Modern folks living in the Ozarks are attracted to the hills and hollows of the region for much the same reason as ancestors who first settled here. Native Americans were drawn to plentiful game, and the abundant springs and streams. Those waterways had long ago carved out the multitude of caves and bluff formations within the Karst topography of Ozarks’ fame.
And as European settlers found their way into the region, they found the Aux Arcs to be home. To many of the Scottish and Irish homesteaders, not only did the land have the familiarity of their homelands, but those springs and rivers provided another important resource besides just the water…power to drive mills. And communities grew ground the mills.
Although many mills operated from the power of the waterways, others used simple animal driven power, and after the Civil War, others found energy from steam and electricity. Often victims to flood, or fire, or the wages of war, the face of the mills changed over time. Large complexes, with modern equipment, took over as communities grew. Older, and less sophisticated mills were abandoned, or just not rebuilt after suffering damage. Some of the more noted mills of the area carry a great history, but the majority of mill names and locations are forgotten, perhaps only found by a trace of an old mill race or pond, or the name of a miller found in dusty records.
Nowadays, most enjoy the picturesque scenery about the old mills that still stand, and the tidbits of the history they can find. We will explore some of the images and history of some of the Ozarks’ mills and springs in this issue and future issues of Our Ozarks Magazine.