In the late 1800s coal companies working the rich deposits in the northeastern parts of the plateau began leasing convicts from state prisons to supplement the regular work force. Using the prisoners reduced costs, and the prisoners could be worked longer hours and treated more harshly without repercussions. Yet a backlash came from the miners themselves, who mounted a revolt against the prisoner-lease system. The revolt broke out at Briceville, near Coal Creek, which is now Lake City.
The revolt then spread to Oliver Springs and Tracy City, at which time the state militia was sent in to put down the insurrections. The militia effort succeeded, but the revolt resulted in the legislature putting an end to the convict leasing system in 1896. Convicts from Brushy Mountain State Prison legally worked the state-owned mines on the plateau until the mines closed in the 1950s.