Local News

October 8, 2009

'Mill Doctor' gets Prater's ready for weekend fair

VARNELL — Some people call John Lovett “the mill doctor.”

Lovett, the owner of Falls Mill near Winchester, Tenn., worked on the historic grist mill at Prater’s Mill on Thursday so it would be working for this weekend’s country fair and festival.

Lovett and his wife Janie have operated Falls Mill, and an accompanying museum and bed and breakfast for the past 25 years. He has become an expert on historic mills, taking part in the restorations of more than 36 vintage mills, he said.

“No two are exactly this same,” said Lovett, a retired engineer. “Prater’s is one of the older mills in the South that is still intact and pretty authentic. It is particularly valuable because of its age and also because of its ties to the area.”

Judy Alderman, president of the Prater’s Mill Foundation, refers to Lovett as “the mill doctor” for his skill in getting old mill equipment running. And Prater’s Mill definitely qualifies as old. It was built in 1855.

“I’ve known the Prater’s Mill folks for more than 25 years,” Lovett said. “I’ve been out here at least a dozen times, maybe more. I’ve helped them with all kinds of things.”

Prater’s Mill County Fair runs Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s one of the few weekends during the year the mill runs.

“I’m here today to put a belt on to run from the turbine shaft to the mill stones, so they’ll be able to run the mill for the fair,” he said.

Finding a new belt for the mill was fairly easy, he said, but many parts for the old equipment must be fabricated by a foundry or machine shop. Despite the work involved, Lovett said preserving old mills such as Prater’s Mill is an important task.

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