Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Battle of Franklin, Eastern Flank / McGavock Gristmill and Sawmill

Marker ID:  
Location: 1368 Eastern Flank Cir, Franklin, TN
County: Williamson
Coordinates: N 35° 54.614    W 086° 51.611
  35.91023333    -86.86018333
Waymark: None


Battle of Franklin, Eastern Flank
McGavock Gristmill and Sawmill

During the battle, Confederate forces charged a gristmill and sawmill that stood directly in front of you on the Lewisburg Pike. In antebellum Middle Tennessee, tobacco grew well in the north, while cotton blossomed in the south. Corn, wheat, and timber flourished around Franklin. This local surplus of grains and wood created a great demand for mills, and several were constructed. John McGavock and business partner C.C. Barrett erected their gristmill and sawmill here late in the 1850s to supply the town and countryside with fine flour and sawed lumber.

The mill reflected the modern age as well as the ancient world. Although the machinery ran on belts and gears turned by a steam engine, the foundational device of the Industrial Revolution, a male slave whom McGavock purchased for $2,500 operated the boiler and mill. This high price (twice as expensive as most adult male slave) was due to his rare skills—he was essentially an engineer.

The fates of the buildings and the slave are unknown. John McGavock likely sent the man southward early in the Civil War, as he did with most of his slaves, in an attempt to keep them from running away to freedom as Federal forces approached.

Erected Tennessee Civil War Trails.

[This marker may also be found on HMDB.org]