Rice Grist Mill and Threshing Barn

Rice Grist Mill

For more information and tour reservations, contact 865-494-9688 or 865-426-7461 or email michael.mlekodaj@tn.gov

Open from April 15th to  October 31st

Wednesday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission is Free

Rice Grist Mill

Originally constructed along Lost Creek in Union County, this mill was built by James Rice. After migrating from North Carolina to Sharp’s Station in 1790, “Uncle Jim” and his sons completed construction of the mill in the autumn of 1798. The millhouse was a two-story log structure with a wood shake roof. The wooden water wheel is of the overshot design; meaning water was channeled to the top of the wheel and allowed to pour over it in order to turn the wheel. All the internal gears were carved from hickory and the main water wheel shaft is believed to have been hewn from a yellow poplar tree. The millstones are original, imported from France, and were used as ballast stones on their voyage from abroad.

The mill has endured several changes throughout history. At times, the mill was also rigged to power a sawmill, a cotton gin, a trip hammer, and even to operate a dynamo that supplied electric lights for the mill and Rice home in 1899. A severe storm in 1874 damaged the original millhouse and wooden mechanisms. In 1879, the two-story frame millhouse was constructed with cogwheels carved of “choice” hickory, and the main shaft replaced with one from a white oak tree. This shaft lasted for 50 years after which TVA replaced it with a steel shaft.

Mill Gears

Four generations of the Rice Family operated the mill, beginning with James “Uncle Jim” Rice, from 1798 until his death in 1829. Eldest son George, operated the mill until 1868, when he gave it to his eldest, Henry. In 1888, Henry gave the mill to his eldest, Rufus “Uncle Rufe” Rice. Rufus operated the family mill until 1935 when TV A purchased their land which was to be flooded upon completion of Norris Dam. The Rices relocated to a farm in Blount County, Tennessee. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCG), and the National Park Service carefully labeled each piece of the wooden mechanism, disassembled the mill, and reassembled much of the structure at its present site. TVA donated the mill and adjoining land to the Tennessee Department of Conservation in 1953.

During the summer months the water wheel is operated and gift items are sold inside the mill.


Caleb Crosby originally built the barn and the threshing machine on the north side of the Holston River, in what later was called the Crosby settlement in the Noeton community. Both were built entirely from wood by hand. Oxen-generated power was transmitted by a drive shaft to the threshing machine inside the main building. Among the maze of wooden gears was one as large as a wagon wheel.

Caleb Crosby Threshing Barn

The threshing barn stood from the 1830′s, for about 100 years a short distance down the Holston River from where the David A. Greene Bridge now spans Cherokee Lake on Hwy. 25-E. Before the lake flooded the barn site, Powell and Bryan Crosby, grandsons of Caleb, donated the barn and threshing machine to the National Park Service. Since no such barn ever existed in the Great Smoky Mountains pre­park years, the idea to reassemble the barn within the park boundaries was rejected. Officials, recognizing the value of the barn, kept the dismantled timbers sheltered and in good condition for 34 years, until which time they were donated to the Tennessee State Park system. The barn was reconstructed at its present site adjacent to the Grist Mill in 1978.

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