|W.P.A Day celebrates state park’s birth|
|Wednesday, October 3, 2012|
Cedars of Lebanon crowd will feast on cornbread, pinto beans
There will old-time exhibits aplenty at Saturday’s W.P.A. Day at Cedars of Lebanon State Park, but the star attraction may be cornbread and beans.
This year’s homage to those hardy men and women who helped build Wilson County’s state park and state forest features a cornbread cooking contest, plus free vittles all day. Translation: all the pinto beans and cornbread you can eat.
Another peak event will be the opening of a time capsule to uncover what was deposited inside when the park was dedicated 75 years ago in 1937.“A part of W.P.A Day is demonstrations on how life was back in that time, but this also offers a sense of place for people who have relatives or family who lived here or worked here in what is now the forest. So it’s a reunion for them,” said Cedars of Lebanon Interpretive Ranger Buddy Ingram.
“Hopefully, we’re gonna open this time capsule and see what they put in there in 1937. We will also hold a cross-cut saw competition, which is unusual because nobody knows anything about cross-cut saws anymore. We’ll have music, wagon rides and pinto beans and cornbread,” Ingram said.
This year’s W.P.A Day also features its first cornbread cooking contest. Entries must be entered between 9:30-10:30 a.m., and winners will be announced at 1 p.m. (More about cornmeal and historic grist mills below.)
As for presenters and exhibits on Saturday at the Cedar Forest Lodge, they include: Betty Sue Williams, basket making; Wanda Shotwell, weaving; Roy Harper, musician, artist and painter; Lex Conaster and Chuck Linville, fiddle collectors; Walter Tatum, blacksmith; Wayne Thompson, single-cylinder engines.
Also present will be: Jeremiah Barnes, crosscut saw demonstration and competition; Mark Newberry, third-generation traditional chair maker; Mac Davidson, traditional tools; and David Rowland, traditional wood shingle making.
No cornbread without grist mills
Old-time cornbread lovers remember the days when farmers transported their corn in mule-drawn wagons to grist mills that transformed those grains of corn into fresh, unadulterated cornmeal.
More than 100 years ago Wilson County creeks were dotted with grist mills, which kept families in fresh bread.
Today, your best chance to see a working grist mill in operation comes during Wilson County Fair days when Livesay Mill in Fiddlers Grove springs to life.
Livesay Mill was a three-story building that was falling apart when Lebanon’s Jerry McFarland found it on Kyle’s Ford near Morristown.
“I’ve been into flat-belt machinery all my life, and a friend in East Tennessee told me about it. I went over and looked at it and made a deal on the side of the highway and made arrangements to bring it back,” said McFarland, who salvaged 80 to 90 percent of the mill and transported it via seven 24-foot gooseneck trailer loads.
While many old mills have been pilfered and cannibalized, Livesay Mill was intact as its owner had locked its doors in 1964.
Lebanon cabinet maker Danny Dillon rebuilt the mill’s 12-foot water wheel, thus at fair time, pumps bring water up from a pond below the mill to a flume, and the water circulates, turning the wheel and cornmeal is produced.
“Livesay’s Mill is a horizontal mill with a 600-pound base stone and a 900-pound capstone,” McFarland said. “The capstone turns and the base stone does not. It crushes up the corn, and we put it in an elevator and it sends it upstairs to the bolter separator. What that does, there are a set of screens, and as the meal tumbles across the mesh, this allows the corn and grits to fall into separate hoppers.”
Rufus Page of the Circle P Ranch in Mt. Juliet operates an engine-powered grist mill where he produces Baby Cakes Corn Meal with help from his neighbor Belinda Brewer.
“A grist mill is two granite rocks,” he said plainly. “One is stationary and the other turns, and corn falls between the two rocks. You can adjust the rock if you want real fine meal. Grist mills been around for a thousand years.”
Page’s grinds corn with a 6-horsepower, hit-and-miss motor and his 90-year-old Meadows mill. He has operated the mill at the Wilson County Fair the past few years, and this year sold 3,200 pounds of his corn meal at the fair. He plans to run the mill at W.P.A. Day.
“Nothing is added to the corn we grind,” he said. “It’s all natural corn meal, white and yellow. There are no preservatives.”
Page raises most of the corn he uses to make Baby Cakes Corn Meal. The rest he purchases from Shenandoah Mills in Lebanon.
He also bakes great cornbread. His secret for making it?
“If I told my secret, then the whole world would know,” said the tight-lipped miller of Mt. Juliet.
More about Wilson County mills
Published in 1886, The Goodspeed History of Wilson County, Tennessee, provides the following information on local mills.
The first corn-mill erected in the county was built by Samuel Caplinger some time 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, some time 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.
Among other mills of the 1800s listed in the Goodspeed History were six on Spring Creek, three on Cedar Creek, two on Barton’s Creek, two on Smith Fork, two on Falling Creek and solo mills on Sinking Creek, Stone Creek and Fall Creek and a paper mill on the Cumberland River.