A visit to Ozark County is incomplete without a tour of its famous old mills.
Life in Ozark County in the 1800’s was tough. Farmers would have to drive their wagons for many miles to mill their grain. If you love history and the power of water, you will enjoy a visit to the five existing mills in Ozark County. Dawt Mill and Rockbridge Mill have been restored and are full time resorts, Hodgson Mill, the most photographed mill in Missouri can be visited, but not entered, Zanoni Mill is an event venue and Hammond Mill has been converted into a luxury home, this megalith mill can be viewed from the outside as well.
Rockbridge offers peace and solitude.
Nestled in the Ozark Mountains lies the small village of Rockbridge. Alongside the village runs a beautiful, sparkling stream called Spring Creek where rainbow trout swim lazily along the rocky bottom.
Long ago, the village was the bustling hub of Ozark County, where people from miles around brought their grain to be milled, did their banking, shopped the general store and went to church. Now visitors from all over the world come to Rockbridge to enjoy the serene solitude and fish the crystal-clear stream at the Rainbow Trout and Game Ranch.
It all started back in 1868 when B.V. Morris, an Ozarks pioneer, built a dam and a mill on Spring Creek. The milling business was good enough in those days that Morris soon found it necessary to enlarge the mill, which he did in 1894. Morris built one of the finest buildings in the area.
Operated in subsequent years by Morris’ son-in-law, Lyle Ellis; the Bushong brothers, Herb and Melvin; and, finally, Morris’ son, Frank, the store sold everything from food to hardware (even coffins) and was the political hub and original county seat of Ozark County. It closed in 1933 when the patterns of traffic changed in the region, but was rescued from inglorious deterioration by the Amyx family. Lile and Edith purchased the town site in 1954 and launched Rainbow Trout Ranch, one of the Ozarks’ most successful resorts.
For 32 years, the Amyxes, along with their son, Ray, worked hard remodeling the old general store into a restaurant and resort lodge. The extensive refurbishing and expansion included the county’s best commercial kitchen, a dining area, a gift shop and a lodge. The stream that once powered the grist mill was stocked with rainbow trout grown in the ranch’s own hatchery, attracting more and more fishermen, making the resort one of the most popular in the Ozarks.
Tragedy struck, however, on Friday, Jan. 24, 1986, when flames consumed the Ozark County historical landmark, destroying the old Rockbridge General Store, which had been remodeled to house the restaurant and reception area. With the spring opening of the resort barely a month away, the Amyx family found they were seriously hampered by the loss of their reservation book, in addition to their dining room and restaurant facilities. Also, lost in the fire was an extensive collection of antiques, memorabilia and art, including an original Audubon painting. The fire was not enough to destroy the Amyx family dream though.
The Amyx family’s special attention to detail and dedication to customer satisfaction has been bringing customers back year after year to enjoy the quiet solitude at the resort.
The resort sits on 1,500 acres of the scenic Ozarks, sporting two nature trails for hiking and one mile of sparkling, spring-fed creek stocked with rainbow trout. Guest will find a bait and tackle shop, gift shop and a beautiful sitting lounge with a fireplace. What guests seeking peace and solitude won’t find are telephones or TV’s. Rockbridge is an oasis away from the phone and the blare of the television.
Rainbow Trout Restaurant is of the finest, specializing in a variety of menu choices: fresh caught trout from the stream, old-fashioned hash browns, hand cut chops and steaks, skillet-fried chicken or tender chicken-fried steak and gravy.
The Grist Mill, which serves drinks and appetizers, is located in the refurbished original mill. It now has an antique pub-like atmosphere where customers can enjoy the evening overlooking the waterfall while enjoying the coolness of the old mill.
In addition to the wonderful trout fishing, the resort also operates the Rockbridge Gun Club, known as one of the best-designed courses in the United States as far as accurately reproducing situations that occur in the fields and woods under actual hunting conditions.
Featuring safe and challenging fun to both enthusiasts and novices, the gun club offers trap, wobble trap and a 10-station sporting clay course which winds along a beautifully maintained trail. Everything a shooter needs can be purchased or rented at the club house, located just past the entrance to the Trout Ranch. The gun club is open during the winter, but it’s necessary to call ahead.
417-284-3540 or 888-884-3540
Dawt Mill Resort was the last operating Grist Mill in Ozark County. Built in 1897, like Rockbridge, Dawt once was a town with a blacksmith shop, store, church and hotel. Dawt Mill has become a fulltime resort with Cabin and Hotel style lodging, three restaurants and a concert venue not to mention legendary float trips.
Dawt Mill is located two miles northeast of Tecumseh, about a mile off Route PP. The first mill was built on the site in 1892, but later burned. The present mill was built in 1909 by Alva Hodgson.
Following several owners through the years, Dr. and Mrs. Edward Henegar purchased the mill in 1995 and began a major restoration and renovation of the surrounding property. A conference center/lodge was built, along with a restaurant and deli, and the old general store was restored. Lodging, camping, picnic sites, and canoe and tube rentals are available, and various special outdoor entertainment events are held during the warmer months.
This is the only mill still grinding flour and meal with burhstones. Baked goods using the fresh-ground grains can be purchased in the mill’s bakery. Handcrafted items also are available at the mill’s gift shop.
Hammond Mill, located three miles southeast of Thornfield off Route D south, is currently being restored as a private residence.
The three-story frame structure, built over a basement, was constructed in 1907 by John W. Grudier, one of the founders of the town of Hammond.
Hammond was a thriving community with a post office, drug store, general store, and blacksmith shop. The mill ran 24 hours a day, grinding flour. Unlike the other water powered mills on the county, Hammond Mill was powered by turbines. There was, however, a mill pond in back where people fished while waiting for their grain to be ground into flour.
Hammond Mill has been restored into a beautiful and rustic 3,600 sq. ft. home that can accommodate 10. Fishing, hunting and exploring guide service is available. No telephone, No computer. No A/C, just a gentle breeze through the trees and the sweet smell of the river…This is the place to vacation in peace and quiet.
Hodgson Mill is located 17 miles northeast of Gainesville on Hwy. 181 in the Sycamore area. It is advertised as the most photographed mill in Missouri.
The first mill on the site on Bryant Creek was built by William Holeman in 1861. Alva Hodgson bought the mill in 1884. The original burned and Hodgson built a new one in 1894 and, in 1898, his brother George Hodgson became operator and part owner of the mill.
After a grocery store that stood near the mill burned in the “50’s”, Charles T. Aid purchased the mill and it became know as the Aid-Hodgson Mill, remaining in production until 1977.
The mill was built over a spring that is reported to produce 28,900,000 gallons of water a day. This water stays a constant 58 degrees year round.
Before rural electrification (REA) came along, generators were powered by the spring, giving them power to run a cotton gin, sawmill and overall factory. Word has it that this is where the “Big Smith” overall originated.
In 1982, the worst flood ever recorded raged along Bryant Creek. The water stood more than four feet deep in the upper level of the mill. Another flood, in 1985, brought the water level to almost three feet in the mill’s upper level. The mill property is being restored.
Zanoni Mill is located nine miles northeast of Gainesville on Hwy. 181. It boasts the only overshot water wheel operation in the Ozark County mills. It is now an event venue!
Milling began at Zanoni during Civil War days in a little mud-built cabin built by John Cody. After the first mill burned, George Shoemaker built a new mill and added a sawmill. The mill burned again in 1905. That same year, A.P. Morrison built the third mill at Zanoni, sending to France for a new set of of 18-inch, flint burhstones at a cost of $125.
The mill was powered by a spring that flowed from the hillside at 226,000 gallons a day. The spring furnished Zanoni with modern utilities, running water and electricity. Zanoni also was the site of an overall factory in the 1920’s. Ownership of the mill and village passed back into the hands of the Morrison family when it was purchased in 1974 by David Morrison (grandson of A.P. Morrison) and his wife Mary. The Morrisons built a beautiful home on the site, leaving the old mill, general store and family home standing.
A lake in front of the home receives the spring water from the mill. The water then runs over the lake’s spillway into Pine Creek.
Zanoni Mill and home has been purchased recently from the Morrisons and is no longer a bed and breakfast, but it is an event venue.