Remembering the golden age of copper.
In 1843, in a remote corner of east Tennessee’s newly formed Ocoee District, a disappointed prospector on a creek called Tater discovered that the shining red crystals he had found were not gold, but merely copper.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Between 1850 and 1987, with only two brief breaks, the copper mines and the associated sulfuric acid industry of the Ducktown Basin provided employment for tens of thousands of people. But, by the mid-1950's, things had begun to change. Faced by increasing global competition, the once-mighty Burra Burra Mine at Ducktown ceased operations in 1958. Others followed. Within two decades, the last of the mines had shut down. Except for the sulfuric acid plant at Copperhill, which continued to operate until 2000 with raw materials acquired elsewhere, history was the only thing that was left.
At that point, a group of local citizens stepped in, determined to preserve the mining heritage of their beloved community, even if they couldn’t preserve the mines. In 1978, with a zero budget and a few donated items, they opened the Ducktown Basin Museum in a tiny storefront on Main Street in Ducktown. Four years later, in 1982, the museum was moved a few blocks away, to the site of the former Burra Burra Mine overlooking the town.
With the closing of the mines, the museum was able to acquire a large number of donated artifacts from the local mining operations. Over the years, it has also become the repository for an increasing inventory of mining-company records, as well as a large collection of historic photographs and documents.
That creek, by the way, is now called “North Potato.” And so, time marches on.