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Tracy City, TN

In 2013, Chief Investigator KyL Cobb participated with another team in an investigation of Tracy City, Tennessee. The history research for this location was created to prepare for this investigation.

Written by Kyle T. Cobb, Jr.

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Haunted Places


While it is possible that the first people began living in the area surrounding Tracy city around 6000-1000 BC, the earliest concrete evidence of occupation occurred during the Woodland period (1000 BC-800 AD).

Around 1000 AD, the Mississippian tribes began an occupation of the area. In 1540, the first two Europeans arrived in the area when two scouts from the expedition of the Spaniard Hernando de Soto crossed the plateau near present Monteagle went through the valley of the Elk.

Grundy county was crisscrossed with Muskogee (Creek) Indian trails. In fact, the Chickamauga Path passed to the east of Tracy City. By the late 18th century, the Creeks had been forced out of the area by the increasingly powerful Cherokee. In 1777, a faction of the Cherokee in the Grundy County area splintered from the Cherokee and became the Chickamauga tribe. For 17 years, the Chickamauga blocked passage along the Tennessee River as a result, foot traffic through Grundy County significantly increased.

Part of the Cherokee claim to Grundy County was relinquished on 25 October 1805 in the Third Treaty of Tellico. The treaties of 1805-1806 opened much additional land in Middle Tennessee to settlement. Lower Tennessee remained in Cherokee hands until Andrew Jackson, acting as federal commissioner, persuaded the Cherokee to surrender the Sequatchie Valley in exchange for western lands. Two years after the Jackson and McMinn Treaty, on February 27, 1819, a Cherokee delegation in Washington City agreed to Calhoun's Treaty. By it the Indians surrendered their claims to the rest of the territory lying north of the Tennessee River and east and west of Sequatchie Valley.

The exact date that the first white people began settling in Grundy County, Tennessee is not known but it is potentially as early as 1805. During the War of 1812, the 3 major saltpeter mines in the county were used to supply the war effort in making gunpowder. In 1833 Beersheba Porter Cain discovered a chalybeate spring above the Collins River Valley. By 1839 Beersheba Spring was incorporated. By 1843, a petition was created to form Grundy County.

According to the 1890 master map of Grundy County, by 1835 people had begun to settle around the Tracy City area which was at that time in Marion County. In the mid 1840s, coal was discovered on the land of Benjamin Wooten while attempting to rid his property of a groundhog problem. Eventually this lead to the open of Wooten Mine #1.

In 1852, Samuel Franklin Tracy along with several other investors opened the Sewanee Mining Company and purchased the land once owned by Wooten for around $50,000. On 8 November 1858, the first rail shipment of coal left the mine.

Around 1854, Tracy and its surrounding area were annexed in to Grundy County.

On 14 September 1858, Tracy City, named after Samuel Franklin Tracy, had grown large enough for the first post office to be opened. Even with a post office, the city would not be incorporated until 1915.

In 1860, the Sewanee Mining Company was forced out of business by creditors and Tennessee Coal and Railroad company took over the coal operations in Tracy City.

The War of Northern Aggression and Tracy City

According to the 1860 census records, just prior to the start of the War, 3093 people lived in the Grundy County area. 63 households owned a total of 266 slaves.

On 28 June 1863, Union Colonel John T. Wilder's Light Brigade destroyed 300 yards of rail line at Decherd and then moved to University place where they destroyed the railroad to Tracy City.

By the first week of July 1863, Tracy City was under Union occupation.

During the occupation, of number of locals are known to have joined with the Union army to create a small union militia to assist the operation of the stockade.

On 20 January 1864, the Union occupation army stockade in Tracy City was attacked by a 70-man Confederate mounted raiding party. While bulk of the Union troops left for a forging expedition, the mounted troops cut the Union guard off from stockade. After a six hour skirmish, the fort commander and several Union soldiers were killed. All the buildings in Tracy City were burned including the Depot and the engine house (which contained 3 cars).

Reconstruction and boom time

After the war, the population of Grundy County was 3250 and the now freed black population reduced from 280 in 1869 to 137 in 1870. Tracy City had less than 87 people still loving there.

In 1870, the Tennessee Coal and Railroad Company became the counties major employer when it began completing the pre-war rail line through the Cumberland mountain. Much of the pre-war work had been destroyed so the railroad started over. In March 1870, Dennis Priest Curtis described Tracy City as "the Meanest and dirtiest place on Earth" upon arriving in the town from Michigan.

A.S. Colyar decided the future was in the use of Coke and he started the boom in Tracy City beginning in 1870.

By 1880, the coke ovens in Tracy city were in full operation and linked to the completed rail lines. 79 people worked in the coke ovens and produced $120,000 in coke. A brickworks business also supported the oven construction. Starting in 1883, criminal labor had been forced to work in the mines and were held in two stockades. In December 1884, there were 523 inmates (145 whites and 378 blacks) force to work in the mines. In 1889 a series of riots disrupted the coal mine operations in Tracy City. On 13 August 1892, the stockade was burned to the ground and the prisoners were sent to Nashville.

1889 was marked with  "white cap" activity in Tracy city as 9 masked me whipped a man named Joe Manders with 90 blows from switches. The attack was a reprisal for Manders testimony to the US Marshal about other white cap activities.

Tracy city gained its first newspaper in 1886. In 1894 telephone lines were run to the city. In 1904 the city gained electricity from 5pm until 11pm. By 1907 the first hospital (Dr. Douglas Hayes' Cumberland Mountain Sanitarium) had opened.

Over the years, Tracy city has maintained a small but religious population. In 1874, the United Methodist Church opened a station in the city. By 1880, it has erected its first building. One of the oldest remaining churches was the First Baptist church that was founded in 1892. In the early 1890s the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints arrived in Tracy City. The church was eventually built in 1909 north of Altamont. Currently there are 12 churches operating in the city.

A history of Arson

Grundy County earned a reputation for arson. On 15 October 1889, the court house of Altamont was burned to ground taking the arsonists 2 horses with it. The business district of Tracy City was nearly destroyed when ten buildings were wiped out by an intentional blaze on April 27, 1935 set by someone from Newsom.  Among the buildings destroyed in the 1935, it appears the high school fell victim according to the account of a 1936 graduate, Clara Augusta Bone Landon.

In the 1960s and 1970s, four dynamite blasts destroyed or damaged waterworks, another a lumber yard, and another a doctor's clinic. Such was the problem at abandoned county schools that insurance was difficult to obtain. Glenn Bonner, school superintendent at the time, said, "Just as soon as a building becomes vacant - boom!"

The Tracy City L&N Depot combusted after a century on August 24, 1971. The Tennessee Consolidated offices were burned in December 1972. The 1920s Dixie Theatre was burned in January 1976. The Colyar house, which had served as the Tracy City courthouse annex was dynamited off of its foundation in January 1977.  The sheriff reported 21 other fires, mostly arson, prior to that in 1971 alone.

After 86 years, James K. Shook School burned to the ground 22 May 1976.

The Grundy County Times was set ablaze in 1917, and the Herald office suffered an explosion in 1967 and was destroyed by arson in 1978. After 105 years standing, the Grundy County Courthouse was destroyed by arson on May 3, 1990.

Some locations of potential paranormal activity

The Baggenstoss Bakery aka the Dutch Maid Bakery and Café

109 Main Street; Tracy City, TN 37387

The Baggenstoss Bakery was opened in Tracy in 1902 by Swiss immigrants by John and Louise Baggenstoss. The owner was a master chef who moved from Switzerland to the Swiss colony of Gruetli, now Gruetli-Laager, located north of Monteagle in Grundy County.

As an enduring part of their community the Baggenstoss family earned the enduring love of the community during the Great Depression when they frequently gave away loaves of bread by tossing it from their Milk and Bread truck as the made their rounds through Grundy County.

During World War II and due to the unpopularity of German named businesses, the bakery's name was changed to Dutch Maid Bakery. Using recipes brought by Baggenstoss from Switzerland, the bakery operated under the Baggenstoss and their children 1992 when it was purchased by family friends Lynn and Nelda Craig. The Craig's continued to operate the bakery until closing it in 2004 and putting the business up for sale.

List of employees written by Lilian Pauline "Polly" Brawley Baggenstoss (6 Feb 1917-24 July 2013) who was married to Albert E. Baggenstoss in 1937:

< Back

1940s Grundy Fhigh School football team

Old Grundy High School

Louise Baggenstoss

Johnny Baggenstoss

Robert Baggenstoss

Herman Baggenstoss

Fritz Baggenstoss

Charlie Baggenstoss

Albert Baggenstoss (1913-1991) (son of John and Louise A Baggenstoss)

Ershine Cantrell

Alvin Cantrell

Raymond Cantrell

Herschel Schaerer

Jimmy Partin

Buffalo Jordon

Clark Hassler

Lawrence George

Helen Parmley

Etta Henley Meeks

Ida Mae Crisp

Bill Pattie

Dot Parmley

Hershel Worley

Columbus Tarzi

Jack Woodlee

Jimmy Jordan

Katherine Hall Henley

Edwin Henley

Reba Parson

Harvey Parson

Dillon Goodman

Irene Goodman

Carl Bryant

“Stinky” Bud Henley

Erman Price

Roy Price

Herbert Williams

Freeda Brookman

Marshal Brookman

Bruce Crabtree

Wilson Sanders

Buck Anderson

Kit Anderson

Bus Hunziker

Joe Edd Charles

Butch Johnson

Juke Shook

Carl Sitz

James Shook

Jack Campbell

Martie Young

Ponder Bryant

Lawrence Brown

Raymond Smartt

Francis Link

Petie Wilson

“Monk” Griswold

Bill Griswold

Theodore Shadrick

Charlie Meadows

William Lawson

Bill Brookman

Hazel Marler

Ladue Holiday

Wilene Church

Henry Young

Olene Harris

Bud Roddy

Mrs. Esper Woodlee

Glenn Parson

Red John Parson

Annette Kilby

Marion Henley Harrimon

Jean Conroy

Marion Geary

Libby O’Dear Ramsey

Earnest Worley

Irma George

Preston Hill

James Worley

After being closed for almost a year, Cindy Day purchased the building and reopened the Bakery using many of the original recipes and opening a café. In trying to keep the Bakery true to its origins, the reopened bakery still uses ovens from 1919, a 1920s bread slicer, and old Hobart mixers from 1919 and the 1930s.

Claims of paranormal originate from legend of an accidental, but unverified poisoning at the location. There have been claims of footstep sounds, doors open/closing, items moving and feelings of being watched.  One story even suggest an apparition is seen minding the register.

One claim that can be verified is that the various breads and cookies from the Dutch Maid Bakery are "to die for…" There moonshine cake will change your world.

Old Grundy County High School

When researching the old high school it is hard to separate fact from fiction. The original Grundy High School was built in 1928 for $45,000. It is confirmed that a portion of the old high school on the site burned in 1935 as part of the fires set by Clyde C. Newsom that destroyed most of the city. The main building was rebuilt shortly after its destruction. The gymnasium was built in 1950. The vocation building was added in 1970.

Local legend claims that figures are seen in the windows and that a full bodied apparition of a girl was witnessed in one of the hallways. Periodically it is also asserted that voices and conversations can be heard coming from rooms of this now closed school. There is also a claim that this is the site of several accidents that has claimed the lives of workers over the years.

Much of this may be hype to support the various "haunted building" events held in the closed school. The lower level of the gymnasium clearly has been used as a haunted house for Halloween and many of the demonic looking symbols found there are clearly related to these activities.

One portion of the building is still used as a public auditorium and ad hoc movie theatre for the local community. As a result of modern activity, electrics are still active and like many schools of that era large channels of electric wiring ensure that investigators also get EMF hits in unusual places.  The EMF hits are further excited by a radio/microwave transmitter located behind the main building supporting various government services.

During one investigation of the facility, there were several unexplained pictures of an unknown person standing in the hallway beside an open fire door when all known investigators had been accounted.

The Tracy City Cemetery

The Tracy City cemetery is one of the oldest non-private cemeteries in Grundy county.  Located across the street from the old Grundy High School, the cemetery holds generations of local families. From the mid-1800s until present day. The section of the cemetery farthest from the road features many early graves.


Sherrill, Charles A.; "Grundy County in 1860"; The Pathfinder; Grundy County Historical Society. Vol 2. 1997. P3

Gant, Wanda; "Grundy Co. Prisons"; The Pathfinder; Grundy County Historical Society. Vol x. 2005. P6

Partin, Jackie Layne; "Tracy City, the Meaniest and Dirtiest Little Place on Earth"; The Pathfinder; Grundy County Historical Society. Vol 12. 2007. P15

Winton, Emma Octavia; "My trip to Monteagle"; The Pathfinder; Grundy County Historical Society. Vol iv. 1999. P2

"James K. Shook School"; The Pathfinder; Grundy County Historical Society. Vol xi. 2006. P13

Landon, Clara Augusta Bone; "School Days Memories" ; The Pathfinder; Grundy County Historical Society. Vol 15.number 2; 2010. P9

Myers, Barbara Mooney; "The Early Thirties"; The Pathfinder; Grundy County Historical Society. Vol 15. 2010. P38

Flury, Catherine Kilgore; "History of the United Methodist Church of Tracy City"; The Pathfinder; Grundy County Historical Society. Vol 3. 1996. P3

Baggenstoss, Polly; "The deceased that had worked at the Baggenstoss Bakery"; The Pathfinder; Grundy County Historical Society. Vol VII. 2002. P41

"Beersheba Springs". Wish You Were Here: Retreat to Tennessee's Historic Resorts. Tennessee State Library and Archives. 1993.

George, Dan (May 19, 1990). "Courthouse fire adds to county's history of arson". Dallas Morning News (Altamont, Tennessee). Associated Press. Retrieved April 10, 2012.

Petition to form Grundy County:

"Tracy City Destroyed by Rebels"; Springfield (Mass) Republican; 30 January 1864; p?