Take a Tour of The Ozarks Mountain and Mill Country

| 7/8/2012 5:56:44 PM

I'm very excited to be doing my first blog posting for Mother Earth News. I thought I would start with an intro and sampling of a popular Ozarks' subject which also happens to be the theme of my first book, Historic Ozarks Mills. The following entries are excerpted from the book, which is available for purchase on my website, www.Photozarks.com.  

The Ozarks Mountains and surrounding region are haunted by many old, historic, water-powered gristmills among the many other splendors of this rugged and beautiful land. These rustic treasures from the past remind us of simpler times gone by. During the pioneering days of the 1800s and early 1900s, they were the centers of activity, especially in the rural areas of Missouri and Arkansas. Folks lived, died, were married, traded stories, goods and services, and even got their haircut and horses shoed, all while visiting the mill to have their corn and wheat ground into meal and flour. Some of these mills even distilled spirits and cut timber as-well, and at least one used beasts of burden for its power source. Those that still survive are cherished and are living examples of the yesteryears. Although this era is often thought of with a mind full of romantic reminiscences, these times were usually difficult and filled with uncertainty, especially during the Civil War. A trip to the mill was viewed by many as a happy social occasion sometimes with celebrations, festivals, and revivals, in addition to the work and tradin’ that needed to be done.  

If these old mills could talk, what a story they might tell.    

All of the mills included in this blog still exist as of its posting and can be visited. Some are on public lands, others on private and can be viewed by the public, thanks to the graciousness of the owners. If you go see them, please obey any posted signs, seek permission if needed and remember you’re probably treading on a designated “National Historic Site.” My book features more than 25 mills. We will touch on a handful here.   

Let’s get started on the tour! Are you ready?  

Falling Spring Mill will start the tour. It’s one of my favorites to photograph and visit. It’s located in a remote area of Missouri’s Mark Twain National Forest. The mill is picturesque and well-hidden from the world on a narrow gravel road in Oregon County, Missouri. It’s literally part of a ghost-town and was powered by a small spring that Falling Spring Mill 0127spills from a hole in the bluff behind the historic structure. It used a rare, wooden overshot wheel (which means the water drops over the top of the water wheel). Constructed in the 1920s along Hurricane Creek and the old Thomasville Trail, the mill was once a busy hub for the local rural communities. It ground corn, was used as a sawmill, and even generated electricity for a short period of time. Some of the machinery is still part of the old structure, along with the mill pond and the builder’s old log home, called Brown’s cabin.    

7/19/2012 4:15:11 PM

Great post — can't wait to go mill hunting!

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