Volume 4, Number 9 - Fall 1972

Stories of Old Mills of the Ozarks
by Bill Cameron

A Piece of McDowell Mill, Barry County, Comes to Taney County.

The McDowell Mill located on Flat Creek about 12 miles north of Cassville, Missouri and adjacent to the Old Wire Road (Military Road).

The old McDowell Mill still stands, but in a state of decay the only equipment left in it is what I believe to be the original Run of Buhrs. The reason for this belief is because of the type of installation and the wood millwright work compares with that done in the 1840’s. The old wheel and the water turbine are on the property but not in usable condition,

It would be a gift to posterity if some public minded person, or group would preserve this old mill as a memorial to our America’s hard driven but romantic, and to some of us, glorious past.

The first old Mill at McDonald afterwards McDowell was built and operated by the Tabler family who sold it to W.B. Patton and Alice J. Patton, his wife.

They in turn sold it to Wilson Hutchens who at that time operated a saw mill at the mill site. This sale is dated January 14, 1882. On August 11, 1883, Wilson sold a half interest to his brothers Isaac (Ike) and John F. and they operated the Mill under the name Hutchens Brothers. They were the sons of John B. Hutchens, who was born in North Carolina in 1825, and who came to Barry County, Missouri as the leader of a group of Quakers (Friends) and established their homes in a lovely setting on Flat Creek. He rests in the old Quaker Cemetery on the hill above Merles Chapel and Flat Creek.

Four Graves are enclosed with a border with names left to right. Milliscent Jones born 1811, died 1879. Simon Jones born 1811, died 1880. Elizabeth wife of John B. Hutchens born 1827, died 1910. John B. Hutchens born 1825, died 1878. John B. operated what was known as the Talbert Mill on Flat Creek at Blalack home, and also operated the first steam powered saw mill in the area.

This family (Hutchens Brothers) operated the old McDowell Mill until 1886, and at that time dismantled it and built the building which is still standing. They installed modern Roller Mill machinery in order that they could make a flour that was good and acceptable to the people of that time. They operated the new mill until 1889, when they sold it to William C. Davenport and F. C. Leuther. They then bought the Mill at Pioneer and moved there and spent the rest of their good and useful lives in that community.

The following heart interest story, came as part of a letter written to me by my friend Walter Hutchens Jones, while I was with the U.S. Army in 1943.

Quoted with permission of his family.

"My memory goes back over fifty years to when we lived at the old McDowell Mill. Mother had to have all her teeth upper and lower taken out. She drove the wagon with us children along, to Aurora to Dr. Gaither. As I remember there was no Cocaine, the Doctor just split her gums and went to yanking. We got back to McDowell along in the night." End of quote—Comment—"Courage".

Sarah Elizabeth Hutchens Jones was the daughter of John B. and Elizabeth Hutchnes. One of her daughters was named for her and Walters daughter Helen Elizabeth carried her name. They also lived with courage, and had the true nobility of kindness.


Changes came then Leuther sold to J.S. Coleman, and Coleman sold that interest to Davenport, who sold back to Coleman, who in 1899, sold it to Arthur Benjamin for $4,500. On November 5, 1900, George Short and Dave Dingier acquired the Mill and operated it until 1903 when Dingier sold his interest to Short. Short sold to Clute, Clute to Frederick, Frederick to Williams, then to L.M. Russell. On October 13, 1927, John C. Jackson became owner and operator until September 5, 1946. George and Linnie Bashaw operated it part time until 1951. The curtain was rung down on another Romance of our land.

(The following story was told by John F. Hutchens to his family, and told to me by his son Ted Hutchens.

When the family agreed to buy the Pioneer mill by a certain date they went to the cave located close to the McDowell Mill where they had buried their joint money for safety. They planned to dig it up, but on getting to the cave they found that two Bob cats had taken up residence there. They had to construct a wall with a narrow opening and trap the cats before they could get the money. They got it, but were two days late in keeping their promise to pay.)

The millwright and carpenter who supervised and worked on the mill building and installation of the Roller mill was Charles E. (Evan) Hutchens, the brother of the owners.

A rock from the McDowell mill has been built into a wall in the Ozark Mill, on the campus of S of 0 and an adz that was used by John F. Hutchens and his brothers when building the Mill will be there displayed.

Romance Mill

A hillbilly from above the timber line in Ireland, who became a dealer in milling machinery in the Ozarks, I was visiting with friends in Gainesville, in the 1920’s when I was told that the sheriff was about to sell a grist mill with one acre of ground and a spring at tax sale.

"Why don’t you buy it?" the suggestion was made, "The name of the place and the grist mill is Romance."

When I crossed over to the courthouse after this conversation, I had no intention of bidding. But when the sale was called, the name took hold and I made a small offer. No one bid against that offer, and I became owner of record of :Romance."

A farmer at the sale approached me and said, "I would like to have the old corn mill." We talked and a trade was made. He to own the buhr, and I to have lifetime hunting and fishing rights on a farm located on Bryant.

Sadly before the sun went down I had forgotten his name.

Going to Romance to look at my mill I found that the mill had in it some modern equipment, some of which had never been installed. Going to the store, I talked to the late Tom Moorehouse. He operated the store and had intended to be at the sale and buy the property to be used in bringing an industry, a canning factory, into being in Romance. Another trade was made.

He agreed to deliver what equipment I specified to a warehouse in Springfield, and I agreed to make him a quit claim deed to "Romance".

He kept his word, but two "wild ones" made the delivery. I guess they had been having an adventure with mountain dew. Anyway they were arrested and since they knew only one name in the town, that name, mine, was given to the law, and being romantic, I was out two small fines.

Still more romance is connected with the mill—it has to do with the disposal of the machinery. I sold the little roller mills to General Mill Equipment Company of Kansas City and they shipped to South America. The Barnard and Leas plansifter was sold to Fay Gray of Gray Electric Company of Springfield and it was shipped to Canada. The Buckley Grinder (never uncrated) was put to work in the Whinery Mill at Caplinger Mills. The little reels and elevators were used in the Karsted Flour Mill at Union. Romance traveled far.

The first mill at Romance, powered by a horse, resembled a sorghum mill. It was built by J.F. Norman. In 1886 Norman built a small steam powered mill.

From accounts in the Ozark County Times, I learned that when Norman bought the land claim at Romance in 1881 it was called California Springs.

A post office was established there in the same year and was named Nora, but as there were several post offices in the area that has similar sound, confusion resulted. Norman, when he became postmaster in 1882, decided to change the name and at the suggestion of his wife the name Romance was chosen.

The post office was closed in 1968.


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