The moss covered bracing holding up Mingus Mill was built in 1886, this historic grist mill uses a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power all of the machinery in the building. Located at its original site, Mingus Mill stands as a tribute to the test of time. The current mill was completed in 1886, and was one of the most advanced mills in the Smoky Mountains due to it’s use of a steel turbine design. Mingus Mill was designed and built by Sion Thomas Early, an apprentice Millwright and native of Virginia. Early built built the mill in 3 months, at a total cost of $600.00. In 1968, the National Park Service fully restored Mingus Mill. Some of the families would bring their corn and wheat for more than 15 miles to have it ground at the mill. Saturdays were traditionally mill days and the mill was very active with people bringing their wheat and corn to be ground, and others coming to the mill to purchase or barter for wheat and corn meal. Customers having their corn or wheat ground were required to pay a mill toll, about 1/8th of their grain. Customers deposited this grain into the toll box. The miller could then keep it or sell it to other customers.
Not only did Mingus Mill provide milling services, but the mill floor and grassy areas around the mill served as a primary area of commerce and social activity. People would gather and talk, sharing stories about their families and the “goings on” of the area. Customers also often struck barter deals, exchanging goods for goods or goods for services. Many mountain folk didn’t have cash, and thus bartering was a common currency in rural mountain life. How the Mill Works
If you walk on past the mill, and along side the flume, you’ll find a trail at the end of the flume. Follow it up to Mingus Creek. There you’ll find a small dam that channels water into the millrace. The millrace is designed to channel water to the mill, and increase the waters speed as it slowly flows down hill. The millrace is lined with Hemlock boards. At a height of 22 feet, the flume pours the water into the “penstock”, which is built right next to the mill. The penstock is a 4 foot square wooden shaft that is full of water from the flume. The penstock mains a constant 22 foot/pounds of water pressure. This water and water pressure is run into a metal pipe attached to the turbine housing, which contains the the metal turbine. The turbine has angled blades, causing the water to turn the turbine, which turns an attached metal rod that goes into the mill. The metal rod is used to turn the grinding stones, and also to power other equipment located on the third floor of the mill. Given how old it is, the design and construction are pretty amazing. The turbine generates 11 horsepower, a significant amount for back then.
July 8th, 2018
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