Volume 36 , Number 4 , Spring 1997
Vivid memories of the "old days" are recalled for A. W. Haswell, Ozark historian and writer who lives at Mansfield by recent stories and pictures in the News and Leader. Mr. Haswell writes as follows:
"The pictures of old Ozark mills, in the News and Leader bring vividly to my mind some old time experiences of mine. The first of these recollections carries me back to an October afternoon in 1870. I had saddled my horse, taken my old muzzle loading single barrelled shot gun and ridden out to the Sac, north of town to shoot wild pigeons. As I drew near the creek I heard the drone of revolving mill stones, and I rode in that direction until the mill came in sight. It was the "Old Fulbright mill," located in that which has now been for many years the beauty spot maintained by the Springfield Water company, around their plant at the Fulbright spring."
Built in 1836
"The mill was built in 1836, by John Fulbright, one of the immortal Fulbright brothers, actual first settlers of Springfield by a few weeks. It resembled closely some of the photographs in your paper; there was the great overshot wheel, with the water from the spring carried in a rough trough, and discharged at the top of the wheel. And the mill was busy too, grinding, after its 34 years of service, the corn and wheat of many a fanner from the northern part of Greene County; if that old mill had been preserved until these modern time, it would draw a steady stream of tourists to inspect the marvel.
"But my recollection is of a much more primitive structure than the Fuibright mill. It was in the early fall of 1871 that I was alone, classifying railroad land along the old "Wilderness Road" in Stone County, in the neighborhood of Marvel Cave, although it was many years before that cavern was exploited. Night was drawing near, and I knew that I better be looking for some farm where I could gain food and shelter if I did not want to spend the night in the woods supperless and shelterless. For although a few miles to the west in the valley of the James were good farms and hospitable folks, the ridge lands, where my work lay were wholly untenanted. My plats looked like checkerboards, half the squares red, for railroad land, and half white for government land. Whole townships without a single log cabin or farm."
Old Aunts Creek
"I struck off from the ridge following a shallow draw which I knew would lead me to some tributary of the James, which I could then follow to the main stream. I think it was the head of Aunts Creek that I reached, although after all the years I cannot be sure. But at any rate, I found a bold spring gushing out of the hillside, high above the depths of the valley, and below the spring was that which was certainly the oddest contraption I ever saw. There was a square frame, of heavy oak timbers, hewed square by the axe. At one side of this frame was a huge overshot water wheel, some 15 feet, or more, in diameter. The shaft from the center of this wheel extended through the frame of heavy timber. It was geared onto a smaller wheel, and this engaged the hewed hickory teeth of an upright shaft, which had at its lower end, a small millstone, and a rude hopper. I looked over that affair and I made sure that there was not a single nail, or iron bolt in the entire construction. It was fastened together entirely by long hickory pins or pegs.
"As I was looking at the mill I was delighted to see a small boy approaching seated on top of a sack of corn which was laid across a horses back. The lad was evidently intent on business, for he only acknowledged my greeting with a grunt; but he quickly dismounted, poured his corn into the hopper, and climbing up to the spring dropped a heavy oaken gate, which turned the water into a split log trough and carried it to the wheel. The old structure groaned in all its ancient joints, but the overshot wheel began to turn, and the little mill stone to revolve, and soon a thin trickle of meal began to flow into the empty sack which the boy had placed for it.
grind in a day, and he: Lowed ef a feller got a early start, hit would come nigh to grindin 10 bushels a day. I asked him if he would not be late when he got his meal ground, and he answered: Yes, but thars a good moon, and Ill git home agin mornin. My host on the James that night told me that that mill had stood there 40 years; built by the earliest settlers; had been exposed to the weather all that time, and was, as I had seen, still good for the purpose which those old pioneers had built it."
Springfield Leader and Press, August 14, 1930.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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