I’m not sure what the basis for my attraction to old mills is, but it’s there. It may be watching the brief journey that water travels in the flume ending in a short ride on the water wheel, it may be imagining the journey that the kernels of corn or the grains of wheat take as they are ground into corn meal or flour, or it may be enjoying a glimpse into simpler times.
On our visit to the Cable Mill at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky National Park, I was so caught up in the journeys of the water (down the 235’ flume, left) and grain that I forgot to learn the name of the miller who was controlling those journeys. He was grinding corn, but instead of grinding it at the rate of three bushels of corn per hour for a family’s corn meal supplies, he was grinding corn at the rate of one bushel per week for the area’s hogs. As with the St. John Mill that we visited in Watauga, TN, the Cable Mill was shut down by the FDA because conditions were not as sanitary as they needed to be. (Personally, I think that our immune systems can take a little bit of whatever comes into this grinding process, but those days are gone, also.)
John Cable built the water-powered grist mill and sawmill in about 1870, and this mill, along with three or four others, served the 700 residents of the Cove. The overshot-style waterwheel is 11 feet high and 5 feet wide between the rims.
The miller would turn the wheel (lower right in the photo on the left) to adjust the space between the two granite grinding stones, thereby determining whether the result would be cracked corn or a fine, floury meal. The meal would be collected in the container under the chute.
The mill ceased grinding grain in the 1920s when it fell into disrepair. The sawmill ceased operation with the coming of steam-powered mills, and all that remains as a reminder of its operation is the six-foot sash saw hanging in the wall.
Among the buildings near the mill are the Gregg-Cable House, the corn crib, and the barn. The house, believed to be the first all-frame house in the Cove, was built in 1879 and moved to its present site in 1940.
Some farmers shucked corn before storing it in the crib (left). Corn shuckings sometimes were social events, where a fellow finding a red ear got to kiss a girl.
The drive-through style barn enabled men to transfer hay from a wagon to the loft.
The next photo is the result of my applying a black-and-white setting to the same subjects just to see what the scene would look like.
I headed to our next stop, eating my imaginary cornbread made from corn meal ground at Cable Mill in Cades Cove, which, by the way, according to one source, was once known as “Kate’s Cove” after an Indian chief’s wife.