Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dillard's Mill, Davisville, Mo.

Pulling a lever, the guide started the turbine and the whole three stories of the 1901 mill shivered, and the old machines made of wood and cast iron, with belts of canvas or leather, came alive. I remarked on the quaking and the guide said, "You're in a giant machine." In its day Dillard's Mill, powered by the Huzzah River, separated corn from cob and flour from bran, grinding the grain into flour and the cobs and bran into animal feed, wasting nothing. It ground coffee and spices too. Dillard's Mill ground its last in 1956. Here's the mill outside (with its mill pond), a view of the inside, and its trademark flour sack.

I was the only person touring this Missouri state historic site on a weekday. It's about 2 hours' drive from St. Louis. Dillard's original mill, from the 1850s, burned and its ruins were purchased and rebuilt by German immigrants Emil Mischke and his sister Marie. According to the guide, Marie ran the mill while Emil sat outside, smoked, read the paper and gossiped. He fled the area after making pro-German remarks right before WWI, when two other local men who'd aired similar remarks turned up murdered. The Klemmes bought the mill from the Mischkes, built an electrical generator, and when it didn't turn a profit -- most folks began buying their flour from General Mills and Pillsbury -- made the location into a resort. The mill can operate but only for demonstrations.

It didn't use a millstone. After 1875 those were obsolete. This was a higher-tech "roller" mill, running the  grain several times through rollers on all three stories of the mill, then finally through horsehair brushes to extract every speck of usable flour and corn. Before electrification in the 1940s, the turbine ran on water channeled through a millrace, a gate that's lifted to let flowing water generate power. That's how it's run when you visit. The millers kept bamboo fishing rods available so farmers could fish while their grain was ground to order and bagged. More info and driving directions here.

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