Friday, March 23, 2012

Folklife Friday: Mingus Mill

If you are traveling through the Smoky Mountain National Park from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina, you will see the sign to Mingus Mill on the right just before you leave the park.  Last weekend, we were privileged to spend some time there.


The mill was working, the huge grindstones powered by the little river outside and almost underneath the building, just as it has been doing for 126 years.  The cornmeal they produce is sold to visitors.

The Mingus mill was first built in the 1780s.  It was replaced by the current building in 1886.  It was owned by the Mingus family until it was acquired by the National Park in the 1930s.

The wooden floor was worn smooth and the building vibrated slightly with the turning of the grindstones.  The traditional water wheel is not there; it is powered by water flowing through vanes of a turbine.

My mama told us that during the depression, one hard winter her family existed on corn bread and molasses.  They had grown and harvested corn, shelled it by hand, and taken it to a mill to be ground.  Because they had no money, the mill would keep a percentage of the cornmeal as payment.  My Grandpa would work for people who couldn't pay him cash but gave him molasses for his wages.  It wasn't exactly a balanced diet, but it kept them going until times got better.

We never get tired of the Smoky Mountain National Park.  It is about six hours from where we live, and we have been fortunate to visit there many times.  It is consistently the most visited national park, according to the travel industry, with the Grand Canyon being second. 

Road trip, anyone?