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Amis Mill Eatery: Not just a restaurant, an experience

May 7th, 2012 9:05 am by Jeff Bobo

Amis Mill Eatery: Not just a restaurant, an experience

Amis Mill Eatery is perched on a hill overlooking the Big Creek Falls and Dam, which was constructed in 1779.

ROGERSVILLE - People come to the Amis Mill Eatery near Rogersville to experience its history.


They return to the Amis Mill Eatery again and again because experiencing the menu is an even greater pleasure.


In fact, much of the Amis history is literally written on the menu, which visitors can take with them after their meal. Since opening in mid-2010, the eatery has given away more than 20,000 menus which include stories of the land and the people who settled it.


Amis Mill Eatery is perched on a hill overlooking the Big Creek Falls and Dam, which was constructed in 1779. The eatery also sits in the shadow of the historic Thomas Amis House built in 1781.


Revolutionary War hero Col. Thomas Amis was granted about 1,000 acres two miles south of what would become historic downtown Rogersville as payment for his military service. That’s where Amis built his home, mill, a tavern, a general store, a school, a distillery, a post office and a fort for protection from hostile Native Americans.


In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Amis farm became a stopping point for nearly every traveler who passed through this part of the county including Daniel Boone, John Sevier, Andrew Jackson, and a long list of early American history makers.


More than two centuries later, travelers can still stop at the Amis farm for a good meal, a tour of the grounds, or simply to relax on a park bench beside the Big Creek Falls to listen to the water.


Retired restaurateurs Jake and Wendy Jacobs discovered the Amis property in 1988 while Wendy was researching genealogy on Thomas Amis, who is her great-grandfather five times removed. When the Amis property came up for sale in 2008, the couple sold their home in Colorado, purchased the 60-acre farm, and moved to Rogersville.


At its height, the Amis farm was a community, and that’s what the Jacobses now envision for the property, to create a living history museum by restoring many of the original settlement’s features.


The first step toward that goal was construction of the Amis Mill Eatery in 2010 to generate revenue toward ongoing restoration projects.


"The history of this place is just overwhelming," Jake Jacobs said. "The more we dug into the history of Thomas Amis, and the more we learned about this farm and all the people who were intertwined with him on this property, we discovered it’s basically a who’s who of early American history. A good example is Thomas Amis’ will, which was witnessed by two future governors, John Sevier and Joseph McMinn. They were just friends who spent time here."


Jacobs added, "To build this dam and the mill, and the house up on the hill in the middle of the wilderness in the 1770s and 1780s while fighting off indian attacks - what he accomplished here in that time period is mind-boggling."


In keeping with the historic ambiance, the eatery’s exterior siding is barn wood salvaged from the pre-Civil War Sensabaugh barn which was used as shelter by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Odds are those soldiers didn’t eat as good as Amis Mill Eatery patrons do, however.


"The food is casual, and we wanted it to fit the atmosphere yet fill a need for the area," Jacobs said. "In putting our menu together, I did a combination of things because I felt like we needed to be able to touch a lot of bases. We do great steaks and the price range is affordable, but we also smoke our own meats, and I even smoke the meat for our turkey sandwiches myself. We have some really good seafood on the menu, and then, of course, we throw in the Cajun dishes because we lived in Louisiana for 23 years."


Jacobs added, "I want to stay small so I can pay closer attention to the food and maintain quality."


Originally, the eatery sat about 60 with 20 seats inside and 40 on a covered deck overlooking the waterfall.


New to the eatery this summer, Jacobs built a lower deck to increase outdoor dining capacity with a view of the waterfall.


"When I was originally designing this place I envisioned the lower deck as well, but I wanted to wait and see if the business warranted it because I didn’t want to have space that wasn’t used," Jacobs said. "We’ve been here a year and a half, the word is spreading, and the business has grown, and I’m just now putting the finishing touches on the lower deck. The nice thing about it is it doesn’t interfere with the view for people eating on the original deck, which is why I intentionally built it stadium style.


"The new deck is strictly a summer deck, it’s outside on the east side of the building overlooking the dam and the waterfall, and in the afternoon it will be in the shade and provide a comfortable place to sit and eat, and enjoy the scenery."


Another recent addition is a pavilion, also overlooking the falls, which seats about 60 and has hosted weddings and other events since it was completed last November.


Jake and Wendy Jacobs believe opening the eatery is a calling and a duty to do their part in preserving a piece of early American heritage.


"The more we study the history of this place, the more it becomes apparent that we really don’t own anything," Jacobs said. "We’re just passing through. We’re caretakers. God didn’t give Adam and Eve the Garden of Eden, He put them in the garden to tend it. That’s how we feel here. God has placed us here in this garden to tend it, and that’s our responsibility."


Jacobs added, "That’s what this is all about. It’s more than a restaurant. It’s an experience."


Amis Mill Eatery is located at 127 West Bear Hollow Road about two miles south of Rogersville.


The Jacobses encourage everyone to "friend" the eatery on Facebook to receive regular updates on food specials and upcoming events. You can also check out the website at www.amismill.com or call 423-272-7040 for more information.

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