In order to use the corn or grains for baking they had to be ground into flour. This could be done by mortar and pestle but is very time consuming using this method. Man as far back as the 1st B.C. has used hydropower to help speed up this process. The use of this power came to be known as gristmills.
A water wheel consists of a large wooden or metal wheel, with a number of blades or buckets arranged on the outside rim forming the driving surface. Most commonly, the wheel is mounted vertically. Water turns the wheel then gears and ultimately the grinding stones. They are many verities of this method.
The wheel here at the John Cable Mill in Cades Cove is known as an overshot type. This gets its name from water running over the top of the wheel. This mill wasn’t the 1st in Cades Cove but by 1870 the population was large enough to support another.