The former grist mill at the Lilly Bluffs section of the Obed Wild and Scenic River played an integral role in the early settlement of the area. Built by Woodson Hawn in the 1930s, the mill used the power of moving water to drive a horizontally mounted “tub wheel” which turned a shaft connected to a round stone disk. This disk ground against another stationary stone disk – the millstone. When dried corn kernels were fed into the stones, they were ground between the two stones and filtered out as grist (corn meal) via grooves in the stones, and slowly pushed toward the outer edge of these stones, where it was then collected and bagged. The mill was later operated by Alva and Elvie Howard, who operated this mill for ten years using the barter system, often keeping a portion of the final product for personal use. The mill was eventually destroyed by a flood in the late 1940s.
The image shows a fragment of the horizontal tub wheel from the Howard/Hawn gristmill. The wheel is made from hardwood and is in two pieces, which fit together. The tub wheel is arc-shaped with flanges and spokes extending inward. This piece of the tub wheel was found by park personnel in 1997 and is now on display in the Obed Wild and Scenic River Visitor Center in Wartburg, Tennessee.