John P. Cable Mill

Lisa G. Putman

Joined November 2007

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John P. Cable Mill – Great Smoky Mountain National Park, USA

In Cades Cove there were few sources of power which the frontiersman knew how to harness. One of those power sources was the water wheel such as drove the early grist mills. Cable Mill is one of those. The Smoky Mountains Natural History Association keeps Cable Mill running in Cades Cove to teach the Smoky Mountain visitor a little about life in the 1800’s. The mill is operated April-October.

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 the grain rather than to struggle with the small inefficient tub mills at home. The tub mills were only capable of processing a bushel of corn each day. The entrepreneurs were correct and ran fine business in Cades Cove as a result.

Cornmeal was the only grain that could be ground in the tub mills and so the waterwheel driven mills that could grind wheat into flour was a welcome addition to the cove. Now biscuits could be eaten some of the time instead of cornbread.

Payment for grinding grain did not always mean money exchanged hands in Cades Cove. Sometimes money was paid but other times the miller was paid a portion of the resulting flour or meal. Besides John Cable, his son and also Frederick Shields operated mills. Cable and Shields took double advantage of their waterwheel by using it to power saw mills as well. Cable was the only person in Cades Cove to use the overshot water wheel. Like most business men in the Cove, Cable was also a farmer. He could be summoned from the fields by a large bell he had on the property for that purpose.

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