Scenic USA - Tennessee

Cable Mill

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Cable Mill - Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, TN

Photos by Amanda Haddox
Amanda Haddox Photography

     More often than not, rural 18th and 19th century American towns grew up around a grist mill. Here in Cades Cove, Tennessee, when the National Park Service arrived in 1926, a surprising 32 waterways were named Mill Creek. Among the large array of original buildings in the valley, Cable Mill is the only remaining one of seven grist mills.
     Numerous farms used small tub mills, but were no match for a large water-powered mill. Cades Cove Cable Mill Cable Mill, built in 1867 and pictured here, was one of the most successful mills in the area. John P. Cable, also a Cades Cove farmer, was summoned to the mill from his fields by a large bell. It was customary for a group of area residents to gather at the mill's warming shed on Saturday morning, waiting for a turn to have grain their processed. Many welcomed the opportunity to meet and socialized with distant neighbors.
     Waterpower for Cable Mill comes from a containment pond, fed by Forge Creek. Water is diverted through a millrace, into a wooden flume and over the mill-wheel. The mill was set up to grind corn, a main staple for the pioneer. Corn, a native plant, grew with minimum attention and was used in bread, mush, grits, and hominy. The mill continued its operations sporadically until the 1920s. Spared by the Park Service, the structure retained some of the original millstones, gears, and the main framing after a 1937 overhaul. The mill wheel has recently been refurbished, helping to retain a more complete picture of Smoky Mountain history.

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