Wilson County Tennessee
Part of the American History and Genealogy Project

Mills, Gins and Stills


The first corn-mill erected in the county was built by Samuel Caplinger sometime in 1798. It was a small horse-power affair, the horse being hitched to a pole or shaft and driven around in a circle. The building was a small, unhewn log house, and stood on the farm now, owned by Roland Newby, in the Eighth Civil District. Very good corn meal is said to have been ground by this mill, and the patronage was drawn from a large scope of country. Subsequently the mill was removed to a site on Jennings Fork, and converted into a water-power. The first water-mill is supposed to have been built by Thomas Conger, sometime in the same year, on Barton's Creek, about three miles northwest of Lebanon. A horse-power mill was also erected about that time by one of the Donnells, near Doak's Cross Roads, eight miles south of Lebanon.

Before these mills were erected the settlers went to Davidson County for their grinding, or converted the corn into meal by means of the old-fashioned mortar and pestle.

In 1799 Mathew Figures built a water-power grist-mill on Cedar Creek, to which he afterward added a saw.
In 1800 William Trigg and Joseph Hendricks built a water-power grist-mill on Spencer Creek.
Other mills of the early days were those or Isham and Larkin Davis, on Cedar Creek
William Wilson's, on Spring Creek
Jesse Holt's, on Barton Creek
John Scott's on Spring Creek
John T. Hays', on Smith Fork.
In the Tenth District William Wharton built a water-mill on Spring Creek
In the Fourth District Williams & Kirkpatrick built one on Spencer Creek
In the Seventeenth District Alex Simmons built one on Fall Creek
In the Ninth District James C. Winford built one on Spring Creek, , and about the same time a paper-mill was built on the Cumberland River, twelve miles from Lebanon, at which a good article of paper, both news and commercial, was manufactured. The machinery was inadequate, however, and the enterprise was short lived.

Grist Mills

With the increase in population there was an increase in the number and facilities of the mills in this county, and at the present:
W. P. M. Smith
C. H. Cook
J. N. Adams
J. W. Williamson & Bros, have steam saw and grist-mills
Jacob Earhart has a waterpower grist-mill on Stone Creek
In the First Civil District W. C. Gillian has a water-power grist-mill on Cedar Creek
In the Fifth District John Brown and William McFarland have steam saw and grist-mills, and Washington Moore has a water-power grist-mill on Spring Creek
In the Seventh District B. D. Hager has a steam saw and grist-mill, and William Colquit and William Tomlinson have steam grist-mills
In the Twenty-fourth District J. C. Logue has a steam grist-mill, and J. L. Hubbard a steam saw and grist-mill
In the Twenty-third District Coon Lannon has a steam saw and grist-mill, and William Rice a water gristmill on Sinking Creek
In the Sixth District John D. Gains has a steam saw-mill, James Johnson a water-power grist, and W. D. S. Smith a steam and water-power saw and grist-mill on Cedar Creek
In the Twenty-second District J. N. Cowen has a steam corn-mill and wool factory
In the Second District Mrs. Pendleton has a steam saw, grist and carding-mill
In the Fourteenth District Gains Leach and Hugh & David have waterpower grist-mills on Sanders and Smith Forks, respectively
In the Third District Dr. James McFarland has a steam saw and grist-mill
In the Twenty-first District J. B. Baird has a steam saw and grist-mill
In the Twenty-fifth District G. W. Wright has a steam saw and grist-mill
In the Fourth District _____ Etherly has a steam saw and grist-mill, and Bailey Hall and William Barrow water-power grist-mills on Barton Creek
In the Fifteenth District John Patterson and Patton & Harvey have water-power grist-mills on Smith Fork
In the Nineteenth District Thomas Mitchell has a carding machine
In the Ninth District; John Bryant has a steam saw-mill
In the Twentieth District John W. Bennett and John Wynn have steam saw and grist-mills, and S. T. Alsup has a water power saw and grist-mill on Falling Creek
In the Seventeenth District P. W. & T. R. Hearn have a water-power grist-mill on Falling Creek
In the Eighth District John S. Belcher has a steam grist-mill
In the Tenth District Vick & Miller have a water-power grist-mill on Town Branch, and Bailey Peyton one on Spring Creek
In the Sixteenth District W. L. Waters has a steam-power flour, grist and saw-mill.

Still Houses

Although still-houses were more numerous than school houses in the early days of the county, yet the owner and location of the first one cannot be learned.

Isham Webb had a still in the Eleventh District at an early day, and later James Carrouth, John Forbs, Jerry Johnson, Bolin Wynn, Robert Thomas, Jack Cook and perhaps others, whose names could not be secured, operated stills in various parts of the county, all of which had capacities ranging from one-half to two barrels per day of mash. The old-fashioned worm was used, and the houses were small, unhewn-log buildings, and in some instances the still was located out of doors. These stills all disappeared several years before the late civil war.

Cotton Gins

Considerable cotton was grown in the county, and it is claimed that the first crop of this article grown west of the Cumberland Mountains was on the farm of John Donnelson, afterward the father-in-law of Andrew Johnson, in Clover Bottom, this county, sometime about the organization of the county. As early as 1802 there were numerous cotton-gins in operation in the county:

One by George Alexander, near Center Hill
John B. Walker, on Hickory Ridge
Moses Echols, on the waters of Spencer Creek
Daniel Trigg, and others by Alaman Trigg, Henry Betts, John Watson, Robert Goodloe, Seth P. Pool, Joseph Sharp, Joshua Kelley, Edward Bondward, Thomas Wilson and Thomas Green in various parts of the country, the exact location of which is unknown to the citizens of the present. These have all disappeared, as they ceased to be of use many years ago.


 Wilson County | AHGP Tennessee


Source: History of Tennessee, Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1886


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