When we last visited Falling Spring, we talked to some employees of the Forest Service and they told us about another interesting mill site, Turner Mill. They said all that’s left to see is the original 25-foot metal wheel, standing alone in the creek.
We struck off, by now it was late in the day, to find this anomaly. However, we gave up after about a half hour of driving around on old forest roads off of Highway 19, south of Winona, Missouri.
We recently returned to the area with the resolve to find Turner Mill. We found it. Frankly, this mills one of the most incredible, thought-provoking sites I’ve ever seen.
The History of Turner Mill
According to signage onsite, Turner Mill served the little village of Surprise, Missouri. The story goes that it acquired the name of Surprise because “of a village businessman’s astonishment when a petition submitted by Jesse L. (Clay) Turner for a post office was accepted by the government.”
In 1891, Turner purchased 160 acres and the spring. Fifty people lived in Surprise, and the post office sat in the back of the mill. Turner served as the postmaster, and also – as many millers did – ran a general store. He donated land and lumber to build the first school, and consequently, hired its first teacher, too. He also constructed a unique bridge over the Eleven Point River (which is where the spring flows). Turner tipped the bridge upstream, which made the high water flood over it instead of against it. He died in 1933 and the school closed in 1945.
The first mill appeared in the 1850s, built by G. W. Decker. It used a wooden overshot wheel. Turner rebuilt the wheel in the 1890s, and made the old four-story mill building sing again. It also had a planer, drill press, saws and of course, grinding equipment. The mill ground wheat and corn.
According to signage, “the possession of enough power to operate the mill and maintenance of the wheel were ongoing concerns.” Turner put in a turbine but replaced it in 1915 with the 25-foot overshot wheel. Oxen hauled it to the site. Oxen also pulled logs from the Eleven Point River to the mill to be sawed, since the roads ran rough back then.
Turner Mill Overshot Wheel
To see the Turner Mill overshot wheel, standing in the creek, you’ll need to travel to the Turner Mill North River Access, located on the left side of the Eleven Point National Scenic River.
Turner Mill Spring
The spring gushes forth from a high bluff, which you can climb up a trail to see. The spring offers 1.5-million gallons a day on average.
You may access the wheel and spring via the trail system in place at Turner Mill North River Access, run by the US Forest Service. The sight is open all year, 24 hours a day, with a vault restroom in the parking lot area. Camping is available at Turner Mill South. Grills and tables and a lovely put-in point for boats (25 horsepower limit) can be found here. You may also fish.
Turner Mill North is located on the left side of Eleven Point National Scenic River at mile 22.3. This access is 4.9 miles downriver of Greer Crossing. Located on the edge of the Irish Wilderness area near Alton, Missouri, Turner Spring is a lovely place for family fun. Turner Spring (1.5-million-gallon average daily flow), flows from a high rocky bluff and use to power a 25ft metal mill. The Mill is in the Spring branch. There is no camping on the North side of the River. The North River Access is strictly for viewing and exploring.
Turner Mill South is located on the right bank of the river at 21.5 miles. This access is rustic in nature and offers limited dispersed campsites, limited day use area, a concrete boat launch, and toilet facilities. This access is located 4.9 miles downriver of Greer Crossing.