Maggie & The Old Mill Pond


Until the mid 1950s folks took their corn, wheat, or rye to a local gristmill to have it ground into meal for bread making and other uses.

Here in Southern Appalachia most people used Corn for meal-as it was easier to grow and seemed to last longer in storage.

Typically the Corn was left in the field to dry and cure through about 3 hard frosts before it was deemed ready to make into meal. After it was dried, the Corn was usually stored in a Corn Crib and used as needed.

Pap can recall several gristmills that operated when he was a child. His family would take a couple bushels of Corn each month to be ground. If you got more than you needed, you took the chance of weevils getting into the meal. Most mills in this area kept part of your meal as payment.

When Pap’s Mother was a young adult still living at home, her father, Jewell, went to the mill one day-he never returned. When they begin to search for him-they found him shot dead. None of us still living, know the details of what happened that day, and Mamaw didn’t talk about it. Now as an adult, it makes me wonder if every time my grandmother went or sent to the gristmill she had to re-live part of the day her Daddy died.

Most mills used water to power their grinding. Pap said some had chutes that carried the water a far piece-from the creek down to the water wheel. Makes me think of a wooden water slide. The water used to turn the wheel resulted in a mill pond. Several years ago Pap showed me where a gristmill had been about a mile from our house. Nothing remained- except the creek. After all these years-the place is still called the Old Mill Pond.

As Appalachia became industrialized and folks started going to work instead of farming, the need for gristmills disappeared.

Today’s Pickin & Grinnin In the Kitchen Spot is a song about love, mills, and Maggie. I Wandered To The Hill Maggie written by George W. Johnson in 1865.

Hope you enjoyed the two-part harmony singing. Have you ever had meal ground at a gristmill? Do you have a story about a mill pond or a water wheel? I’d love to hear about it-just click on the word comments below and follow the directions.


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  • Reply
    July 8, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Tipper this was a very interesting post. You are so lucky that you have your pap around and so smart to ask questions and now record the information. This is so great for your daughters.
    I love this music.

  • Reply
    July 1, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    How sad…your stories always invoke so much emotion…do you know how wonderful you are….hhmmmm?

  • Reply
    June 30, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Stone ground is the best! I also have some lovely photos of old mills floating around here as you might imagine πŸ˜‰ For the longest time I had a huge one hanging in my kitchen but I took it down not long ago because the frame needed repaired. It never made it back to the wall!

  • Reply
    June 30, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    My mom’s dad used to talk about walking to the grist mill in the snow and how cold it was, but you were always happy to get back home because there’d be hot cornbread soon.
    My dad talked about putting meal into hot water and letting it set over night in a loaf pan. The next morning, they sliced it and fried it for breakfast.
    I love your stories.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    June 29, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Tipper: What a lovely shot of the water fall. I really enjoyed the picken in todays song. Tell the guys that they made my day. FG

  • Reply
    Jennifer in OR
    June 29, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    So sorry to hear about your great-granddad. What a piece of family history; I think every family has a tragic story like that somewhere in the closet. You’re right, I can imagine that every visit to the mill would bring such terrible memories.
    No mill stories that I can think of. I just know that my dad loved cornbread!

  • Reply
    June 29, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    I enjoyed this history very much. I imagine it was sometimes challenging to live so close to the earth–yet they did it and did it well. Thanks for sharing this.
    Thanks for visiting!

  • Reply
    June 29, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Great post. I don’t see how you got so much out of that one song. There’s a fellow about Pap’s age just about three miles from here who still grinds all his own meal. But he uses a gasoline-powered engine instead of a water wheel or mule. Of course I remember hearing about our great grandfather being killed on his way back from the mill, but it never occurred to me how the family would probably have those feelings/memories triggered by their frequent trips to and from the mill. I had no idea that the Maggie song is so old. I learned it from an elderly gentlemen from Florida who was up here visiting. He was a trumpet player, and he had the lyrics/music to the song in his trumpet case. I copied the words down on a napkin. That was back in the days before you could just go home and google something. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Stacy A
    June 29, 2008 at 12:06 am

    What a different world we live in today. Although I dare say we still have to worry about weevils, dang things! It took me forever to realize that they came “in” the flower. I can imagine the humid summers down there made it hard to keep things back before freezers and insulation.
    The song is beautiful as always. Their voices just capture the essence of the songs message and feeling. Really a treat. Hope things are going well. Let me know if you ever need to talk. Love Stacy

  • Reply
    June 28, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Ohhhh, the vocals and the pickin was just beautiful. I am going to be listening to that over and over.
    Well, can’t recall any mills, but…when the kids were little and they would go on their field trip to one of the state parks here in IN, one of them had a mill, and they would always bring a sack of cormeal home fresh ground, and omg, that made the best cornbread I have ever eaten.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 28, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    My Grandparents grew corn. They kept it in a corn crib. I remember seeing my grandfather shell some for the cows. They also had some ground to make cornbread. There was never a meal on the table at my grandmothers without cornbread and sorghum molasses. That was a different life. They grew and preserved most of what they ate. They also had cows, pigs, and chickens. You know when you have farm animals they have to be tended to twice a day.
    My grandfather worked in the paper mill and grandmother tended the animals and the garden, with the help of three sons. When he retired from the mill she gave him the milk bucket and from then on he did the twice a day milking!
    That was not an easy life, but then again I guess ours isn’t either. It’s just different.
    Thanks for a delightful post—and as always Paul and Pap did a great job!!

  • Reply
    June 28, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    I didn’t know any of that, that you shared about the meal. Very interesting! My late mother-in-law grew up in Kentucky (born in 1914), and I’ve wished since she died that I’d thought to ask her more about what her life was like growing up there, and in that time period.

  • Reply
    trisha too
    June 28, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Okay, Tipper, you know dial-up, so please excuse the double comments–I don’t always post, but I do come visit you often! πŸ™‚
    Wow, are you proud of that Chitter, or what? Tell that girl congratulations, and keep writing!
    Your family stories always remind me of my grandma’s stories, even the unpleasant ones. She grew up in OK when it was pretty much still “wild west.”
    She always made her cornbread kind of crispy, and would crumble it up and put milk on the leftover bread for breakfast.
    No gristmill stories, but I wish we had our own waterfall to generate our own electricity . . .

  • Reply
    Mark Salinas
    June 28, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Nice music, good pictures as always. I like the story!

  • Reply
    June 28, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I’ve been meaning for some time now to post about our previous grain mill from the area. It is long gone, but my brother in law has a framed flour bag from the mill.
    Copy and paste or click this link to read about it.

  • Reply
    City Mouse/Country House
    June 28, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Beautiful music, as always. Really neat song too.
    I have had meal from a mill, fresh ground and all! And, actually, I am producing and designing a production of “The Belle of Amherst” (about Emily Dickinson) that will be performed IN and old mill!

  • Reply
    June 28, 2008 at 9:01 am

    We used to live in Mt. Airy, NC close to the Blue Ridge Pkwy. Mabry’s Mill was really close. They had the best corn meal and the buckwheat pancakes are to die for!

  • Reply
    June 28, 2008 at 12:49 am

    My Mom and Dad took a trip to the Smokies with us one year and we were in Cade’s Cove and stopped at the working mill. It fascinated my Dad. He bought some corn meal while we were there.
    There are parts to many here in West Virginia to visit.
    This summer we went to a nursery someone told us about and they had a working water wheel there.
    A couple of years ago coming back from the Smokies I tried to capture all the mills I could find on camera. I need to look for those shots but I think they’re on disks from my first digital camera.
    Great post.

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    June 27, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    My sister, Susan, used to live in Westminster, MD in a trailer on a farm owned by a man with her married last name, but no relation to the family. There was a corn crib next to the trailer, but I never knew if the farmer used it or not. Susan used to keep chickens in it. It just looked like a big cage to me, so I guess it was ok for the chickens. πŸ™‚
    I was just going to tell you about the georgia farm woman’s website, but she beat me to it. She’s got a really fascinating story to tell about her husband building the waterwheel and great pics too.
    As usual, the guys got my feet to tapping again. Tell them thanks for making that beautiful music for us. xxoo

  • Reply
    June 27, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    one of the songs we do is about an old mill, classic bluegrass. i wish i could remember he name…old man at the mill? i love your stories

  • Reply
    The Texican
    June 27, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Hi Tipper, Thanks for coming by Pappy’s. Those Jack Rabbits are actually Hares that’s why they look so different. When I did my post on swimming in the creeks as a child, I mentioned the old Mill Tail which was the old dam forming the Mill Pond. Rough ground corn meal is an excellent cure for toenail and fingernail fungus. Just put some in a sock or glove and wear it to bed at night. It really works.

  • Reply
    Farm Chick Paula
    June 27, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    I bought some ground corn at the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge not too long ago. I LOVE the gritty texture! It tastes different than store bought, too, I think.

  • Reply
    noble pig
    June 27, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    I recently visited a mill like this one, it was interesting. Thanks for sharing Tipper.

  • Reply
    The Park Wife
    June 27, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Oh, I think I was born a century too early. Wonderful blog, makes me yearn for days gone by. However, I do prefer indoor plumbing and air conditioning. hehe
    The Park Wife

  • Reply
    June 27, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Tipper, I DID enjoy the two-part harmony!
    I have never been to a grist mill, but I remember my Dad talking about it. And he was fascinated with water wheels.

  • Reply
    June 27, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Hey there Tipper.
    You know I have some stories about old Mill ponds and water wheels since my husband has built the water wheel and putting the old mill pond back on our property.
    We have found pieces of the old water wheel and best we can tell it ran around 1870. No one around this area knows about it, but when we cleared around the creek you could see exactly where the water wheel was, the race way that ran the water from the pond. The old earth dam was still visible under the brush. The outline of where the pond was too. I just wished we had some pictures of the old water wheel and knew more about it.
    You have a good weekend and I plan on coming back to listen to that good music.

  • Reply
    June 27, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    My Grandmas lived close to Spring Mill State Park in southern Indiana, named for the huge spring mill which sits at the park’s center. The mill is powered by a large water wheel which turns from the power of the spring running through the park. We spent long hours every summer at the park, running around the wheel and cooling off in the spring. Of course Mamaw, called “Maw” by her grandchildren from the north, always packed a scrumptous picnic complete with 8oz. bottles of pop for each ~ something we never got at home.
    Corn meal was and remains a staple in my family’s homes as we often ate beans and cornbread for dinner, and “ribble” for breakfast ~ a German fried cornmeal cereal eaten hot and moistened with warm milk. Mmmmm, ribble remains one of my favorite foods today!

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