A Step Back In Time!
MONTICELLO, Ky. -- Walking the grounds of Mill Springs Mill on the shore of Lake Cumberland will take your mind and soul to another time - the past. Old battlefields, new innovations and extensive restorations, make up much of Mill Springs Mill's history. By taking a stroll through Mill Spring's Park, one is instantly immersed in the culture and history of another time.
It all began in 1700 when hunters and explorers, called "Long Hunters", found a place "with excellent springs near a waterfall." The settlers were no doubt amazed at the sight of 13 springs flowing from the hillside! Here, Price's Station, one of the first settlements in Kentucky was established and eventually became a fur trading center. In 1774 Daniel Boone and Michael Stoner passed through this area.
The story of Mill Springs Mill began around 1817 when Charles, John and Dr. James Metcalf settled in the area and erected a cereal grinding mill, or a grist mill as they were usually called, for the milling of corn and wheat. The mill was equipped with 48 inch French burrs, millstones for grinding wheat and corn. Flour and cornmeal were custom ground for families who brought their grain by wagon or horseback on milling day.
The year 1824 brought the destruction of the Metcalfe Mill and factories due to fire. John Metcalfe took on the task of rebuilding and reconstruction was completed in 1839.
In 1825, a post office was established near the mill and was called Mill Springs, Kentucky. John Metcalfe, Jr. was designated the first post-master.
On Jan. 19, 1862, blood was shed on the grounds of Mill Springs as the North fought the South. Coveted because of it's easy defense capabilities, ferry landings, commandment of the river and easy approaches to Cumberland Gap and the mountain pass at Jacksboro, Tennessee, The Battle of Mill Springs, as it came to be called, was one of the first great battles of the Civil War. It proved to be one of the most significant for federal troops as well by marking the very first major defeat of Confederate forces. The first break in the Confederate defense line in Kentucky occurred and marked the beginning of Union operations leading across Tennessee and Mississippi.
In 1877, mill owner Lloyd Lanier and Arthur Rankin, skilled millwright, purchased the mill and all other included properties, then promptly erected the present 34 x 40 foot, three story mill which remains a magnificent sight to see. From 1879 through 1907 mill owners and operators included Ike Lanier, J.M. Sallee, Robert Lanier, Dr. J.S. Jones, and I. D. Ruffner. In 1885 the new firm J.S. Jones and Company modernized the mill by installing new machines and steel roller mills for milling flour.
Bolan E. Roberts bought the mill in 1907 and operated it as "Diamond Roller Mills." In 1908, the 28-foot cedar wheel was replaced by a steel water wheel. Still in use the wheel is one of the largest overshot water wheels in the world. The wheel has a diameter of 40 feet, 10 inches, and a breast of three feet. Powered by 13 natural springs located beside the mill, it is thought to be one of the largest of it's kind in the world.
A 15 h.p. auxiliary crude oil engine was added in the 1920's to supplement power to the Mill Springs Mill during low flow.
Thomas Roberts operated the mill under the name of the "Diamond Roller Mill" until 1949 when the federal government acquired the mill and lands as part of the Lake Cumberland project.
In 1963 the Monticello Woman's Club and other civic organizations, with aid from the Kentucky Department of Highways, reactivated the mill. In 1973 the mill was designated as a National Historic Site. In 1976, a major restoration to the structure and grounds was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Traditional tools and skills were used to render the Mill as close to the original work as possible. The use of mortar was forgone to make the restorations as close to the original millwrights, Andrew Denney, as possible. Old fashioned cut nails and even the paint colors were carefully duplicated. Mill Springs is now on the National Register of Battlefields and is one of 25 Civil War battlefields that is included on a special Endangered Battlefield list.