Wednesday, September 24, 2008

George Armstrong, Miller

Before leaving for home in South Carolina, Judy and Vern accompanied us on a visit to Mingus Mill, just outside Cherokee, NC. The Mill was built in 1886, restored in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and restored (again) in 1968 by the Park Service. Unlike the other mills we had visited, Mingus Mill has no water wheel; it is a turbine mill. Water flows down a 200 yard-long wooden mill race and drops vertically through the steel turbine (with a diameter of about three feet), which turns the gears which turn the millstones.

Entering the mill, we saw signs of a working mill--one could see the gears moving and either corn meal or wheat flour was flowing into the collection bin at a fairly steady rate.

In spite of these signs, my sister learned that the flour she was purchasing was not ground at this mill. Just as in the case of the other mills, the FDA had banned the sale of corn or wheat ground at the mill. The miller, George Armstrong, noted that the flour and corn meal he was selling had actually been ground at The Old Mill in Gatlinburg. "But," he added, leaning forward and talking in a low voice, "we sell it cheaper here."

George has the perfect personality for the position of miller. He had an answer to any question that visitors asked, and he then added a little bit of information that gave the listener the feeling that he or she had just learned a little secret that the "regular visitors" were not told. For example, he revealed to us that he was from New Jersey (Tom's River) and seemed to take great delight in having local visitors compliment him on his knowledge of the Mill and its role in the history of the community.

He also told us that a couple of years ago he had a small job doing some clean-up work around the Mill. One day one of the staff observed him talking with the visitors about a variety of topics as he went about his work. The staff member praised him for his friendly interactions with a variety of people. George was then asked if he would like to use his skills as a miller. His answer, "What's a miller?" began a quick course in combining knowledge about operating a mill with a winning personality.

Before we left, I asked if I could get one more photo. He gladly agreed, but first he grabbed his cap because he wanted to look like a miller.

Right out of central casting, I'd say.


Even with the vistas surrounding us on our drive back to Sevierville (TN), there was time to look closely at some small scenes. The first picture shows some moss and lichen growing on the roof of a building near the Mill.

These last two photos show some bushes and branches with berries.

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