Milling Around Missouri — 4 of the Best

During their heyday in the mid-1800’s to early 1900’s, Missouri’s mills not only reduced much needed four but they also brought farm families together for a few days of camaraderie.

During their heyday in the mid-1800’s to early 1900’s, Missouri’s mills not only reduced much needed four but they also brought farm families together for a few days of camaraderie.

The wait to have grain ground could be several days, so farmers and their families camped around the mill. The men gathered in groups to swap stories, the women busied themselves with cooking and catching up with friends, and the children romped across the countryside with newfound playmates. There were dances, bonfires, and much merriment.

But the mills shut down as railroads improved the transportation of goods. No longer did stores need to rely on the local mills to stock their shelves; bigger mills could produce larger quantities of goods and send them by rail across the country.

Missouri’s mills, which once symbolized thriving communities, fell into disrepair. Many burned during the Civil War and were never rebuilt. Others were destroyed by vandals or washed away in floods.

But not all of the mills have vanished. Many of the surviving ones ore scattered across the state, and our guide to 79 mills will help you locate ones near you.

In southwestern Missouri, there is a cluster of four mills, all in good condition, that can be visited in a day’s drive. Located in the scenic ozark area, the following four mills provide a delightful destination for fall travelers.


ROCKBRIDGE MILL

At Rockbridge Mill and Spring Creek , soothing sounds of the cascading waterfall take your mind off daily worries, and it is easy to imagine earlier generations admiring the same peaceful view.

The mill has been perched on the creek’s bank since 1868. A village quickly grew up around it, so B.V. Morris, the mill’s owner. Joined with John Edwards to open a bank in 1903. The village prospered for years, but as the need for the mill lessened, the community dwindled. Thirty years after opening, the bank closed, followed by the mill’s closing in the late ’40’s.

In 1954, the Amyx family bought the mill, Today, the area that was once home to villagers continues to teem with people Ray Amyx maintains the mill as a historic attraction at his popular resort, Rainbow Trout and Game Ranch.

Now, people gather by the mill during the day to socialize. Those in search of adventure can wade into the chilly water and try their luck at catching rainbow trout swimming near the waterfall. The clear-running water allows the fish to be seen by anglers. Mill admirers wanting the best angle for a photograph should also venture into the water because the opposite bank provides a better view of the red mill and its sloping roof.

At night, the doors of the mill open to reveal a bar lit by lanterns hanging overhead. People can sit on the mill’s deck and enjoy drinks while watching the sun set behind the hillside.

Those who can’t bear to leave the tranquil setting don’t have to; rooms are available for rent. The resort’s restaurant has also earned a reputation for tasty fish dinners, and the bank has been converted into an antique store. For more information or make reservation, call (417)679-3619.

ZANONI MILL

Ozark County’s only surviving mill with an overshot water wheel is backed up to a rocky hillside. Spring water pours out of these hills into a wooden flume, which funneled the water over the wheel.

A.P. Morrison owned the mill and the nearby general store, which housed the post office. A.P. was a storekeeper who also served as a county commissioner. His grandson, Dave, says he can remember hearing stories about square dances being held in the mill and a sewing factory operating on the second floor. “It was quite a little village in the wagon days,” Dave says.

The mill shut down in 1951, and A.P. died on 1969. A St. Louis man owned the mill and the surrounding land for a few years later, they began building the colonial home that sits in front of the original farmhouse. After their children went to college, the couple decided to open their large home to others. Taking its name from the mill, the Zanoni Mill Inn attracts visitors from across the country.

In front of the mill is a lake fed by Zanoni Spring. Guests can take leisurely rides in paddle boats or fish form the banks.

“I’ve always liked this place,” Dave says. “It is home to me, and it has a lot of historical interest to many people.” For more information or to make reservations, call (417) 679-4050.


HODGSON MILL

To keep this mill form being disturbed, visitors aren’t allowed on the property. But don'[t let the fence or the “No Trespassing” signs keep you from admiring the mill from afar. Luckily, this turbine-powered mill is visible from a pull-off area along the road, and a peek at this structure is well worth a few minutes of your time.

The combination of the red mill tucked up against the hillside and the clear tumbling waterfall in front of it makes a picturesque scene.. The mill overlooks the Bryant River, so visitors can stick their hands in and feel the frigid water.

The first mill to stand at this site was built around 1870. Alva Hodgson bought the mill in 1884, and it is named after him.

The mill changed ownership through the years until C.T. Aid purchased it in the early 1930’s. Then called the Aid-Hodgson Mill, it remained in the Aid family until 1998 when it was sold to a man wanting to restore it. He died recently, and now the mill faces an uncertain future.


DAWT MILL

Built in 1887 by Alva Hodgson, this mill continues to serve as a center of activity. The mill is at the heart of a resort area that includes campsites and a general store.

The mill burned in 1896, but it was rebuilt a year later and has been kept in working condition for more than 100 years.

Don’t let the water wheel next to the mill fool you; it is only for looks. A turbine powered by the North Fork River ran the mill.

On the mill’s porch are a cluster of antiques next to a bench that invites visitors to rest a spell. Inside the mill, most of the equipment is intact. But the machinery shares space with a gift shop that sells an assortment of wares from T-shirts to jelly. Cinnamon rolls, cookies, and bread are baked in a kitchen in the mill and provide the rustic structure with an unexpected sweet scent.

Near the mill is the old general store where nature-lovers can reserve camping sites or sign up for canoe or tubing strips down the North Fork River. Water enthusiasts are dropped off upriver from the mill, so they can float down to the Dawt site where the trip ends.

For travelers who aren’t in a hurry, a walk onto the concrete bridge provides a prime spot for watching the waterfall. From this location, the mill also appears more impressive as it looms high on the hill.

— by Renee Martin Kratzer, MissouriLife, October/November 1999