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State Funds Tourism Initiative To Tell History Of Wilder

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
State Funds Tourism Initiative To Tell History Of Wilder

The unincorporated town of Wilder in Fentress County will receive $500,000 though Governor Bill Lee’s newest budget.

State Representative John Mark Windle said the money will be used to develop tourism attractions in the once populated coal mining community.

“I’ve heard estimates as high as 7,000, but certainly, there were close to 5,000 residents in a close proximity to the center of Wilder and several mines going at one time,” Windle said. “There is certainly a story to tell.”

Windle said the money will be funneled through the Monterey Depot Museum. Windle said the group will work alongside the Fentress County Historical Commission and several other locals to plan the work.

“They’re going to try to sit down and plan out a schedule on how to use the money in order to tell the story,” Windle said. “(…) I’m thankful it is in the budget, because people have requested this for years. There is so many people on both sides of the line, and I don’t see a critical subdivision between Overton, Fentress and Putnam.”

Wilder was a planned company town in the early 1900’s that housed workers for Fentress Coal and the Coke Company. The mines never recovered after a violent coal-miners strike. What was once a community with thousands dwindled to less than 300 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Windle said several residents from Wilder are still present in the Upper Cumberland today. Windle said he hopes the funding is a good start to revive the stories of miner families.

“Dale Welch certainly has the vision of what the tourism could be,” Windle said. “I trust the people at the Monterey Museum and the Fentress County Historical Commission to do this right.”

The town had a school, post office, church and graduated its first high school class in 1932. According to a 1932 Tennessean article, people began to move away after the violent coal-miner strike ended with Local Union President Barney Graham being killed by two mine guards.


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