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Tour The Missouri Ozarks: Old Mills In Southern Missouri
A Guide To Missouri Mills
A Window To The Past
Southern Missouri is home to many well-preserved grist mills. Some are still in use, some have been turned into restaurants and bed and breakfasts, some are undergoing restoration. A few are not accessible by the public because they are on private land. But all of these can give you a glimpse into what life was like in the Ozarks a century ago.
These mills were the Wal-Mart of their day. It was a place to come grind your grain, sure. But more importantly, they were you came to visit friends and neighbors and catch up on the local news.
The Missouri Ozarks was, and still is in some areas, a sparsely populated area. It was not uncommon for farms to be miles apart. At these centers of social life, deals were made between business partners, sweethearts visited, children played, and women gossiped.
I had the opportunity to visit a few of these mills on a recent trip to the Ozarks. These mills should be at the top of your to see list while vacationing in the Ozark Mountains.
Hodgson Mill: A Story Behind The Flour
Did you ever see the picture of a mill on a bag of Hodgson Mill flour? Hodgson Mill isn't just a brand name of flour, it's a real place.
Hodgson Mill is nestled on the side of a cliff with a spring flowing from beneath it. It is easy to imagine settlers coming to grind their grain because it is still very rural and isolated. There are no modern buildings nearby.
Hodgson Mill was built by Alva Hodgson in 1897. It remained in use until the late '60's when the flour began to be produced offsite by more modern methods. It fell into disrepair for a few years and was damaged by yearly floods, but now it has been restored nearly to its original state and how become a popular tourist attraction. Hodgson Mill has also become a popular venue for weddings and baptisms.
The mill in this small Missouri town is fully functional and still capable of grinding grain. Visitors are able to watch the gigantic millstone turn with every turn of the paddle wheel. There is a gift shop inside the mill which sells Hodgson Mill products, along with homemade items, such as soaps, toys, and aprons to name a few, which are made by locals.
Admission to Hodgson Mill is free. Hodgson Mill is located off of Highway 181 near Gainesville, Missouri in Ozark County.
Other Nearby Attractions:
Rockbridge Mill and Trout Farm
Rockbridge Mill is one of the most scenic, peaceful mills of the Ozarks. The mill itself is situated on Bryant Creek. There are other historical buildings located nearby, including a trout farm, bank, and various buildings pertaining to the mill. The Mill also houses a restaurant, whose specialty is fresh trout. It serves excellent food with an excellent view of the river.
As with Hodgson Mill, Rockbridge Mill is a popular venue for weddings in Southern Missouri. The day I visited it a little crowded because of a wedding, but even with the crowd it was still a peaceful place to visit.
Also, Rockbridge Mill isn't a functioning mill like Hodgson. You are only able to view buildings, not how the mill actually worked.
Rockbridge Mill is located in Ozark County and is a few miles west of Hodgson Mill on Highway 142. If you're not looking for it, you'll pass right by it. There is a small dirt road located next to the trout farm which will take you to the river and the mill. Admission to the mill is free.
Things To See And Do At Dawt Mill
Dawt Mill is located in Tecumseh, Missouri. It was constructed in 1900 by Alva Hodgson, who also build Hodgson Mill located just 60 miles away.
Dawt Mill is a popular jumping off point for visitors of the North Fork River, so it can be very busy in the summertime. There are cabins available near the mill for rent, along with a small general store which sells basic supplies. Located inside the general store is a snack restaurant. Hot dogs and small sandwiches are served, along with ice cream. There is also a restaurant located in the original mill itself.
Dawt Mill is another popular venue for weddings, so there are times when the mill will be crowded.
Dawt Mill is located east of Gainesville, Missouri at the interstection of Highways 160 and PP. The old wooden building is perched on a bluff overlooking the North Fork River. Admission is free.
A Video Tour Of Ozarks Mills
More Information About Area Mills
- The Mills of Ozark County Missouri
A detailed history about the mills located in Ozark County, Missouri
Visit a Mill In Southern Missouri
Most mills in Southern Missouri are located in rural, hard-to-find places. However, all of these mills are worth the effort to drive to and find. They offer a beautiful and picturesque window into the past.
Some mills, like Hodgson's, show us how a grist mill actually worked. Others, like Dawt Mill and Rockbridge Mill, are still the hubs of activity that they were 100 years ago.
Other nearby mills, such as Hammond and Zanoni are located on private land and are not accessible to the public. We can only hope that one day these and other mills can be restored and shared with the public so that generations to come will be able to enjoy the social hub that is a grist mill.