In the years after the Civil War where northern carpetbaggers had recognized the potential in the "untapped" resources, they had seen during military operations in this part of the state. Within that time Hiram Chamberland and John Wilder had recruited business partners, built an operating iron furnace (the Roane Iron Company) and established a company town at Rockwood, Tennessee.
Now, twenty-five years later, newly planned towns were being established by land companies that wanted to develop industrial real estate ventures. Among these were Cardiff, Harriman, and Lenoir City, Tennessee. The purpose of this historical research is to reach insights of Cardiff, Tennessee
The Cardiff Coal & Iron Company (CCIC) was likewise an enterprise conceived by northern capitalists. The companies orgins were rooted in an exploratory expedition taken by W. P. Rice and some of his associates to the Upper Tennessee River Valley in the spring of 1889. Rice was a native of Maine who had been an executive with several financial institutions in Kansas City, Missouri, during the 1880's, and who had presided over the establishment of Fort Payne, Alabama. in late 1888. Apparently Rice and his group were impressed with the area, for in the next six months they commissioned an agent to buy significant landholdings in the region. By March of 1890, the Cardiff Coal & Iron Company had been incorporated.
In a large part, the group of investors that became principals in the Cardiff Coal & Iron Company were from Rice's native New England.
1. President B. B. Smalley of Burlingtom, Vermont.
2. General Joshua L. Chamberland, former governor of Maine.
3. Charles L. James of Boston, Massachusetts, financier.
4. Samuel Pingree of Hartford, Vermont, former governor of Vermont.
5. John M Whipple of Claremont, New Hampshire, legislature.
6. Carlos Heard of Biddleford, Maine, McKenney Hardware.
7. Henry C. Young of Boston, Massachusetts, financier.
8. J. F. Tarwater, Rockwood, Tennessee, Mining and Roane Iron Company.
9. T. G. Montague, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Banker.
10. Robert Pritchard, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Lawyer.
When it was incorporated in March of 1890, the company declared it's capitalization at $5 million, consisting of fifty thousand shares ar a par value of $100 each. Henry Young, a partner in the banking firm of Cordley & Company of Boston had gone to Roane County early in 1890 and acquired large tracts of property on behalf of Cordley & Company. By April of 1890, fifty thousand acres had been purchased by Young acting for Cordley & Company and Cardiff Coal & Iron Company. During the same month Cardiff Coal & Iron Company assumed ownership of the land, issuing Young stock in exchange. Thus, the Cardiff Coal & Iron Company's initial landholdings in the region were accomplished almost entirely through the activities of northern financiers.
The location selected for the city was on the Cincinnati-Southern line, five miles east of Rockwood and about the same distance from Harriman. The town was named Cardiff, with the expectation that the settlement would emulate the bustling coal-miming town of Cardiff, Wales. The city site encompassed two thousand acres between Walden's Ridge on the northwest and a range of lesser ridges on the southeast
David Moon of "Picnooga" acquired a recent collection of 130-year-old glass plate negatives used for this article.
David contacted me because he remembered that I had done the historic colorization of the above 1912 Cardiff depot and asked what I knew about Cardiff. At that time I had researched some history on the venture but when he shared his new glass plate negative collection with me it sparked a renewed interest in Cardiff which led to writing this article.
To learn more about David and Picnooga click on the "Find Out More" button below.
Advertisements like this ran in all the major cities leading up to the April 22. 1890 sale, it was written that thousands of people attended the sale and $1,000,000 of lots were sold for prices ranging from $500 to $7,000 .
Very few lot purchasers made in full the first payment at the auction. Buyers were required to pay only one-third of the total purchase price at the auction, with the other two-thirds due six months and one year respectively. As economic conditions worsened during the year following the sale, a significant number of property buyers defaulted on their installments. At the same time, the Cardiff Coal & Iron Companies creditors were demanding payments on the large loans that the company had taken out to buy land.
The company was first sued June 1891 by land buyers and creditors. The former for improvements and infrastructure not provided to the city site as promised, the later for loan payments not made on time. By late June 1891, Boyd Ewing was appointed receiver by United States Judge Howell E. Jackson. There are in the hands of the receiver notes of $80,000 given for first payment of purchase price by Mr. Whitehead of Kansas City who was the largest purchaser. The next largest purchaser of lots was notes of $75,000. Very few made their first payment for lots and received their surplus above the listed price in stock.
By November of 1890, the failure of the large and prestigious Baring Brothers Investment Banking House in England which had long served as an intermediary between British investors and American entrepreneurs.
The first casualty of the depression in the Upper Tennessee River Valley was the Cardiff Coal & Iron Company.
Events associated with the Panic proved to be the end of Cardiff Coal & Iron Company. The company had survived its two years in receivership mainly on the strength proceeds from the sale of coal mined on its lands to iron production facilities. The company declared bankruptcy and discontinued operations in 1893.
By 1895 a Chattanooga publication described Cardiff, "The collapse came, and today the town does not contain twenty people. The only signs of it that can be seen are a few deserted stores, rain-washed streets, overgrown with grass and weeds and the electric light poles which ornament the vacant fields."
Professor Alexander Cassidy Killheffer was the photographer for the East Tennessee Land Company and Cardiff Coal and Iron Company. He was originally from Pennsylvania but came to Tennessee and married Mary Louise Ayres in Roane County. He was a minister, artist and photographer who died in 1956 in Chattanooga. These 130-year-old glass plate negatives were recently acquired by David Moon and shared with me for this history.
This photo shows the day of the Cardiff land sale. The train brought interested parties in thirty-five Pullman cars for the sale that continued for three days bringing an estimated four thousand prospective buyers from the New England states, New York, Cincinnati, Louisville, Atlanta and several other cities. Walden's Ridge is in the background and the Cardiff train depot is under construction. The freight yards actually had five sets of tracks in this photo.
This plate was shared by Roane Heritage Commission,
The Exhibition Building was a large and handsome wooden structure, that at first was used to accommodate the offices of the Cardiff Coal & Iron Company. It was located south of the railroad tracks and the Cardiff depot.
Another view of the Exhibition Building on a busy sale day. This view shows some company housing that had been completed. The general manager, M.M. Duncan had an annual salary of $10,000 for three years and a rent-free house at a cost of no less than $3,000. The sign says, Loring & Moore Real Estate.
This view is looking south with the long wooden walkway that was first put down for the wet weather at the time of the property sale in April of 1890. You can see it leads to the Exhibition Building in the center. On the far right is the building that contained the company's newspaper, "The Cardiff Hearld" by editor Hayes. The two-story building is the Cardiff Billiard & Pool Parlor. The building to the left of the pool parlor has a sign for refreshments. To the left of the walkway is "Woodworth Real Estate Exchange." The small building to it's left seems to be a barbershop.
The view of the rear of the depot after it's construction was completed. The Exhibition Building can be seen to the right of the steam locomotive smoke. The sign is no longer on the building of the "Woodworth Real Estate Exchange." The depot seems to be one of the largest and nicest in the area. The Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway must of had great expectations for Cardiff with the investment of this depot.
The grading of the principal business avenues is underway. The railcars are from the Alabama & Vicksburg Railroad.
In this view, the Cardiff depot is completed and is shown right-center. Behind the depot is the cut in the land from the principal business avenue that was taking place in the previous photo. To the right of the first two-story building is the "Racket Dry Goods" store and to its right is the "Cardiff Livery and Feed Stable". To its right is a brick two-story building under construction that could be the "First National Bank Of Cardiff", charter 4303. J. F. Tarwater was president and had a capital stock of $48,800. The First National Bank Of Cardiff printed $12,260 dollars worth of national currency from 1890-1891. To the right of this building is the foundation for a large Cardiff Hotel of first class. This hotel was framed but never completed and written that it never had a roof and fell into despair.
In the foreground is buildings from a lumber company. More large buildings are shown on the right.
The foundation for a large Cardiff Hotel was supposed to be a centerpiece of the town. It was noted the town is excellently lighted with an electric system (arc lights for public illumination, and incandescent lamps for domestic use) A beautiful street light is shown here.
This view has framing construction starting on the hotel. Part of the negative has flaked away on this glass plate.
This view shows a large amount of lumber stacked near the railyard in the center of the photo. To the right is the "Walden's Ridge Lumber Company" just past the large building on the right edge. To the left edge is a large two-story building that should be a frame hotel or boarding house. The Cardiff Coal & Iron Company reported that two months after the first sale of land the population had grown to 1,235 in that short time. That number didn't include non-resident mechanics and laborers (who number at least five hundred more) or the considerable farming population on the Company's lands beyond Walden's Ridge.
Panoramic view of the valley and Cardiff
To the right is the southern edge of Cardiff by the ridge. The Exhibition Building is shown by the treeline. In the distance is the large two-story frame hotel or boarding house. A beautiful valley.