There is coal beneath your feet in Sequatchie County.
Near Dunlap today you can find the Dunlap Coke Ovens Park, where coal used to be mined and then converted into industrial coke. Most of it was then sent to places like Chattanooga, Birmingham and Nashville, where it was used to make iron ore.
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 North Alabama. With the miners here on strike, 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.
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.
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.
Here’s the Sequatchie County Courthouse.