By Mike Steely
Throughout our region, there are many communities that are proud of their past and many say so with a local museum. You probably know about our Knoxville museums or attractions with a historic exhibits, like the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, the East Tennessee History Museum or the McClung Museum. But did you know about places like the Coal Miners Museum in Rocky Top?
Rocky Top‘s Coal Creek Miners Museum
The Coal Creek Miners Museum tells the story of the Convict Lease System, the Fraterville Mine Disaster, and the Cross Mountain Mine Disaster.
Exhibits detail the history of coal mining, the men who fought against prison labor taking their jobs, and those who died or survived in cave-ins.
Aside from museum exhibits the Coal Creek Miners Museum has a gift shop with books about the local history, cookbooks, t-shirts, scrip and items made out of coal. Prior to being Rocky Top, the town was called Lake City, and before that, the community was known as Coal Creek.
The museum is operated by a non-profit organization and run by volunteers and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. It is located at 201 South Main Street and you can find information on the internet or by calling (865) 630-5006.
Clinton’s Green McAdoo Cultural Center
Another historic struggle in our region is featured in the Green McAdoo Cultural Center in Clinton.
That museum, housed in the former all-Black school, honors and preserves the legacy of the Clinton 12, those African-American students who integrated the Anderson County high school under threats and actual violence.
It features an actual 1950s classroom and exhibits detail the history-making events prior to and following the 1954 Supreme Court decision to open public schools to all students. Also on display is the history of the struggle locally and the bombing of the county high school in 1958.
Green McAdoo is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and can be found online or by calling (865)463-6500. Admission is free. The Green McAdoo Cultural Organization operates the facility and commemorates Clinton’s important place in the Civil Rights movement.
Statues of the students who braved entering and attending classes in the county high school are outside the museum and well worth a photo.
Norris Dam’s Lenoir Museum Historical Complex
The Lenoir Museum is very near Norris Dam and features displays of what life was like before the construction of TVA’s first hydroelectric dam. Will G. and Helen H. Lenoir donated items they collected over 60 years used in everyday country life.
The museum features a “barrel organ” that plays 110 wooden pipes and ten different tunes. Four stages of figures perform including dancers, clowns, foot soldiers, a woman churning and a blacksmith at work.
Nearby is the Rice Grist Mill, built in 1798 on Lost Creek. The mill operated for four generations and changed throughout its lifetime. The historic mill was relocated to its current location and also served as a sawmill cotton gin, and as an electric dynamo to provide lights for the Rice home.
Lenoir Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.