Historic Cades Cove Grist Mill
Have you ever seen a grist mill in operation? Do you know what a grist mill is? Well, when you vacation at Cove Creek RV Resort, you can see and learn about one. At the John P. Cable Grist Mill, found in Cades Cove on the 11-mile Scenic Loop Road, you can not only see corn being ground the way it was 100 years ago, you can actually take home a bit of history if you buy a bag or two! Run by the Great Smoky Mountains Association as an historical exhibit, the Cable Mill is still in operation today and the grinding stone being used is in its 111th year. It is the same stone that John Cable used to ground grain for his community!
Back in the 1800’s, the families in Cades Cove ground about a bushel of corn a day in small, inefficient tub mills at their home. And the only grain that tub mills could process was corn. Eventually, a handful of enterprising residents in Cades Cove built water driven mills to grind grain. Their hope was that other Cades Cove families would prefer paying them to grind their grain. The beauty of the waterwheel driven mills was that they could not only grind other grains, but the waterwheel could also be used to power a sawmill. Now residents could have their logs turned into lumber, and wheat ground into flour, and biscuits could be eaten some of the time instead of just cornbread.
One of those people who developed their own mill was John P. Cable. He built his water-powered grist and sash saw mill around 1870. A sash sawmill used a heavy reciprocating blade that cut a short distance into a log with each downward stroke. This was not the most efficient way to saw logs, but this is what was available until around 1900 when circular disc saws with toothed edges, powered by steam engines came into use.
Payment for grinding grain did not always mean money exchanged hands in Cades Cove TN. Sometimes money was paid, but it was not unusual for a miller to be paid with a portion of the resulting flour or meal.
John’s son, James, helped his father run these operations, and eventually inherited the mill. James Cable operated it well into the twentieth century, but he ceased to run the saw mill when it became very evident he could not compete with steam engine run mills.
Experience all the history of Cades Cove (sometimes referred to Caves Cove) by visiting the Historic Cabins, Churches, and other Outbuildings that remain in place today when you come to East Tennessee to enjoy a great vacation with us!
Photo by Rich Stevenson – Click toView More Great Smoky Mountains National Park Photographs by Rich