Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mingus Mill

Tuesday we had a chance to get back over to the Mingus Creek area.  I wanted to scout out the slave cemetery mentioned in our trails guidebook.  We had a good outing and we found a cemetery, but I’m not sure we found what I was looking for.

We had to go right by the Oconaluftee Visitor Center to get to Mingus Creek so we stopped in the small gift shop there to purchase a “cemeteries of the Smokies” book.  I could have sworn I’d seen one in there on our previous visit, but I guess I was dreaming.  They had churches, gristmills, log homes, waterfalls, flowers, trees, and reptiles of the Smokies, but no cemeteries.  Gene suggested to the ranger on duty that she might like to make a project of that, but she declined the invitation.

From the description in the trail guidebook we knew the cemetery was just a few feet from the parking lot at Mingus Mill.  When we were there last week, we didn’t see any evidence of a trail, but then again, we weren’t really looking.  Tuesday, however, the grass had been mowed creating a path that went right up the hill to a small cemetery.

There were no identifying markers to indicate this was indeed the “slave” cemetery.  There were about eight graves marked with field stones, but without any inscriptions.  The maintenance crew had apparently just moved, so the graves were very visible.

With nothing to positively identify this cemetery, I wasn’t sure if it was the one I was looking for.  It’s mentioned in the trail guidebook, but there are several things mentioned in that book that I’m suspect of like Mr Enloe (of Enloe Creek) being the father of Abraham Lincoln.  I didn’t do a lot of research, but did find an article from 2009 in a local Knoxville paper which states that park archives list one slave cemetery located in the Cataloochee area.  So who knows for sure if this is truly an old slave cemetery, certainly not I.

After making a few photos, we walked over to the Mill.  Mingus Mill was the largest gristmill in what is now the National Park.  Unlike most of the mills in the park that are powered by a large waterwheel, Mingus was powered by a cast-iron turbine.  Mingus Mill was built in 1886 by its first millwright, Thomas Early.

We walked the length of the flume with its sideboards covered in brilliant green moss, to the point where the water is diverted from Mingus Creek.

I guess this is what we would call the "in-take valve" at the head of the flume
This mill is still operational today and the miller sells cornmeal and flour ground on site.  We had the opportunity to speak with Winston, the miller on duty while we were there.  He had shut the mill down just before we got there, so he wasn’t too busy to chat.  Winston has been at Mingus Mill for a number of years, but being 80 plus years old, he’s thinking of retiring now.  I don’t know why.  He certainly seemed spry enough as we watched him climb the ladder and maneuver the lever to divert the water from the flume.  I’d say he has several good years left.

Winston shutting down the mill for another day.
We had a good time and we learned some things as well.  If I can ever get these trails hiked, I’d like to spend more time delving into the history of the communities inside the Park.

Another brave soul has decided to follow this blog.  We’d like to welcome JANA.  Thanks for tagging along.

That’s it for today.


  1. We didn't think to chat with Winston when we were there at closing time...something to do when we return, as well as search out those cemeteries! Funny how quickly history can be lost.

  2. I would love to use the top photo in a journal (CrossAccent - the journal of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians) to accompany a reflection about singing morning prayer on the grounds of these old graveyards. Can you email me so that I can get permission to do so? My email is