This past week was the 121st anniversary of the Fraterville Mine Explosion. On the morning of 19 May 1902 Edith Hightower McKamey lost John, her husband of 33 years, but also three of her sons.
This event and its impact on my ancestors have been the subject of my family narrative for the ProGen Study Group, the last assignment before graduation. I was not lacking in newspaper articles covering the explosion. Still, I needed more specific details about how the incident shaped the lives of Edith and the rest of her family going forward.
I knew it was a long shot, but I made two phone calls, one to the Coal Creek Miners Museum in Rocky Top, Tennessee, and the other to the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville. It took a few days, but I heard from them both.
The museum didn’t have anything new to tell me, but they did give me a surprise…a new relative. A descendant of John’s son, Courtland, still lives in Rocky Top (what used to be called Coal Creek). He wasn’t available, but I spoke with his wife and she confirmed the information I had already gathered on the family. Although I didn’t gain insight into John and Edith’s life together or Edith’s life after the explosion, I did meet a new cousin and I am grateful for that.
The library, also couldn’t help with the specifics I was looking for, but gave me a link to a 221-page court document about my 2x great-grandfather, John C. McKamey. I definitely will have to order that soon and see what that is all about.
It may seem that contacting these two repositories was a waste of time because they didn’t yield anything new for me to add to my paper, but I’m so glad I did. Anytime you make the effort to add social or historical context to your ancestors’ lives, it’s worth it.
If you want to contact a repository either by phone or by email, keep these things in mind…
- Be concise. Rambling on about your ancestor will only be frustrating for the person helping you and it will not lead to a positive response.
- Explain exactly what you are looking for. Give the pertinent names and dates that are important to the documents or information you want.
- Give your contact information and the best way to reach you.
- Be patient. Many repositories are still understaffed and are doing their best. In some cases, it may take days, weeks, or even months to hear back. Also, make sure to make these requests with plenty of time so that being patient is an option.
To finish my thoughts on the Fraterville Mine Disaster, let me tell you a little about the three sons that perished that day.
Andrew was the oldest at 25 years old.1 He married Magnolia Webb Boren in February 1900 and had no children.2 Magnolia remarried in 1903 to Joseph Ernest Hendren and had six children.3 Unfortunately, she died giving birth to their last child, who also did not survive. 4
Next, William was 23 years old.5 He married Daisy Horton in 1897 and they were raising their son, Wesley Raymond, in Anderson County, Tennessee when he died.6 She remarried around 1906 to Silas Edd Hale and had 7 more children.7
James was the youngest at just 15 years old.8 He wasn’t old enough to have a family of his own.
Now to take everything I’ve learned from this wonderful 15-month program and put it to use. If you want more information about joining the ProGen Study Group, go to their website, https://progenstudygroups.com/.
Genealogy tip: Not all genealogy research is done online. Making those phone calls or visiting a repository can add so much context to your ancestors’ lives and make your research so much more complete.
1 Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (www.findagrave.com: accessed 9 April 2023), memorial 109160837, Andrew McKamey (1876-1902), Wilson Cemetery, Fraterville, Anderson County, Tennessee.
2 “Tennessee U.S., Marriage Records, 1780-2002,” database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 April 2023), entry for Andrew McKamey and Magnolia W. Brown [Boren], 22 February 1900, image 513; citing Anderson County, Tennessee [Marriages], Vol. 1838 Sep-1858 Sep, p. 120; Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, Tennessee.
3 “Tennessee U.S. Marriage Records, 1780-2002,” Anderson Co., TN, Joseph E. Hendren and Magnolia McKamey, 13 June 1903.
4 “Tennessee Deaths, 1914-1966,” database with images, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org: accessed 28 May 2023), certificate image, Maggie Hendren, 23 December 1914, no. 72, image 277; Family History Library microfilm number 004183013; citing Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, Tennessee. And ibid, Stillborn Hendren, 23 December 1914, no. 76, image 276.
5 Find A Grave, memorial 109160911, William McKamey (1879-1902).
6 “Tennessee U.S. Marriage Records, 1780-2002,” Anderson Co., TN, William McKamey and Daisy Horton, 12 September 1897. And 1900 U.S. census, Anderson County, Tennessee, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 5, p. 80A, dwelling 592, family 606, Frank Horton household; digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 April 2023), image 61; National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), microfilm publication T623, roll 1557.
7 1920 U.S. census, Blount County, Tennessee, population schedule, Maryville, p. 13B, dwelling 243, family 279, Silas E. Hale household; digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 April 2023), image 26; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1729.
8 Find A Grave, memorial 109161320, James McKamey (1886-1902).