'Save the Dam' fundraiser to benefit 238-year-old Amis Mill Dam restoration

Jeff Bobo • Oct 31, 2018 at 1:52 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The Amis Mill Dam has survived 237 winters, and owner Jake Jacobs is hoping to see it still standing after its upcoming 238th winter, but he knows eventually it will fall if it isn't restored.

An engineering study conducted in 2012 estimated the cost of restoring Tennessee's oldest laid stone dam at around $200,000, and despite several previous fundraisers, he's raised less than $10,000 so far.

But the purpose of “Save the Dam” fundraisers like the event scheduled for Nov. 8 in Rogersville is as much to educate as it is to raise funds, and Jacobs is hoping that raising public awareness about what is at stake will eventually lead to a solution.

“I would like to expedite this project as much as possible because every time we get a big heavy rain, and we get lots of wash, I worry,” Jacobs said. “Particularly winter time is when I worry about it the most. Every spring I hold my breath and just hope for the best. It’s leaking most profusely around the hole where the flume was that fed the mill, and that’s what the engineers told me to watch. That’s the weakest place in the dam.”

This year's "Save the Dam" fundraiser is something new. In past years, Jake and Wendy Jacobs have hosted Christmas tours of their historic "Amis House," which was constructed about two miles south of Rogersville around 1781 by Revolutionary War hero Capt. Thomas Amis.

The family is dealing with some illness this year, however, so instead they’re holding a "Save the Dam Fundraising Gala" in downtown Rogersville at Occasions on the Square, 101 W. Main St. in Courthouse Square.

The gala is Nov. 8 beginning at 6 p.m. and includes a five-course "Taste of Bayou" meal with wine and cocktail pairings with each course and ending with "an amazing dessert."

Live entertainment will be provided by classical guitarist Gerald Sheppard, hosts will be dressed in colonial attire and there will be a silent auction.

And there will be video information presented about the history of the dam, the current status of its condition and what must be done to make repairs.

Tickets are $50 per person with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward repairing and preserving the dam.

The dam was the first structure that Thomas Amis built here in 1780 upon arriving here on his land grant.

It’s the oldest laid stone dam in Tennessee, and it was built to feed his mill, which was just downstream.

The dam is laid stone, so it has seams and cracks. Jacobs noted that a lot of the mortar that was in those has washed out. Water is leaking through the stones and it’s eroding, and it’s just a matter of time before it collapses.

The Jacobses have inquired about grant funds to repair the dam, but the fact that it’s on private property has been a hindrance.

In order to repair the dam, they must drain it, clean it and reface the upstream side.

Jacobs added, "They were smart enough when they built it to actually put a drain in it. So it can be drained, but it then has to be dredged, cleaned and sealed. It’s going to be a costly process.”

The dam is located across the street from the Amis Mill Eatery, 127 W. Bear Hollow Road, as are the ruins of the mill and Big Creek Visitors Center, which offers educational materials about the history of the area.

Anyone interested in attending the “Save the Dam” fundraiser can purchase tickets online at amismill.com or call (423) 272-7040. Only 100 tickets will be sold.

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