Falls Mill: Peace and History

by Kyle M. Dugger —

Everyone needs a place go, at some point in their life, where they can enjoy a little peace from the everyday rushing around. With the seemingly non-stop lifestyles that most of us lead, we sometimes f

orget or feel guilty about taking time off to slow down. Nestled in the hills of southern Middle Tennessee, you can find a great place to slow down and relax. Falls Mill – a water-powered mill, museum, and bed and breakfast – is located just outside of Belvidere. For those interested in history or those just needing a relaxing getaway, this is definitely the place. You can spend your days relaxing in the cabin, strolling along the bank of Factory Creek, wading in the cool, clear water, or visiting the mill and meeting owners John and Janie Lovett.

Falls Mill, originally a cotton and woolen factory, was built in 1873. Through the years it evolved into a wood working shop and grist mill. It now houses the Museum of Power and Industry, Inc. The mill is powered by a 32-foot Fitz waterwheel, which was installed in 1906. The water wheel powers machinery on multiple floors of the mill. The mill began producing stone ground products in 1970 and continued until 2015. At this time, food safety guidelines, which are designed for modern mills and not historic operations, forced the end of 45 years of commercial milling. I will have to admit that this left a sad place in my heart. Even though the mill is no longer a producing factory, the history is still very much

Line shaft on the first floor of Falls Mill. Flat belts run on the pulleys and run various equipment throughout the mill.

alive. There is something about seeing and hearing the water wheel turn and feeling the rumbling through the building that makes its almost possible to see the people who walked the floors tending machinery.

R.D. Cole stone buhr mill, 42″ granite mill stones. The hand wheel at lower right is used to adjust the distance between the bottom stationary bed stone and the top rotating runner stone. The stones are very close but must never be allowed to touch.

Falls Mill is where my interest in water powered mills was first sparked. We took a family vacation there several years ago; the bed and breakfast had only been open for a couple of years. After our first day there, I was so excited to get back inside that I was at the mill before the miller. I was there watching as the mill race filled with water and as the gate at the top of the waterwheel was opened to begin the day’s work. I’m sure that I was a pest because I wanted to stay and watch all day.

If spending the day watching flat belts endlessly turn pulleys and shafts doesn’t sound intriguing, then the bed and breakfast might be able to hold your attention. It is an 1895 log cabin that has been transformed into the perfect retreat. The small downstairs kitchen is stocked with goodies from Janie’s kitchen. She is a fantastic cook! There is a wood-burning fireplace that makes a great place to cuddle up and read a book during the chilly winter evenings. Upstairs houses the bedroom and a bathroom, complete with a 1920s toilet. From the glider rocker on the front porch, you can just hear the sound of water rushing over the dam, which provides water to power the mill. This is a great place to enjoy a cup of morning coffee, along with the delicious bread, muffins, or pastries that Janie has waiting in the kitchen.

1895 log cabin opened in 1989 as Fall Mills Bed and Breakfast.

The cabin is a reminder of simpler times and that we don’t always have to be in such in a hurry. There is a journal in the cabin that has entries from previous guests and a place to write about your time spent there.

1868 Model Crompton Power Broad Loom. The shuttles, setting on the front of the loom, were thrown back and forth across the loom carrying the thread used for weaving cloth.

While reading through it, I found one entry that summed it up perfectly. This lady commented about the old-fashioned, wooden screen doors of the cabin, which have a spring in the middle to hold them closed. When you let them close on their own, they hit the door frame with an unmistakable “pop.” She wrote that this sound brought back memories of her childhood and her grandma telling her to not let the doors slam. During her visit, she intentionally let the doors close hard, just to hear that sound again.

Whether you are looking for a place to explore history, get away and relax, relive long forgotten childhood memories, or make new memories with your family, Falls Mill could be just the place that you’ve been looking for. The Lovett’s are gracious hosts, who have a passion for preserving history and teaching others about the past. The website, www.fallsmill.com, includes some of the history, tour times, and contact information for the mill and the bed and breakfast. The address is Falls Mill, 134 Falls Mill Road, Belvidere Tennessee 37306. Who knows? This place might just spark an interest in history for you or your family. That is something that you can spend a lifetime exploring and never be at a loss for new and exciting places to visit and read about.