A Treasure Hunt to Missouri’s
Jefferson City, Mo. –
Missouri’s bounty of rushing springs and streams
presented the early settlers with the water power they
needed to grind grain and saw timber. A 1902 map shows
more than 900 grist mills stretching to every corner of
“People looked forward to going to the
mill,” said Lesley McDaniel, administrator of the
Bollinger Mill State Historic Site near Cape Girardeau
in southeast Missouri. “You’d see people you hadn’t seen
for a while, catch up on the news, get your mail. They
were the hub of the community.”
Most of the mills
are long gone, replaced by modern machinery. But a few
remain in remote corners of Missouri, like relics of a
time gone by. Their stone-and-timber buildings and
sparkling waters provide some of the most scenic picnic
spots in the state.
They may require a drive to get to, but the effort is
like a treasure hunt with a picturesque reward waiting
at the end.
Four of the more popular mills are Bollinger, Alley Mill
near Eminence, the Dillard Mill State Historic Site
south of Steelville and Hodgson Mill in south-central
Missouri near the Arkansas border.
Here’s why these four are well worth a
Bollinger Mill State Historic
Site: The four-story stone-and-brick
building sits on the
Whitewater River, next to the 140-foot-long Burfordville Covered Bridge.
Completed about 1868, the bridge is the oldest of the
four remaining covered bridges in Missouri.
mill building is pretty massive,” McDaniel said. “It’s
one of the rare places on the American landscape where
you can see a covered bridge and a mill in close
Impressive wood beams line the
interior, where exhibits explain the history of the mill
and the milling process. Outside, a picnic area sits in
a grove of trees looking out over the river. A short
hiking path leads to the Bollinger family
are tables and benches where people can sit and take in
the beauty of the
facility, and listen to the water flowing over the dam,”
McDaniel said. “It’s a really peaceful
Bollinger Mill is reached by
exiting Interstate 55 at Highway 72, heading
through Jackson and west
on Highway 32.
Alley Mill: Along with the
Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the barn-red mill on
the turquoise waters of
Alley Spring is one of the most photographed scenes in
The spring pumps out 81 million
gallons of crystal clear water a day that tumbles
through lime-green beds of watercress over moss-covered
rocks on its way to the Jacks Fork River.
mill is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, a
national park that preserves stretches of the Current
and Jacks Fork rivers, the jewels of the Missouri
Ozarks. The mill, which was built in 1894, is open to
short path circles the spring, where hikers can peer
deep into the spring boil and enjoy the wildflowers that
cling to the face of the bluff from which the spring
From Eminence, take Highway 106 west
nearly six miles to the Alley Spring picnic area on the
right. The spring and spring run are closed to fishing
Mill State Historic Site: The quaint mill
building reflects in the stillness of a fishing pond,
while Huzzah Creek cascades noisily over a rock dam and
Yvonne Bobbitt, an interpreter
at Dillard, said local artists often set up their easels
just beyond the split-rail fence to try their hand at
recreating the picture-postcard setting.
just so calm and relaxing,” Bobbitt said. “And you
should see the red mill after a nice
The first mill was built on the Huzzah
near what is now the town of Dillard in the 1850s. It
burned in 1895, but some of the original timbers were
used in construction of the current mill, which was
completed in 1908.
Dillard Mill is special in that it has most of its
original equipment, and works. Turn a metal wheel to
allow the creek water in, and the gears grind, leather
belts slap and lines of wooden grain carts clatter
“The building has that nice, old rocking
motion,” Bobbitt said.
From Steelville, head
south on Highway 49 through Cherryville to the tiny town
Hodgson Mill: This is the
most remote of the four mills, located in Sycamore. The
town is little more than a road sign posted along
Highway 181, which twists and turns through the Mark
Twain National Forest toward Arkansas.
operations began at the spring site in 1837. A second
mill built in 1861 burned down, and the sturdy
three-story building standing today was constructed in
The abundant spring waters flow from
the base of a fern-covered limestone bluff into nearby
Bryant Creek, a lovely floating and fishing
A doctor from St. Louis bought the mill
building in recent years and hired Amish carpenters to
replace the foundation of wood beams. The mill remains
in private ownership.
The mill is named for Alva
Hodgson, a pioneering Missouri millwright who formed a
grain-grinding company. The company is still in
business, making stone-ground bakery products at
relocated, modernized mill facilities.
Mill makes a nice side trip for people visiting the area
to float the North Fork of the White River, a
little-used but pristine, spring-fed stream that is one
of the few in the state where wild trout
From Interstate 44, take Highway 63 south
through Cabool, catching highway 181 south to
Tom Uhlenbrock is a staff writer
for Missouri State Parks.
the Missouri Division of
The Missouri Division of
Tourism (MDT) is the official tourism office for the
state of Missouri dedicated to marketing Missouri as a
premier travel destination. Established in 1967, the
Missouri Division of Tourism has worked hard to develop
the tourism industry in Missouri to what it is today, an
$11 billion industry supporting more than 281,000 jobs.
For more information on Missouri tourism, go to http://www.VisitMO.com.
# # #
Foutes, Communications Manager
Missouri Division of
Stephanie Lynch, PR and Social Media Manager
Tourism News Bureau