Following the gravel road east from today’s crossroads known as McDowell, we found the remnants of a mill that once took its power from Flat Creek. Footings and foundations still resist the work of water, but the building has been gone for a while.
Milldam of the McDowell water mill on Flat Creek. This stream has an average fall of seven feet per mile and with good water can be floated as high up as McDowell – noting obstacles like this milldam.
Water mills were not unique to the Ozarks, but they flowered in the region due to isolation imposed by the deep river-cut terrain and the abundance of spring-fed streams. There were five water mills on Flat Creek alone.
Mills powered by running water were constructed soon after settlement. Overshot wheels drove most, but turbines were common after 1880. Some even employed steam power at the close of the local milling era. The handsome building (below) was the McDowell Roller Mills, which unlike many could produce flour from wheat. Most early mills used stone burrs to grind corn into meal.
Vintage photograph shows a mill at McDowell. This one utilized rollers designed to process wheat. Photograph is courtesy of the Barry County Museum.
James Fork of the White, page 80