumberland County Tennessee, W. Calvin Dickinson, p. 43)

“Ties and timber were for many farmers their first ‘cash’ crop. It was a railroad age and the market for ties was a constant one. Dozens of companies were organized in the next few years to exploit the timber. Some like the Southard Lumber Company were in the business many years; others were larger and did not last as long. The situation was admirably summed up by the Chronicle on April 26, 1905: ‘The numerous stave and saw mills that are actively at work over the county and the hundreds of carloads of cross ties  that are being delivered along the line of the Tennessee Central show in unmistakable terms that the county is in a very prosperous condition and that no one need seek work in vain.’” (Cumberland County’s First Hundred Years, Helen Bullard & John Marshall Krechniak, p. 111)

“In 1909 there were 44 active sawmills in the county, whereas in 1912 there were 14, one of which cut more than a million board feet of lumber a year.” (Soil Survey, p.89), (Bullard & Krechniak, p. 111)

The Cumberland Lumber Company began exploiting lumber on Peavine Mountain in 1909 and did so till the mid-twenties. They ran out of Connecticut. 

The Campbell Coal & Coke Company began their operation in 1898.

Clifty Consolidated Coal Company came in 1900.

“By 1909 Cumberland was fourteenth among the coal producing counties in Tennessee. There were two mines on Clear Creek, one on Fall Creek, one at Renfro, and one at Waldensia. Eighty men worked in these mines, producing 64,000 tons of coal. Several of the companies were large enough to build towns complete with hotels  and stores as well as homes for workers and administrators.” (Cumberland County Tennessee, W. Calvin Dickinson, p. 39)

“Waldensia’s mines were opened by the Chicago-Tennessee Coal & Coke Company about 1914, and a spur line was put out from Daysville to serve its coke ovens. It , too, was a large project with a hotel, cottages, and a made lake. They were operating in coal 9 feet thick when the foreman started robbing the mine by taking out the pillars. It had to be abandoned and has never been reopened.” (Bullard & Krechniak, p. 112)

From the Chronicle:

“In 1910 the Tennessee Mineral & Lumber Company and the Barbour Coal & Coke Company set up operations in a town called Catoosa close to the Morgan County line beyond Hebbertsburg. The Morgan & Fentress Railway Company’s branch lines carried lumber from the woods to Catoosa and both lumber and coal to the Southern Railway at Nemo. In its heyday Catoosa– which has since disappeared from the map— had 330 buildings including residences, and the company store did a monthly business of $15,000. Hundreds were employed until hard times and a destructive flood in 1929 cut operations to almost nothing.” (Bullard & Krechniak, p. 112-113)

Many other businesses came as a result of the railroad:

Grassy Cove Coal & Iron Company

East Tennessee & North Alabama Coal & Iron Company

Crossville Oil

Gas & Coal Company

Caney Fork Coal & Iron Company

Southern Land

Cattle & Mining Company

Sequatchie Valley Coal & Coke Company

Walden’s Ridge Coal & Iron Company

Middle Tennessee Coal & Land Company

Crab Orchard Coal & Coke Company

Cumberland Mountain Coal

Iron and Railway Company

Goodstock Dimension Company

Whites Creek Coal & Land Company

J.B.M. Cord Lumber Company

Tennessee Land & Coal Company

Cumberland Plateau Coal & Land Company

Lantana Midland Coal & Coke Company

Tennessee Timber Company

Cromwell Lumber Company

Ayer & Lord Tie Company

Wheeler Tie Company

Cumberland Tie Company

Crab Orchard Coal Mining Company

Wayland Coal & Coke Company 

Tip Top Land & Timber Company

*Information and pictures received from the Cumberland County Archives and Library of Congress.

*Books are cited in the text above. 

Published by SmallBiz Staffing, LLC

Locally owned staffing company in Crossville, TN.

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