The town of Eastland was named after the Englishman, Colonel Thomas Eastland, who came to White County in 1821. Eastland bought the Clifty Homestead owned at the time by his good friend, James Simpson, in 1839. He gave it the name, Eastland Stand. Eastland began immediately clearing land to build an inn that later became one of the oldest and most noted landmarks on the Cumberland Plateau. The inn was two and one-half stories high and situated on the road often traveled by Andrew Jackson.
At one time, Thomas Eastland and his sons owned 500,000 acres in in White County and neighboring counties including the land on which the town of Eastland was built. Colonel Eastland and James Simpson remained friends until Simpson’s death. One day they were hunting deer on a hill or knob that rose above the others in such a perfectly rounded shape that they named it Dumplin Knob. From the hill they gazed at the beauties of nature around and below them and vowed to each other that when they died, they wanted to be buried on Dumplin Knob to be buried as close to heaven as they could get. James Simpson died in 1854 and Eastland died in 1860. They were buried along side each other on Dumplin Knob as they had planned.
Two of the drift mines (mines built into the side of the mountain) in Eastland were Mining Hollow and Cornbread mines. According to Archie Smith, the mine was named “Cornbread” because the miners could only afford cornbread. Archie Smith recalled working as a 12-year-old boy in the Cornbread mine for his father. He was a “chalk-eye” which was the name given to young helpers who loaded coal for the miner. Archie was paid 50 cents for a 10-hour workday.
The Eastland community began to prosper with the beginning of the construction of the Eastland Mine in 1903. In 1904, the railroad was extended 7 miles from DeRossett to Eastland. The first coal was shipped from the Eastland mine in 1904.
Management of the Bon Air Coal and Iron Company made the decision to invest in two large coke ovens, tipples, washers and bins. The coking operation turned out to be an unprofitable decision that lead to major financial losses for the company. When the coal was tested initially for its coking properties, the tests indicated the coal would be ideal to coke. However, after coal was mined from the underground vein, it was found to be inferior coal that was highly sulfurous which was unsuitable for the coking process.
In 1911, William J. Cummins bought the property at a receiver’s sale and changed the company name to Bon Air Coal and Iron Corporation. John Bowman, a New York hotel owner, Jacob Ruppert, an owner of a beer corporation, and William Wrigley, a chewing gum magnate and Chicago Cubs owner, invested together more than 6 million dollars to renovate the coal equipment and community properties that had fallen into disrepair because of the financial crisis during the years in receivership.
The Eastland mine closed in 1924. In 1931, Eastland’s town charter was repealed and by 1934, the railroad tracks were removed connecting the Eastland/Clifty communities.
The Smith Family was among several families from Scotland that came to work in the Bon Air mining communities. In addition to the Smith Family, other included the Hardies, McKay, Thom, Swarbrick, McIntyre, McArthur and Chittick families.