Because Branson, Missouri is home to huge entertainment venues, plenty of shopping and exciting theme parks, it may be easy to forget about its history–its early—American homes and mills, and the work that once went into feeding the small communities that populated the Ozarks. Ozark culture and heritage was self-reliant, independent and hard working. Building dams, mills and homes on the steeps of cliffs and banks of rivers, the people who first inhabited the Ozarks knew how to live off the land. Edwards Mill, which has since been reconstructed due to deterioration, now symbolizes what was once a solitary way of life. The energy created from these mills sustained only small populations, but for those small groups of families, that was all they needed.
Missouri’s Edwards Mill
The State of The Ozarks is a preservation society that has restored and built a few historic Missouri mills. The Edwards Mill, located in Point Lookout, is a great one to visit if you’re vacationing in Branson. A 10-minute drive will bring you to a fully operational replica of a turn-of-the-century Ozark grist mill, a building where grain was ground into flour. The timbers used to build the Edwards Mill were harvested from older, deteriorating Missouri mills, and were mortised and pegged in the same manner as originally built, without the luxury of iron.
Edwards Mill’s rustic nature will take you back in time as you watch the water rush through the wooden steps of the wheel. As you walk through the Edwards Mill, you can hear the wood creaking as visitors step on old beams and breezes gust by. And because staff and students from College of the Ozarks run this mill, you will learn about the old ways of life that was every day to those in the early 1900s. Those who work inside Edwards Mill design and produce rugs, shawls, place mats and other gift items made from looms. They also grind whole-grain meal and flour and hand-weave baskets. The basement of Edwards Mill displays a collection of antique milling equipment, such as roller mills, lathes, drills, grinders and presses.
Strolling around the old Missouri mills and surrounding grounds will give you a good idea of what early American life in the Ozarks was like. While the amenities of the building are a far cry from the modern industrial mills of today, they show that efficiency can be created through good engineering and hard work. Make sure you take a lot of pictures when visiting this landmark, because these old, working gristmills are becoming a thing of the past.
While other mills can be found in Missouri, such as the ones in Ozark County, Edwards Mill is the closest to three great resorts: The Falls Village in Branson, Bluegreen Wilderness Club at Big Cedar® and The Cliffs™ at Long Creek, in Ridgedale. It is just a short drive on US-65, near College of the Ozarks.