Long associated with the economic history of the county, coal was discovered in the area of present-day Tracy City in the 1840s while Ben Wooten’s sons were digging out a groundhog from beneath a stump. In 1848 a young Irishman, Leslie Kennedy, followed the construction of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad in search of moneymaking opportunities. While hiking through the Cumberland Plateau he became interested in coal outcroppings and returned to Nashville to seek financial backing for a coal mining venture. Nashville attorney William N. Bilbo listened to his scheme and bought the Wooten land and vast tracts belonging to the Samuel Barrell heirs, before heading to New York to find developers for the coal lands. Samuel Franklin Tracy and a group of financiers traveled to Tennessee and purchased Bilbo’s holdings, which they used to form the Sewanee Mining Company with Tracy as president. When the Sewanee site proved less productive than expected, the mining company extended their tracks ten miles farther to the Wooten site, which became the town of Tracy City. The first coal was shipped from the site on November 8, 1858.