A long article by Docia Karell tells the history of one of the few remaining operating mills in the Ozarks in 1930. The mill was “just below Jackson’s Springs, eight miles southwest of Ava". The mill ground corn between massive stone burrs turned by a water wheel. The owner at the time, Tom L. Jones, would grind three to four tons of corn and wheat a week. According to Karell, “in accordance with immemorial custom”, millers would take one eighth of each bushel of ground flour or meal as payment. A former owner of the mill, Thomas Cox, operated the mill during World War I, when the revived use of corn meal made the work especially profitable. According to Cox the mill and a hotel was built by Bill Ford in 1850. He only stayed in the region for about six years. Tales grew up about the hotel that peddlers who stayed there were never heard from again. It was later said that there were trap doors in the floor of the dining room that opened over the mill pond but no bodies were ever found. These tales led to legends of the mill being haunted.
Ford sold the mill to Joseph Lyon in 1856. Lyon tore down the hotel and moved the mill and began using an overshot water wheel instead of the original turbine that Ford had used. Lyon built a house on the hill above the mill but as Karell reflected it was in a very dilapidated state, “the last stages of disrepair” in 1930.
During the Civil War, Jim Helms, a guerilla commander, called out Joseph Lyon and killed him for his northern sympathies. According to the article, Jim Helms was believed to have killed seventeen other men in the area that he had personal grudges against. The mill was then operated by Orville Lyons, Joseph's son. Orville was killed in 1869 by his business partner Jim Wilson, in an argument over equipment repairs.
Around 1878, “Old Doc” Harles, from Christian County, bought the mill from the Lyon heirs. He built a new three story millhouse several yards down the stream. He installed a carding machine and wheat and flour burrs as well as the old cornmeal burrs. After Harles death, his children traded the mill property to Frank Hart, who sold it shortly after. The next owner, Louis Huffman, put in a sawmill and lathe and produced chairs for a time. The Jackson Springs were named after the next owner, Steve Jackson. Jackson sold to a Bloomer, Bloomer traded to Jenkins, Jenkins died and Cox bought the mill from his widow, he ran it for a few weeks and sold it to John Grudley of Ozark County but Cox bought it back in 1917 and kept it for two years. He then sold to Thomas; Thomas traded to Scott; Scott traded to Phillips; Phillips trade to Sitsler; Sitsler traded to Whittenberg and then “somebody set the mill afire.”
In 1925, a year after the fire, Tom Jones bought and rebuilt the mill. After learning that the mill stones for grinding corn had been taken to a smaller mill he restored them to his rebuilt mill. He said that they had originally been imported from France and hauled to the mill by oxen from St. Louis for the original mill. Jones also operated a sawmill and made oak shingles. In 1930 E.H. Eular of Mansfield was poised to purchase the forty-five acres that included the springs, house and mill. Eular was hoping to develop the land as a fish hatchery and summer resort. This endeavor would mean that the millsite would be covered by a two acre lake and the developer would then use the mill wheel as a decoration.
Docia Karell hoped that someone would step in and continue to operate the mill.
The information in this article was taken from “Ghostly Mill Softly Grinds its Swan Song” published in the Leader & Press July 30, 1930. This article and several others about the mill can be found at Newspapers.com.
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