Volume 3, Number 10 - Winter 1970

Dawt Mill,
Famed Landmark on the North Fork River,
Still Grinds On
by Ruby M. Robins

Dawt Mill, once a thriving pioneer business and industrial center on the North Fork River, stands as one of the landmarks in the milling history of Ozark county. Still in operation, the mill now produces only cornmeal.

Carefully preserved against insect and weather damage, the old gray mill with its red trim, is repaired when necessary, but in keeping with its original design, by Mr. and Mrs. Wayne W. Dinnell who purchased the property in 1966.

The rail-fenced picnic area with the Dinnell log cabin home in the background.

The rail-fenced picnic area with the Dinnell log cabin home in the background.

They had sold their woodworking and gift shop in Garberville, Calif., and were vacationing in the area when they decided to visit the mills in Ozark county. While at Dawt, they learned it was for sale and later purchased the mill and a surrounding area from a Mtn. Home real estate dealer, who, with others, had earlier acquired the mill and a large amount of property from Mrs. Ray Hunt. The other property near the mill was recently sold to Dr. Arthur Mallory, President of SMS, Bill Virdon, manager of the Pirates, Jim Peters and Marvin Fowler of West Plains.

Mrs. Hunt and her late husband, Ray Hunt, had owned and operated the mill since 1945. Before that it had been owned by a number of millers since it was completed in 1900 by master millwright Alva Hodgson, who built another Ozark county mill, Aid Hodgson, also still in operation.

Mr. and Mrs. Dinnell, since they have had the property, have landscaped the grounds around the mill; established picnic areas with tables, benches and fireplaces; installed modern public restrooms; provided parking area for trailers; and erected a rail fence around the picnic area from ancient rails which once fenced an 80-acre farm in the Udall area. The rails were purchased from Mack Kesner and were built into a fence here by Jack Tillett of Caulfield.

They also designed their new 16- by 20-foot, handsome, modern log cabin home. The best logs from three cabins which once stood on the Elmer Hamilton and Mitchell farms were used in the construction, and stone from the cabin fireplaces were used to build the large fireplace in the new home.

The log structure of the house is authentic in construction, with interlocking ends, but modern concrete over chicken wire was used to chink the logs. The old shutters are also used at several windows.

The interior of the home makes use of the log walls, and the 10-foot open beamed ceiling in the living room is painted in red and white, colors, along with gold, repeated in the furnishings and draperies of the room.

In keeping with the log cabin theme, the kitchen has a modern electric stove designed to resemble an old fashioned cook stove and the timer resembles a coffee mill.

From the living room, and the attractively furnished bedroom, with its built-in-bed and storage areas, the view of the landscaped

The fast flowing waters of the North Fork River swell and eddy below the old pioneer dam.

The fast flowing waters of the North Fork River swell and eddy below the old pioneer dam.


terrace, picnic area, rail fence and old mill is exceptionally lovely.

Around the front of the mill are lookout points, and as a tie in with the past, a mill-wheel, for decoration only, has been added. Carl Schmidt designed and prefabricated the wheel and it was then assembled at the mill last year.

Mr. Dinnell said that so many visitors seemed disappointed at not seeing a wheel, he thought the authenically designed wheel would add to the enjoyment of the mill, which it has, he said.

The mill is furnished with two grinders capable of grinding about 750 pounds of corn an hour. The turbines supplying power to the grinders are in turn powered by a mill race fed by a long, angling, low level dam constructed in 1897 by the first miller to locate here, John Caldwell.

When the Caldwell mill was destroyed by fire some three years later, Alva Hodgson acquired the property and built the mill which soon had a booming business. During milling time, wagons loaded with grain filled the area, as farmers waited their turn to get their grain ground at the mill, which during the season, ran 24 hours a day.

Besides the mill, Hodgson operated a cotton gin and store. The store, also still standing, once housed the Dawt Post office, established in 1907 by Jonathan W. Pattillo. It was closed out in 1934, and now the near by Tecumseh post office on 160 Highway serves the area.

The source of the name has been a mystery and matter of speculation. Mr. Dinnell said that John Bratcher of Springfield, descendant of a pioneer family in the area, told him that the name is from a character in a novel, but did not identify the novel.

The front view of historic old Dawt Mill gives a deceptive impression of its true size.

The front view of historic old Dawt Mill gives a deceptive impression of its true size.

As a part of the preservation work being done at the mill, the Dinnells are now shoring up the steep bank upon which the mill is built. Erosion was beginning to encroach well into the bank and would in time have threatened the mill.

Already 46 loads of gravel and dirt have been dumped along the embankment, and when the work is completed, grass, vines and shrubs will be planted to combat further erosion. Two huge oaks and a sycamore, whose tangled roots have been laid bare by the washing away of the bank, are now braced in an effort to preserve their beauty to the enhancement of the mill.

The mill is located at the upper end of the headwaters of Norfork Lake, and float trips on North Fork, one of Missouri's finest fishing streams, pass the mill on the way to the end of the trip at Tecumseh. The colorful canoes making up the float trip are a magnificent sight as they round the bend of the river above the dam, Mr. Dinnell said.

The impressive size of the mill is apparent from the river view.

The impressive size of the mill is apparent from the river view.

Generally the canoes are carried past the dam and then put back in the river, but recently, during high water, two men shot the dam successfully. One of them enjoyed it so much, Mrs. Dinnell said, that he went back to do it again, but on the second try, he was thrown out of his canoe which was lost down river and he had to make it to shore on his own. He was wearing a life jacket and was not injured, she said.

Mr. and Mrs. Dinnell also have two antique cars in perfect condition, one a 1931 V-12 Cadillac and the other a 1908 four-cylinder Maxwell roadster with a right-hand steering wheel and a rumble seat. The cars are shown on request.

There is no charge for admission to the mill nor for use of the picnic areas provided by the Dinnells. Sandwiches, drinks and miscellaneous groceries are sold at the store along with souveniers, antiques and wood sculptures fashioned from drift wood by Mr. Dinnell.


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