I was recently doing some reorganization of my photo library when I came across this photo of the John P. Cable Mill I had taken a couple of years ago. The mill is located in the Cades Cove area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If I had to develop a list of my favorite places to go in the Smoky Mountains, Cades Cove would be at the top of that list. The cove, which is one of the most visited areas in the park, is encircled by an 11-mile loop road that allows visitors to take a leisurely drive between stops to explore some of the historic cabins and churches that were lived in and used by those who used to call Cades Cove their home.
The John P. Cable Mill is located at the Cades Cove Visitor Center and Museum, which is perfectly situated at what is essentially the halfway point of the loop road on the west side of the cove. The grist mill was built by John Cable in the late 1860s or early 1870s depending on the source of the information. Needless to say, the mill is really old.
What made Cable Mill unique from the other mills in the cove was its use of an overshot waterwheel. This type of waterwheel allowed the mill to take advantage of the force of not only the water flow itself but also the force of gravity as the water moved from the top of the wheel to the bottom. This allowed the mill to harness more of the available energy making it far more efficient.
The mill’s main water, or power, supply was Mill Creek. Since water was the engine that drove the wheel and, thus, the mill, dry periods could be devastating. To lessen that risk, a connecting channel was dug to nearby Forge Creek so the mill could use the water from both streams to continue operating even when water levels were low.
Cable Mill not only functioned as a typical grist mill to grind corn, wheat, and other grains, but the waterwheel was also used to power a small sawmill located close by. The sawmill transformed the way houses were built in the cove by allowing the residents to build their homes using lumber and frame construction rather than traditional logs.
I always find it difficult to come back home from a trip to the Smoky Mountains. I don’t know when I will have the chance to make another visit, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity whenever it should present itself.
Settings: Canon 5D Mk II, 24mm, 0.3 sec, f/22