The Old Mill
For more than two centuries, The Old Mill has been the beating heart of Pigeon Forge--serving as everything from a grist mill to a post office to an electrical plant. This community grew up around the mill, which today is still an operating mill as well as a popular destination with two restaurants and shops.
Revolutionary War veteran Mordecai Lewis trekked from Virginia in 1786 and built a grist mill along what’s now called the Little Pigeon River. By 1817, his son-in-law Isaac Love added an iron forge, which later gave the community its name.
In 1830, the family built the mill you see today. The hand-hewn hemlock and oak walls still stand. In 1841, the town officially became Pigeon Forge, and the mill served as the community’s first post office.
As the Civil War loomed, a new owner, John Sevier Trotter took over in 1859, expanding the business with a sawmill. When the war reached a greatly divided East Tennessee, Trotter installed looms inside the mill and secretly wove fabric to clothe Union troops stationed in the area. The mill also housed a makeshift hospital during the war.
The mill ground on, and In 1921, took on an enlightening new role: Power plant. Pigeon Forge needed electricity, and the mill generated it for the growing town into the 1930s.
The Great Depression spurred another change. The Stout family took over and owned the mill for 62 years. Tourism propelled by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park caused a boom in Pigeon Forge, and the town grew around the mill. The opening of the Rebel Railroad tourist attraction in 1961 brought more visitors, as did the railroad’s eventual transformation into Dollywood.
The arrival of potter Douglas Ferguson in 1946 reflected the artisan craft movement. Ferguson turned a barn on the property into his studio and built a house, used today as the Pottery House Cafe. Both the cafe and The Old Mill restaurant serve fresh, local food.
The restaurants are only part of the experience. The Old Mill Farmhouse Kitchen store features bread mixes, soup mixes, jams, cookware, and much more for the home chef. The General Store offers products made at the Old Mill and locally. Pigeon River Pottery honors the craft tradition, selling handmade pottery from casserole dishes to pie plates to serving dishes.
Visiting The Old Mill for meals, shopping and history is a Tennessee tradition. Stay in a Pigeon Forge vacation cabin, too.