Tomm Brady, owner of the Readyville Mill, stands beside the 1899 mill from Meadows Mills Company as he produces stone-ground corn meal. Inactive for about 30 years, the mill is back in operation after Brady has spent almost four years in restoring the Cannon County historic landmark.
KEN BECK / The Wilson PostSpecial to The Wilson Post
READYVILLE -- “We’re grinding corn!” said Tomm Brady excitedly as he grins from ear to ear inside the ancient Readyville Mill whose origins date back to 1812.
Brady, 48, a resident of Bell Buckle, has good reason for his fervor.
After purchasing the mill in March 2006, he has poured blood, sweat, tears and $$$ into restoring the historic Cannon County treasure on the East Fork of the Stones River. Serene Readyville lies between Murfreesboro and Woodbury, about 35 miles southeast of Lebanon.Within the past few weeks, Brady has been perfecting the process to package 3½-pound bags of corn meal that were stone-ground at the mill. It’s been about 30 years since the last surviving mill on the Stones River was in operating condition.
Brady and his mill cleared the final hurdle recently when a restaurant inspector with the Division of Regulatory Services of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture gave him the A-OK. The last improvement he had to make was adding hot and cold running water inside the structure for sanitation purposes.
“I added an old pedestal hand sink for washing and a cast-iron double sink for the dishes, but the only thing I have to wash is the scoop,” said the retired entrepreneur, a Texas native who has lived in Tennessee for the past 20 years.
“It was fantastic,” he said about gaining approval by the state. “That’s another bridge crossed. Now I’m ready to go.”
Brady scoops up the corn kernels and dumps them into the hopper on top of the 1899 mill from Meadows Mills Co. in North Wilkesboro, N.C. The whole kernels fall between two 30-inch millstones, and, as the belt turns, the millstones grind the kernels into corn meal.
The Readyville Mill is ready
Originally built in 1812 on the East Fork of the Stones River, the Readyville Mill after 30 years of inactivity is again producing stone-ground corn meal.
Owner Tomm Brady will be at the mill most Saturday mornings grinding, packaging and selling 3½-pound bags of yellow and white corn meal for $5 a bag. Call Brady at (931) 580-3631 before you head to the scenic Cannon County mill located behind Russell’s Market on old Highway 70.
Readyville is 1.5 miles from Highway 70 South, 12 miles east of Murfreesboro and about 35 miles southeast of Lebanon. Go online to www.readyvillemill.com to be directed to videos of the mill on Youtube sites. The Readyville Mill also has fine facilities available for weddings, parties, receptions and reunions. For rental information, call Nora Robinson at (615) 409-1405.The finely-ground corn meal lands in the meal bin, where he can scoop it up and pour it neatly into a paper sack which bears a tag with a recipe for cornbread and the Readyville Mill brand.
“What’s good about this corn meal is that it is 100 percent whole grain corn meal,” he said. “We don’t take anything out and we don’t add anything. If you buy corn meal at the grocery store, the germ and corn oil have been removed to give it a longer shelf life, and the flavor goes with that because the corn flavor is in the oil and the germ.
“We want you to refrigerate all whole grains because they have the oils in them. Once this meal has been ground, it needs to go in the refrigerator.” Brady began rejuvenating the mill in the spring of 2006 after he discovered it by accident while searching for millstones.
“Horseshoer Steve Edwards told me there were some millstones in the river behind Russell’s Market, but I didn’t know there was a mill there. So I found it completely by accident,” said Brady, who, after purchasing the mill, has slowly but surely nurtured it back into a thing of beauty.
The original 1812 mill is believed to have burned to the ground during the Civil War. In 1878, Robert Carter built a new mill and a house on the site.
Handyman Brady estimated that he has done 98 percent of the restoration work himself. “I roofed it, I wired it, I painted it,” he said.
He offered a quick rundown of all the improvements he has made:
“We jacked the mill itself up and replaced the rotted seals with steel eyebeams. We re-roofed the whole complex; rebuilt the windows and replaced rotted siding. I painted and insulated the ice house and granary and put tongue-and-groove poplar interior walls inside those buildings. I’ve added running water and heat and air and added bathrooms and rebuilt a cabin into a miller’s house.”
Found in the rafters of one of the buildings, a sign from the 1950s that once stood by the highway is now attached high on the breezeway between the granary and icehouse. It reads: Readyville Mill Manufactors of Flour, Corn Meal, Poultry Feed.
The 19th-century grist-mill complex features a four-story mill, granary, icehouse, log corn crib and miller’s house.
“It’s absolutely awesome. Every time I see Tom’s truck there, I stop and thank him and try to encourage him,” said Thea Prince, president of PARQ. “It is the right timing. There are so many ingredients in the county that can play into sharing the mill from the arts center to the elementary school tours to maybe a craft event, and he’s so willing to share it. Now he’s got it all the way it should be.”
PARQ (Preserve the Area’s Rural Qualities) is a non-profit organization in Readyville that strives to preserve and protect the rural quality of life in the area. Among other goals, its members support concerns such as recycling, historical site preservation, water and air quality and encourage community awareness and participation.
For now Brady plans to be selling corn meal at the mill on Saturday mornings, but customers and sightseers should call first.
Extinct Wilson County mills
The river-powered mills that once dotted the Wilson County countryside seem to have all but disappeared. Among some of those mills are the following:
Matthew Figures built a grist mill in 1799 in Cedar Creek about seven miles northeast of Lebanon. This may have been between the Centerville and Taylorsville communities where a portion of a dam remains.
A corn mill was built in Smith's Fork by John Hays about four miles southeast of Statesville in about 1804.
Alsup's Mill on Fall Creek was constructed by Asaph Alsup around 1808. The mill stones came from the Goose Creek Quarry near Red Boiling Springs, Tenn. The dam still remains.
Wilson L. Waters built a gristmill and sawmill in on Round Lick Creek in Watertown in 1857.
Page's Mill, a steam sawmill on the Cumberland River.
Many Wilson County natives in the Cainsville and Norene communities also remember taking corn and wheat to Brown's Mill on the Stones River in Ruthedford County up into the 1960s.
He also has made the granary into a dining area with tables and chairs to seat 85. It includes heat and air and bathrooms. It may be leased for weddings, class reunions, family reunions, luncheons, holiday parties or any kind of gathering.
On a recent Saturday night, about 150 folks visited the mill as part of the Cannon County Lions Club Tour of Homes. “Their comments were all positive,” Brady said. “Some people were just amazed at how it looks now, and everybody loved it.”
What comes next?
“I’m still waiting on the state to get some money in and help me in repairing the dam,” said Brady, who dreams about the day when the Readyville Mill may be powered by the rushing waters of the Stones River as in yesteryear. “I think chances are good that river water will flow under the mill again.”
Contact writer Ken Beck at email@example.com.