When my sister visited here in the Ozarks a couple of years ago, we waltzed off to show her some of our favorite places, which of course, include mill sites. She told us she wanted to see a waterfall, and since Falling Spring is located within an easy drive from Alley Mill, we went. At the time, we noticed a sign posted stating that the old mill would be undergoing renovations. Even with COVID, the renovations obviously have taken place, and here’s a little story about going back to Falling Spring.
Recap of the History of Falling Spring
The site sits in the vast Mark Twain National Forest, off Highway 19, in the Ozarks of Missouri. You’ll have to drive on gravel to get to it, and the road can be a bit rough and wet. It’s located in Oregon County, near Winona, Missouri.
This old mill, built sometime between 1927 and 1929, is the second mill to sit on this site. At one time, there were two mills here. A raceway once ran from the spring across the pond and into the mill, providing the power of water to grind corn, provide electricity and power to saw logs and make shingles. If you look closely at the photo of the spring gushing out, you can see some concrete that once formed the mouth of the chute for the water to travel to the mill up on the bluff.
Actually, it is one of Missouri’s youngest mills. You can also see concrete walls in the mill pond, which makes me wonder if the owners tried to keep fish onsite.
Going Back to Falling Spring
Some of the machinery is still onsite. Recent renovations have spruced up the place a bit. I hope to find out what the Forest Service did to improve this place.
Thomas Brown Cabin
Nearby, sits the Thomas Brown cabin, built in 1851 and kept intact. You’ll notice the half-dovetail notches in the corners of the cabin, and if you step inside and look out the windows, you might be able to imagine what life was like back in the day. You can also hear the water nearby and view a pond with lily pads. On the day we visited, daffodils bloomed like crazy near the spring and around the cabin.
The story goes that Thomas and Jane Brown homesteaded here. Hailing from Tennessee, they liked what they saw here and it reminded them of home.
There’s even more to this story, though, thanks to an old “Ridge Runner” magazine that I found up in West Plains at the Old Time Flea Market Antiques Mall. From the Fall 1995 issue, there is an article about the Falling Springs Cemetery, located down the road from the mill. The article states that Thomas Brown served in the Confederate army and died in a Union prison camp near Rolla. His wife, Jane, is buried in this cemetery. Locals built the cemetery on the heels of an epidemic that occurred around the time of the Civil War, which supposedly took the lives of several unknown soldiers.
How to Get There
Falling Spring is located off Highway 19 about 9.6 miles south of Winona. Turn east (left) onto FR#3170 and bear left on FR #3164. Then, keep right at the next intersection, which is at about 2 miles. Go another .3 miles and you’ll see the area. There are picnic tables at the site, and it’s marked for day-use only.