Surreal Sites II: Roller and Gristmill Archaeological Sites on the Mark Twain National Forest

Grain mills are a significant part of Missouri’s history and the remains of some of these mills are found on the Mark Twain National Forest (MTNF). There was a time in the Turner Millnot-too-distant past when farming families gathered at a mill near their community to have their harvested grain milled and to socialize with other people in the area. Many gristmills and roller mills operated near the spring branches in Missouri and were once important social hubs for communities.

Cultural Resource Management on the MT includes managing the remains of some of these mills. Since I started working on the MT, I’ve had the opportunity to monitor these fantastic sites that are open to the public. Here are a couple of mill archaeological sites near the Irish Wilderness in the MTNF.

Greer Mill is located near Alton, Missouri off of Highway 19 in the Ozark Highlands. Greer Mill was built in partnership by Samuel Greer and George Mainprize, and was in operation from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. The mill is a two and a half story roller mill that stands above Greer Spring. A system of pulleys and steel cables once transferred the power to operate the mill on top of the ridge.

The remains of Turner Mill are located down a remote gravel road deep in the forest. On the day that I shot this photograph, it was a rare cool day in July and steam was hugging the forest floor along the stream. I’ve seen the remains of Turner Mill before, but I’m amazed every time that I round the trail and gaze upon the immense size of the mill’s overshot wheel.
The wheel stands about twenty-five feet (7.5 meters) and sits in the stream along with drive shafts and a stone burr. The wheel and drive shafts look like parts that a giant being had dropped and have long since forgotten.
From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, Turner Mill undergone modifications (and owners) but at its operational peak, Turner Mill was about four stories in height.