WINDROCK LAND CO.
150 Years of Coal Fortune, Tragedy, Renewal, and Recreation in the Cumberland Mountains
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This is the story of one of Knoxville’s oldest and most durable businesses, of the men, women, communities, and events that shaped it, and of the 150-year legacy that positions Windrock Land Company at the center of a rich regional history.
Three landowners—two East Tennesseans and one New Yorker—tried for fifteen years to settle a property dispute in the courts, only to reach a legal stalemate. So they came up with an amicable solution: pool their disputed lands into a common stock of forty thousand acres, and incorporate as partners in a new land leasing company.
Originally established in 1872 as The Coal Creek Mining and Manufacturing Company, this venture attracted many of the East’s most influential investors, some with ties to the region’s expanding railroad network, and all determined to capitalize on the extensive reserves of coal in the mountains above Knoxville, Tennessee. For over a century, the Company leased coal property to some of the state’s most productive mine operators, saw coal revenues dominate the economy, and helped build Knoxville into a major center of business and transportation. The Company also withstood financial panics, labor strife, and lawsuits, while the Coal Creek War, the Fraterville and Cross Mountain Mine disasters, and other occurrences drew national media attention to its property. Pressure from unions, environmentalists, and government regulators eventually shrank the coal market, and left the Company with a pivotal choice—diversify, or face extinction.
It was then that Windrock Land Company made the unlikely jump into outdoor recreation and saw the runaway success of Windrock Park. With its property now encompassing seventy-three thousand acres, the park is the largest privately owned off-roading facility in the United States.