Thomas Washington Smith was one of the original pioneers to settle Washington in 1857. He must have started to build his mill immediately after arriving the millstones were large and of granite and would have taken a Herculean effort to shape and transport them to the mill site. It is almost beyond comprehension to think he arrived in Washington in early May 1857, went to the base of Pine Valley Mountain and found large granite boulders these he cut into millstones, by hand, and built a mill on Machine Creek all in 1857. Coupled with this he had to care for and maintain a family it seems almost more than a person could do.
Apparently the difference between a corn cracker and gristmill is the ability of a corn cracker to grind corn into course corn meal and the gristmill to grind wheat into fine flour. The ability to grind different materials seems to be the means whether it is called a corn cracker or gristmill. The millstones for a corn cracker are slightly different than those for a flour gristmill. The grooves in the corn cracker are deeper and not as numerous as in a flour mill. This was needed to grind or crack the corn which if ground in a flour gristmill would clog the smaller and more numerous grooves.
"According to the record compiled by Andrew Jenson former assistant church historian, Thomas W. Smith built a corn cracker on the creek in 1857, the year of arrival of the Covington Company, of which he was a member." Thomas W. Smith's mill is referred in journals by both names, "corn cracker" and "gristmill." In a statement by William Alber McCullough who says: "— about a half mile farther down Thomas W. Smith built another gristmill, and about the same distance— a cane mill (Hawleys)." This "another gristmill" mill had to be the fist mill built on Machine Creek (Mill Creek). According to Andrew Karl Larson in the Red Hills of November the following is written, "One of the necessary means of making frontier life more livable is facilities for grinding grain into meal and flour. We can not be completely certain just who had the first mill for grinding at Washington. Neither are we sure of its exact location; but the rather meager evidence suggest that Thomas W. Smith had a mill directly south of town on the creek, close by the road leading to Washington Field by way of the lower crossing of the Virgin River. The foundation of the old mill is still visible. Years ago there was a huge millstone at the site, but this stone was moved—" this stone is the same stone mounted at this site. Family records state "he built a sawmill, gristmill, and corn cracker mill in Washington." Smith's mill must have ground both corn and wheat and whether he had two sets of millstones is not known. How he adapted his grist mill to operate as a lumber mill is also unknown, no drawings or written history are known describing his mill and operation.
He sawed trees from the Pine Valley Mountain to produce sawed lumber which he traded for cattle. He also was a road builder and was involved in building the road from Fort Harmony by way of Washington to Santa Clara. The contract was for $250.00. He was active in operating his mills until 1870 or 71 when he was called to go to Pahreah, Utah. Thomas Washington Smith was born 23 December 1815 in Tennessee and died in Pahreah, Utah on December 28, 1892.