The Heritage of Daniel Haston


The Caney Fork of the Cumberland
Old Mills, A through E - Pages 38-41
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Old Mills and the People Who Built and Operated Them
on the Caney Fork River and Tributaries* - A through E

*See Supplemental List also.

An abundant supply of water power awaited the early settlers of the Caney Fork region.  They took advantage of it and built grist or corn mills, wheat mills although not as common as the corn mills, saw mills and later carding mills, cotton mills and some for special purposes.

From a study of land grants and deeds it is apparent that some mills were built without getting any formal approval, some were built before land grants were secured, some were authorized by County Courts and some through court action.

Grist mills or water mills, under Tennessee Law were considered "public utilities" and could not be condemned.  This raised a serious problem in the early 1900's when Fielding Yost, Dan McGugin and Art Dyer decided to develop the Great Falls Hydro Project and realized that they were many small mill sites that would have to be purchased and they did not want to be held up.

Mr. Yost, in 1902, was able to get the Tennessee Legislature to pass bills giving "Water Power Companies" the right to condemn land for water power plants and transmission lines.

Mr. Womack, in his history of McMinnville, stated that in 1895 there were 32 mills operating in Warren County and that after the disastrous flood of 1902 less than 12 were rebuilt.  It is interesting to note that the latter date is about the time that the first electric generating plants were built in some of the towns.

List of Mills
Anderson's corn mill on Town Creek above Sparta mentioned in Seal's History of

White County.

Bailiff Saw Mill on the Smallman & Swan property below the Great Falls Dam was located

where the Webb School Camp was later established.  It was at the mouth of Barren Fork Creek.  Mr. James McGiboney stated that the mill was operating prior to 1847.  His father had the lumber sawed out at the mill for his new house.  He carried it up the hill (about 300 feet up a steep bluff) on his back and then carted it to his home.  Cart referred to a 2-wheeled vehicle which Mr. McGiboney said a number of families owned.  He added that very few owned wagons before the Civil War.  A few people in the area had horses but most families depended on oxen.

Blanks Mill was built some time after the Civil War.  The corn mill was located on Rocky

River, a few hundred feet downstream from the present Blanks Bridge, which Mr. Womack refers to as the "crooked iron bridge."  The mill building was on the left bank of the river. The property was owned by General John B. Rodgers before the War.  He sold it to John L. Miller in 1847, next owner not known and then sold to Charles R. Blanks and J.D. Hash.  In 1895 and 1898 E.W. Blanks also had an interest in the Mill.

Bosson Mill on the right bank of Caney Fork below the main falls and just upstream from

the present TVA Power House.  Seal's History of White County places the starting date between 1815 and 1820 and that it was built by William Bosson.  The above statement is in error as will be noted in the following story.  See Goodpeed's History p. 861, White County, for more on Bosson Family.  The following story is taken from an article written in 1933 by the present writer. 

The story of power development at Great Falls really begins about 1840 at a boat landing on the Ohio River.  Samuel H. Laughlin wrote in his diary that while on his way to the Democratic National Convention, he met Thomas Bosson and asked about southern water power sites.  Mr. Laughlin recommended a site in Alabama and the Great Falls of the Caney Fork in Tennessee.  Bosson was very much interested and after visiting both sites selected the latter and immediately purchased the necessary land and riparian rights, a portion of the same being purchased from General John B. Rodgers of Rock Island.  Mr. Bosson was from Massachusetts. 

Thomas Bosson built a two and a half story mill below the main falls in which he installed a set of corn stone made locally by Mr. Drake and a set of wheat rocks which were purchased in France for $300, shipped to Boston, then overland and by canal to Detroit, and on to the Ohio River, Cumberland and Caney Fork to Great Falls.  A carding factory was put in the second floor of the mill. 

A small diversion dam was built at the Falls.  Water was conveyed from the "Water Basin," located just below the main Falls, which can still be seen, in a rock and timber flume to the mill.  After grinding corn and wheat the water was carried in a wood flume to a saw mill located across the river and just upstream from the TVA power house.  The small bit of bottom land on the north or White County side of the river was used to store lumber on.  A winding road was built down the hill and then up the river under the over-hanging bluff to the mill.  The road was very narrow but there was plenty of room to turn at the mill.  Farmers frequently camped under the bluff for the night.  The Bosson Mill ground many a bushel of corn and wheat as the years rolled by.  About the time of the War, Charles P. Hill acquired a one-half interest in the mill property. 

Then came a day in 1882 much like other days except that there had been an unusually heavy rain.  Uncle Billy Chisam, the miller was grinding corn as usual.  He stepped out of the mill a moment and at the same time a great tree crashed into the river and was swept away grinding corn to the end, thus ending the first chapter in the development of power at Great Falls.  See "Falls City Cotton Mill Company" for the second chapter in this development.

Brady & Haston Mill, first called Burden's Mill was located on Burden's Mill Branch

which empties into the Calfkiller River a short distance above the Brady-Haston Bridge. The mill property was conveyed to Benjamin Burden by grant #1051 in 1809, surveyed 1908 on July 28th and called for 50 acres on Calfkiller River and on Burden's Mill creek.  The description indicates that the mill was already in operation in 1908.  The branch was and still is fed by a spring a few hundred feet upstream from the Calfkiller and a short mile from Greenwood Church.


This was a grist mill for grinding corn meal.  The property was transferred to James Bowen in February 1811, to David H. Maybourn in October 1814 and following his death to Elijah Drake in March 1822 and in the same month Drake sold the mill property to Thomas Meeks who sold it to James Randals in November 1853.  He in turn sold the property to John Warren in November of the same year.  A deed from Warren to Joseph W. Taylor in 1862 refers to "the grist mill and saw mill" and near the wagon road leading from Hickory Valley to Rock Island."  The Warrens were millers and merchants.  It should be noted that Drake made many of the grinding rocks used in early grist mills throughout the Caney Fork area.

The same year that Taylor bought the mill property he sold a half interest to T.F. Burroughs which in turn was sold to Sprout Waldron & Co. in 1899.  Taylor built a new brick building a few yards upstream from the old mill in 1867.  A roller mill  was installed  in 1898.  Dr. Lee Smith and Frank P. Austin, son-in-laws of Taylor here connected with the mill operations.  The property was next owned by D. Frank Johnson and Albert L. Johnson and known as Johnson's Mill.  The last owners who were operating the mill at the time it was purchased by The Great Falls Power Co. were Carrol Haston* and M.D. Brady.  It was then known as the Brady-Haston Mill.  The property was rented to George Savage who used the building as a furniture shop until 1925 when the basemen began flooding from backwater from the Great Falls Dam.  Mr. Savage moved the rocks for grinding corn to a shed along with a small saw mill.  He relocated the water flow in the branch and for a few years longer did a limited amount of business grinding corn, making furniture and a small amount of sawing.

The writer wrote in 1933 that "the old building is about ready to fall in and is not in use.  The brick will probably be removed before long thus ending another mill history extending over a period of 125 years."

References;- Grants, Deeds, Histories and notes from Mr. Mal Baker.  Note: The over-shot wheel at the mill was built by a Mr. Goodman at the close of the Civil War.

*Webmaster's notes:  Carrol Haston was the son of Charles Thomas Haston, son of William Carroll Haston, son of David Haston, son of Daniel Haston.  He married Pauline (?) Brady.

Bridleman, Henry - Cotton Mill on Charles Creek mentioned.
Brickfords, Ward &, - Seals in his History of White County mentions Ward & Brickfords

saw & corn mill in White County on the lower Caney Fork.

Burroughs & Taylor Factory - This plant, located on the right bank of Calfkiller River

and close to Cave, Tennessee was incorporated as Burroughs & Taylor Co. in 1891.  They manufactured men's clothing and specialized in blue denim work clothes.  The writer bought clothes from them in the 1920's.  As mentioned elsewhere there was an old suspension foot bridge above the dam which was replaced when the Great Falls Dam was raised in 1924-25.  This also ended the use of water power to run the factory.  *See foot note.  The owners of the factory organized the Cave Water & Light Co. which served a few houses at the top of the hill with water.  The water from a spring across the river from the factory was pumped up to a storage tank with a hydraulic ram.  Unknown to the Tennessee Electric Power Company the spring and ram were on a tiny piece of land which was to be flooded.  Filling the Great Falls reservoir was delayed from early Spring to Fall until the land could be purchased at about $20,000.  This was referred to as the $20,000 ram by those involved in the transaction.

*Foot note - See Mitchell, (Jabez G.) Mill for earlier development of this site.

Cane Creek Mill - This mill was located at the head of Cane Creek Falls and was built about

1831.  The last man to own and operate the mill was Lawson Fisher.  The mill was washed over the falls in the flood of March 1929.  (See Lawson Fisher, Testimony of)

Carding Mills in White County.  Seals History of White County lists four mills that were

operating prior to the Civil War.  There were:

  • Joe Taylor Mill on the Calfkiller River near Cave, Tennessee.
  • Henry Echols Mill on Falling Water Creek.
  • James Robinson Mill on Post Oak Creek.
  • George Ogden Mill at Sparta on the Calfkiller River.  This mill was operating in 1831 and had an overshot wheel.
Chastian Mill on Collins River - See Shell's Ford Mill.
Clark's Mill was built on Town Creek in 1866 a few yards west of the "new mill" which

was operating in 1930.

Cook's Cove Spring Mill Branch - See Dillon's Mill.
Cooper, William - on Caney Fork River - See Wallace & Cooper Dam.
Dale, John - See Mormon Mill.
Dale & White's Mill pond mentioned in deed to Zevida Seals in 1806.  White and Dale

received a grant in 1809.  Notes are not complete but the writer believes this was on the Calfkiller and probably at or near the Simpson Mill.

Daly's Mill Dam was a mile 11.9 above the mouth of Barren Fork River.
Denton, Sam - He operated a corn mill on the Calfkiller six miles above Sparta. 

According to Seal's History of White County it was built between 1815 and 1820.

Davis Mill was on the Davis farm in Big Bottom and operated by the Davis family.

It may have been located on Gaston's Branch as there was a mill there.  Gaston Branch, Cold Spring Branch, Suggs Branch and the Slough in Caney Fork were on the Davis property.

Webmaster's note:  As per page 50 of this book, "The mill was owned by Robert, James, and Absolom Davis.  It was conveyed by them to David Davis."  David Davis was the father of Jimmy Davis, father of George Vergil Davis, father of Mary Ruth Davis Haston, mother of Wayne Haston (webmaster of this site).

Dillon's Mill Tract referred to Carter Dillon's mill tract on the north side of Caney Fork,

mentioned in a deed of 1882, being on the first small branch below the Tosh Mill.  It is the same property referred to in a deed in 1929 described as Cook's Cove Spring Branch on Caney Fork.

Drake - See Brady & Haston Mill.
Drake, Carter Mill - See Sparkman Mill on Cane Creek.
Drake, Elijah - See mill at Laurelburg on Rocky River.
Drake, Elijah - Grant of 1815, entered 1814, referred to Elijah Drake Mill Dam on

Laurel Creek.  The mill was still operating in 1884 and known as Grissoms Mill.

Driskolls Still House mentioned in 1848 deed was on the east side of Calfkiller River

near the old Harriet Iron Works.

Echols Mill  - See Carding Mills.

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