What Happened To The Widows and Orphans?

This past week I wrote a blog post about the Fraterville Mine explosion and how it affected my ancestors. But on 19 May 1902, hundreds of women became widows, leaving up to 1,000 orphans.1 The town of Briceville and nearby Knoxville quickly rallied to help the immediate needs of these families.2

In the 26 May 1902 edition of the Knoxville Sentinel, Mrs. Calvin Vowell gave an interview about a dream she had about the mine.3 Her dream showed the Thistle mine blowing up, entombing the men who worked in the Fraterville mine. She pleaded with her husband not to go to work that day along with several of their sons. Being a good husband, he did as she asked and they all stayed home. Tearfully, he said he would always heed the advice of his loving wife.

This article moved me, but I came across something I didn’t expect to find…a mention of my 2x great-grandfather, John McKamey.4

Edith McKamey became the widow of John and lost 3 sons in the Fraterville Mine explosion. She had to care for the 5 children still at home.

I’m sure this initial relief fund was appreciated, but these women wanted more than just a handout. In the weeks, months, and unfortunately, years after, dozens of women brought lawsuits against the Coal Creek Coal Company. Most settled out of court, but one held out for almost 5 years and won big.5

I can’t find where Edith filed suit against the coal company in the newspaper articles listing the plaintiffs. In 1910 she still lived in Coal Creek with her 16-year-old son Oscar, 2 daughters, and 2 grandsons.6 My great-grandfather, John Edward McKamey, lived close by with his family.

Edith remains a mystery to me. I need to research more to see what happened to her after 1910.

Genealogy tip: Your ancestors may be mentioned in documents or articles about someone else. A broad search of any subject may lead to some exciting finds!

Newspapers are a valuable research. If you want to dig deep, your research will include them. Click below if you want some guidance in your research.

1 Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org: access 13 Feb 2023), “Fraterville Mine Disaster,” rev 02:25 14 June 2022.

2 “Coal Creek Subscription,” Knoxville (Tennessee) Sentinel, 20 May 1902, p. 1, col. 7; digital image, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com: accessed 13 Feb 2023).

3 ” Two Coal Mines Ordered Closed,” Knoxville (Tennessee) Sentinel, 26 May 1902, p. 7, col. 2; digital image, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com: accessed 13 Feb 2023).

4 Ibid.

5 “Reminder of a Great Disaster,” Nashville (Tennessee) Banner, 20 February 1907, p. 12, col. 6; digital image, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com: accessed 13 Feb 2023).

6 1910 U.S. census, Anderson County, Tennessee, population schedule, Coal Creek, dwelling 62, family 62, Mrs. Edith McKamey, p. 3B; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/
collections/7884/images/4449669_00111?pId=157526478: accessed 20 Oct 2020), image 6; citing NARA microfilm publication T624.

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