Coal miners in Sequatchie County in the early 20th century
PHOTO: Dunlap Coke Ovens Park
County Seat: Dunlap
There is coal beneath your feet in SequatchieCounty. There is still coal mining that goes on here, but not nearly as much as there used to. Near Dunlap today you can find the DunlapCokeOvensPark, a place where mountain coal used to be converted into industrial coke, which was then sent to Chattanooga to be used to make iron ore. Click here for a virtual tour of this fascinating place.
Coal mining eventually declined, and this part of the state saw one of the ugliest chapters of Tennessee labor history in the process. In the fall of 1955 coal miners in this part of Tennessee went on strike seeking higher pay, temporarily cutting off coal from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s new Widow’s Creek steam plant in Northern Alabama. With the miners here on strike, union-operated mines in Kentucky continued to operate and to send coal to the plant. This angered workers here, resulting in a lot of acts of violence. It also spelled decline for the coal industry in southeast Tennessee.
The Sequatchie Valley
Another thing that you should know about Sequatchie County is that it, like Marion and Bledsoe counties, contains much of the Sequatchie Valley -- a distinct valley, between five and eight miles wide, that runs for 150 miles through the heart of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennesee and northeast Alabama.
You can see the Sequatchie Valley in this relief map. If you study the map you can get some idea of why it was so difficult to build roads and railroads through southeast Tennessee. In fact, it is because of the Sequatchie Valley that the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, originally laid out in the 1840s and 1850s, was routed from Nashville to Stevenson, Alabama, and then up to Chattanooga.
The Sequatchie Valley
A lot of people bypass the Sequatchie Valley these days because (thankfully) there is no interstate through it. But it's worth the drive, especially when the air is clear.
One other interesting thing about Sequatchie County: Every Tennessee county has an official historian -- usually a retired person. Sequatchie County may be the only county in Tennessee where a teacher -- Henry Camp of Sequatchie County High School -- is also the county historian. So if you find yourself as a student in his class, be ready to learn about Tennessee history!
Here's a photo of the Sequatchie County Courthouse.