It’s the perfect time of the year to head out on a discovery mission to find Missouri’s mills. If you dip down into Ozark County, you’ll find Rockbridge and Hodgson Mills, fairly close to each other. I’ve been to both places twice this year, because they are the perfect sites to show off the Ozarks.
Technically called the Rockbridge Trout & Game Ranch, this historic setting comes with a rich history that began in 1841, when a few families left Kentucky with 3 wagonloads, led by Capt. Kim Amyx. After 6 months and 500 miles, they found their new home, which actually is near the other mill (Hodgson).
They established a town called Rockbridge, located near where Spring and Bryant Creeks meet. During the Civil War, fire destroyed the town and mill.
B.V. Morris built today’s grist mill in 1968, and shortly after that, according to the Rockbridge website, it gained a “post office, a general store, Masonic Lodge, bank, church, school, blacksmith shop, and a large farm house, known today as the White House.” As with most mills during that time, it served as the center of the universe for people who brought grain to be milled. People also voted at this location.
By the end of the 1930’s, advanced technology brought the end of the need for this type of milling and blacksmithing. In the late 1940s, the Amyx family moved back to its homesite and ran a sawmill here, and an auto company in Gainesville. They hatched an idea to reinvent the mill and general store/post office as Rockbridge Rainbow Trout & Game Ranch. It is the oldest working post office in the county.
Rockbridge Mill today
The facilities, which sit on 2000+-acres, offer a gun club with sporting clays and 5-stand courses, along with hunting access. Trail rides can be arranged through the stables, and of course, there’s fishing for rainbow trout. You can either catch and keep or catch and release, at set prices. Instruction is also available, and you can check out the rates here. A hatchery sits here, too, and raises more than 200,000 fish per year.
You can eat there, too!
The restaurant – I saved the best for last – is worth the trip just for the meal. Set in the same building as the post office and gift shop, it served trout 8 different ways, along with a full menu and bar. Or, you can ask the kitchen to cook your trout that you’ve caught, if you want to stay and eat. That would be a great treat.
You may also wander around the mill site, and even check the underside of the building. It’s a quiet, calm place to visit, and you’ll enjoy the view of the old mill and river from the dining room of the restaurant.
This mill stands near Dora, off Route 181. I’ve never seen anyone else onsite here, but it’s open to the public for viewing. The building is not open, but you don’t need to go inside to appreciate its history. In fact, you might be acquainted with products labeled Hodgson Mill, in grocery stores all around the country and at Amazon.
Hodgson Mill is headquartered in Effingham, Illinois, but began here in the Ozarks, as early as 1837.
History of Hodgson Mill
This grist mill also was destroyed during the Civil War, and had been built on Bryant Creek in 1861 by William Holeman. Somehow, Alva Hodgson acquired title to the property and between 1882 and 1889, built another mill. The current mill, in all its red glory, and near a limestone bluff, was built in 1897. Hodgson built a state-of-the-art mill with 2 Leffel turbines and roller mills. The flour had a more refined texture to it than previous millings offered.
Hodgson sold his interest in the mill to his brother, George, and built nearby Dawt Mill in 1909. After Hodgson died, ownership passed through 2 others – to Charles Aid. Thereby, it’s also referred to as the Hodgson-Aid Mill. It had other owners throughout the ensuing years, who expanded the line of products to include cornmeal, bran and other flours, and who also ran a canoe operation and antiques store from the site. By 1976, production of flour took place down in a facility in Gainsville, because the mill couldn’t keep up with the demand for its goods. Other owners tried to keep the mill running as a tourist stop, and flooding didn’t help matters.
Award winning mill
While searching for more information about Hodgson Mill, I discovered House Resolution No. 077C.01, from 2003, that acknowledged the achievement of Hank and Jean Macler, of Tecumseh, who are responsible for restoration of the Hodgson-Aid Mill. They bought it in 2001. The Maclers renovated the mill with the help of Amish craftsmen, and received the 2003 Preserve Missouri Award for Rural Preservation.
According to an article in “The Columbus Dispatch,” Hodgson Mill’s 3-story section is 95% original. The article also reported that energy from the water’s movement powered sewing machines for the first Big Smith Overalls factory in the 1930s, located in the back of the mill.
The last owners on record are John and Gwen Deakle, who bought the mill in 2011.
Obviously, whoever owns it doesn’t mind if people stop and visit it. And it’s well worth seeing. The creek, the old bridge, the beautiful bluff and of course, the historical mill, blend together to allow your imagine to harken back to times when life revolved around this type of industry.