The place names of the Obed Wild and Scenic River give only sparse clues as to the origins of those places and the meanings of their names. Much of the history of the area was not written down, leaving only conjecture and scholarship to try to decipher the clues that are left behind. The most valuable research that we have today in discovering the past is the site itself. By exploring the areas that surround the river, we can better understand the names that are attributed to it, and the people who once walked where we walk today. In this page we will attempt to explore some of those areas and draw some conclusions into the facts (and myths) of their past.
The old bridge at Nemo (pictured above) is but one of those places that have added to the story of the Obed Wild and Scenic River. Built in 1930-31, the bridge is now used by hikers who want to get an above-ground view of the river. During the past century, however, it represented the first iron structure to cross the river. Located just above the Obed-Emory confluence, the old bridge is now closed to motor traffic. A new cement bridge replaced it in 1999, but the old bridge had too much sentimental value to tear down. Local park neighbors still enjoy a leisurely stroll across the bridge.
In the 1930s a fellow by the name of Woodson Hawn built a corn gristmill on the northern bank of Clear Creek near the present Lilly Bridge. This gristmill used a horizontal tub wheel to capture the force of the rushing water to turn the millstone gears. The millstones scraped upon each other and produced cornmeal and flour, dietary staples of early Americans in the region.
The mill was later operated by Alva and Elvie Howard for approximately ten years. The Howards relied on the barter system of payment, grounding cornmeal for customers and keeping a portion for themselves. Decendents of the Howard family still reside in the surrounding counties of the Obed.
Because of its proximity to the old Lilly Bridge, the structure was given the name "Lilly Gristmill." Unfortunately, a flood in the late 1940s destroyed the wooden building and its vertical braces. Many historic villages throughout America today contain reproduction or restored gristmills, and many of those still produce cornmeal for visitors to enjoy. The Obed Wild and Scenic River today offers no such place...only memories of what once was.
Rising almost 50 feet from its base to its top, the Lilly Arch is one of the most impressive structures at the Obed Wild and Scenic River. The arch is made out of Pennsylvania sandstone, and is the only one of its kind in the park. Located near the end of the Point Trail, the Lilly Arch represents a link to the past. Like many of the park's boulders and cliffs, the arch was used by Native Americans and the early pioneers up to the early 20th century as a place of shelter. Today you can walk through the arch and peer down into the rushing waters of the Obed river.
The teaming up of land erosion, the crashing of techtonic plates, and the assaulting flow of the river over many centuries, resulted in the formation of this beautiful arch. It is not a stretch of the mind to believe that there were many more similiar arches located at the Obed during previous centuries. However, many of those either eroded over time, or collapsed and fell into the river below.
The Lilly Arch represents a portion of one of the most unique aspects of the park. Those who make the trek to see it will also pass by many other wonderful sightings of nature along the Obed.
Did You Know?
Did you know that the Obed Wild and Scenic River Visitor Center is located in the center of downtown Wartburg, Tennessee?