A History of Evins Mill
The Early Years
The history of the property known today as Evins Mill actually dates back to 1824, when a Tennessee Land Grant recorded it as Lockhart's Mill. Since then, the land has seen several owners, including the Lockhart, Lawrence and Webb families, all of whom built mills on the property. Perhaps the most well known proprietor was the politically prominent Evins family.
The Evins Era
Edgar Evins was a state senator and successful businessman with a variety of interests, including banking, bussing and oil. He bought the property in 1937 and built the present mill two years later, in conjunction with an emerging business in Lebanon called Martha White. At the end of World War II, Edgar ceased milling operations. While the mill lay dormant for years, the present log lodge that his wife Myrtie built in that same era became a bustling summer retreat for the Evins family.
Mrs. Evins passed the property to her son, Joe L. Evins, who, as a U.S. Congressman from 1946 to 1976, used it as a political retreat. Governors of Tennessee, including Buford Ellington, Estes Kefauver, and Frank Clement visited the Congressman here, as did Evins’ friends Albert Gore, Sr. & his son Al Gore, Jr. Before becoming a U.S. Senator and later U.S. Vice-President, Al Gore Jr. was elected to the same congressional seat Evins once held.
In addition to these political gatherings, Evins also used the property as a place for personal events, including the wedding reception of one of his three daughters. Decades after the Congressman bequeathed the property in 1980 to his alma mater, Vanderbilt University, two of Evins' granddaughters would end up hosting their weddings and receptions at Evins Mill.
In 1986, Angel & Robin Isaacs purchased the land from Vanderbilt and established it as the headquarters of their business, ICDI, which developed software technology for drilling oil wells. Angel later converted the property into a private hideaway for Christian music recording artists and songwriters, which she called Chapelgate. In fact, Amy Grant recorded her record-breaking "Lead Me On" music video at the base of Carmac Falls.
The family spent thousands of hours renovating the buildings and is responsible for designing and engineering the bridge that currently spans Evins Mill Pond. To this day, Angel shares a deep affection for the property that figured so prominently in her life, authoring "The Chapelgate Adventure Series" and using the property as the setting for her books.
In 1991, Nashville businessman Bill Cochran, of Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, acquired the property to use as a private retreat for his family and business. He dubbed it “The Mill” and then transformed the upper floor of the Gristmill into a conference center and, with the assistance of his wife Anita, renovated the Main Lodge. Their contribution to the Lodge’s comfortable ambiance is apparent in a number of its decorative touches.
For the next four years, Bill's business used the renovated facilities as a sales training center, while his family enjoyed the property at holiday gatherings and for other special family events. Bill's nephew hosted his wedding at The Mill, and years later his youngest daughter hosted her rehearsal dinner there. Bill's son William, then a wee twenty-something, hosted more than one revelrous outing at the Lodge and in the process developed a deep affection for the property.
In early 1994, Bill and his son William formed the Cochran Management Company, which acquired the property and developed it further, most notably with the construction three Guest Houses that housed twelve Creek Side rooms. In October of that same year, Evins Mill opened its doors to the public. In the early years, the property was used almost exclusively as a corporate retreat, and in fact was first called “Evins Mill Retreat.”
In 2000, the business expanded its services and clientele to include leisure travel and special events, such as weddings, receptions and banquets. To better represent this more diverse portfolio of services, offerings and patronage, the property became known at this time and remains known today simply as Evins Mill. In this era also, Evins Mill attracted all its key employees, who remain on "active duty" to this day.
To better accommodate this more varied client base, Evins Mill embarked in 2002 on a series of upgrades, including the addition of Cortland Hall and the remodeling of its guest rooms. The most ambitious project of all was the 2008 addition to the Main Lodge of Taylor Hall, Manning Overlook, Ivy Overlook and a bar in Adele Commons.
After weathering the Great Recession of 2009, Evins Mill in 2012 embarked upon a third round of improvements with a complete renovation and re-modeling of the Gristmill, the construction of a spacious pond side deck, the creation of a landscaped event lawn between the Gristmill and adjacent Granary and the forging of two new hiking paths to overlooks of Carmac Falls.
Most recently, Evins Mill in 2014 opened The Solstice, an eight bedroom luxury lodge at the resort's highest elevation. In the words of Nigel Tufnel of legendary Spinal Tap fame, The Solstice turns it up to "11," creating a more luxurious lodging experience for those seeking it, while adding more rooms to accommodate larger events and the growing demand for the Evins Mill experience. Even as Evins Mill evolves and grows, it strives to remain true to its heritage of down-home hospitality.