A lifelong interest in water power and old mills convinced him to buy property on Dumplin Creek. Almost a quarter century later the restoration is almost complete.
(WBIR-Dandridge) "I was raised horse and buggy Amish," Fritz Lambright said.
A water wheel in Dandridge is beautiful and functional. Emily Stroud and Jim Martin
That was a long time ago. But Fritz Lambright knew someday he wanted a water power site of his own.
"I had a girlfriend at one time when I was 18 who lived across the street from a small water powered electricity plant," he said. "I got in with the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills which is an international society."
He has earned his membership.
Fritz Lambright bought property in 1990 on Dumplin Creek in Dandridge and had a cabin built.
"I try to tell people I hauled the logs out of the woods with a team of oxen but they don't believe me," he said.
He restored an old grist mill, mostly by himself.
His experiences growing up guided him in figuring out how to make the old mill work.
"What keeps a flat belt on a pulley? I knew that when I was 10 years old because my dad would work on threshing machines and farm equipment in his blacksmith shop," he said.
He hasn't actually connected the equipment to generate electricity. But he can make grits.
Gravity turns the water wheel.
"That runs the belts which turn the grindstones and the grindstones crush and pulverize the grain and then it comes out of the grinder and goes through a sifter and you get grits or cornmeal," he explained.
He hopes to one day make grits and cornmeal on a bigger scale. And he really wants to open the mill to the public someday to show people what he has restored and how it works.
"I look back now and I don't see how I got everything done but I did," he said.
It's his own oasis in Dandridge.
"I actually live on an island. I'm surrounded by water. Very little on the one side but..." he said.
It is a beautiful place with historic roots but Fritz said it doesn't remind him of his youth among the Amish.
"I would have to hear horses trotting down the street for that," he said.