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The town that became Whitwell was originally known as Cheekville, but renamed "Whitwell" for Thomas Whitwell, a British metallurgist, inventor and co-founder of the Southern States Coal, Iron and Land Company, who was killed in an accident in his own ironworks in Thornaby in 1878.
Whitwell was incorporated as a city in 1956, having grown as a mining town due to the abundance of coal in the mountains near the town.
The population density was 514.8 people per square mile (197.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.5% White, 0.9% African American, 0.2% Asian, 1.2% from other races, and 0.9% from two or more races.
Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.1% of the population.
This project soon attracted media attention and international support.
Many Jewish notables sent paper clips representing lost members of their families.
A notable former resident of Whitwell is artist Jon Coffelt.
He was born in Dunlap, raised in Griffith Creek, and now lives and works in New York City.
A subsequent documentary was made about the children's achievement.Whitwell also has an annual Labor Day celebration that has been celebrated for over 50 consecutive years.It is situated in the southwestern Sequatchie Valley at the base of a relatively steep escarpment of the Cumberland Plateau. “This here was my buddy,” he says, tapping one photo. The museum’s biggest story, perhaps, is of the 1981 explosion in Mine 21, which killed thirteen men. But sadly, these men had to hear about it secondhand. can point to any picture of any miner and tell you a story. Most days, he sits in this room, piecing jigsaw puzzles together on a card table, prepared for any who might stop in. Marion County was flooded with camera crews and journalists from all over. “That was a terrible day, worst day of my life.” All three men get teary-eyed. People came by the thousands to pay their respects. “Far away as West Virginia, and Kentucky.” It was a ceremony like nobody had ever seen. “Our rescue team was busy working to get the mines back open so that our boys could go back to work and feed their families.” The men are red-eyed and shaky-voiced. “Daddy didn’t want me to mine coal, since that’s what he done all his life, but I couldn’t help it.