Hodgson Mill is powered by the force of a spring (15th largest in Missouri) that empties into Bryant Creek, a tributary of the North Fork River. The mill has been home to grain and flour milling operations, a cotton gin, and an overall factory. Hodgson Mill flour products are still produced in Illinois, but the stones no longer turn at the mill itself and the company has no business interest in the site anymore.
History does not tell us, but the original mill of 1837 either fell into disrepair, or succumbed to flood or fire. William Holmen would raise a new mill in 1861, but operations were cut short by the advance of the Civil War and Holmen took up arms for the Union forces We do not know if the mill withstood the ravages of that war, or if it was torched like so many mills during that time. Nonetheless, whether it was still standing or rebuilt, Holmen returned to milling after the war and kept the mill operable until it was destroyed by the flood of 1876. The miller would pass away in 1879 and his widow sold off the mill.
The “modern” history of Hodgson Mill begins with Alva Hodgson, who purchased the mill from owners Manuel and Elizabeth Smith (Alva married their daughter Mary). Alva constructed a new mill at the site in 1897 (the current structure now standing), and he and his brother George started the wheels turning again.
George Hodgson also ran a lumber mill upstream on Bryant Creek, just southwest of Dora, Missouri and his home stood up on the hillside from that location, with a small company store down near the mill. He had married and moved to Washington state for a time, but returned and entered business with his mother at that mill location. The brothers would run Hodgson Mill together until 1901, when George took over operations and Alva traveled downstream to Dawt Mill on the North Fork River.
A master millwright, Alva rebuilt Dawt. He would later move on to other enterprises in Henderson, Arkansas, including a cotton gin. The elder Hodgson would eventually return to Hodgson Mill in his last years. Suffering with poor eyesight, it has been stated that Alva still managed to help run the mill until his death in 1921. Future owners of the mill turned to new improvements in mill technology and exchanged the water wheel for a water turbine, which helped generate more power and milling efficiency. At one time, the output of the mill was capable of producing 3,000 pounds of flour or 2,500 pounds of meal daily.
After George Hodgson passed away in 1927, the mill sold several times until it came into the hands of Charles Theodore Aid of West Plains, Missouri and the name of the mill became the Aid-Hodgson Mill.
A tinsmith by trade, Mr. Aid had grown his business in West Plains into a thriving hardware store that grew into a department store. He then added the mill to his collection. Aid would pass away in 1939. During those fifteen years of ownership, the mill was leased out to several parties and it enjoyed only sporadic use.
In 1949, Fred Leach assumed the lease of the mill and launched a campaign to market the flour and mill as a tourist attraction. A grocery store once stood near the mill and it along with the mill, continued to operate until the early 1960s.
Later, Ken and Teena Harrington became owners and incorporated their antique business into Hodgson Mill and also began marketing the flour on a commercial scale. By 1974, even with improvements, the old mill could not keep up with demand and most of the operations were moved to a new plant in Gainesville, Missouri. The plant would later be moved to Effingham, Illinois and all production at the old mill would cease in 1977.
Extreme flooding hit Hodgson Mill in 1982 and 1985, and marks could once be found on the timbers that showed the levels of those floods and others. In the 1990s, Hank and Jean Macler purchased Hodgson, and with the help of community fundraising, Amish and local work crews restored some strength to the timbers that had now lived some 100 years.
The mill ownership now is under an out-of-state legal firm and the mill now sits empty. Visitors are left to stroll about the edges of the property and take photos.