The eastern part of White County (which is mountainous) used to be completely dominated by coal mining.
From about 1880 until 1935, company-owned towns in White County such as Bon Air, Ravenscroft, Eastland and Clifty mined huge amounts of coal which were shipped by railroad to Nashville and points beyond.
The company that owned these towns was originally known as the Bon Air Coal Company. After 1926 the company was known as the Tennessee Products Company. Its main two investors were W.J. “Big Bill” Cummins of Nashville and William Wrigley of Chicago.
Wrigley, who is better known for chewing gum and the Chicago Cubs, at one point invested more than a million dollars in Tennessee Products Company.
At its peak, the Tennessee Products Company completely owned at least 11 Tennessee communities, those being Bon Air, Ravenscroft, Eastland, Clifty, Wrigley, Lyles, Goodrich, Aetna, Allens Creek, Ruppertown, and Collinwood.
In the 1910s and 1920s, on Sundays, the miners would play baseball. One of the teams was named for Mr. Wrigley and wore the uniform of the Chicago Cubs.
All of this probably would have been forgotten were it not for a group of educators and history buffs in White County. In 1994 they organized a coal mining reunion to learn more about the history of the area. The event became an annual thing.
Today the BonAir Mountain Historical Society even has an annual history fair at BonDeCroft Elementary School from which bus tours of the coal mining communities are given. Great stuff!
Also… White County could be known as the waterfall county. At the northern edge of White County is the Burgess Falls State Natural Area, site of one of Tennessee’s earliest hydroelectric dams (not to mention an incredible series of waterfalls).
At the southern end of White County, you’ll find a breathtaking waterfall with a bizarre story behind it.
The waterfall is known as Twin Falls; its comes gushing out of a cliff in Warren County and tumbles into the waters of Caney Fork River, which serves as the boundary between White and Warren counties. The strange thing about Twin Falls is that it was man-made; the falls didn’t used to exist, but water began pouring out of the side of the mountain shortly after the Tennessee Electric Power Co. completed Great Falls Dam in 1916.
The dam, you see, caused the water level of the Collins River to rise several feet. When it did, water from the Collins River began finding its way through the mountain that separates it from the Caney Fork River.
The White County Courthouse in Sparta is kind of, well, white!