Rushing water was the power that turned grain into flour and timber into lumber at the many historic mills that you can visit around West Plains. Some mills provide an interpretive history about life in the 1800s, while others simply provide a place to walk, take photos, or just enjoy the beauty and history of the Ozarks.
Topaz Grist Mill
- 10 million gallons per day
- Mill built in the mid-1800s
“Little is known about Topaz’s early years. It’s believed that Henry Schoolcraft initially discovered the settlement’s spring in the early 1800s, which he dubbed Elkhorn Spring. Unfortunately, many other details around Topaz’s existence are piecemeal.” ~ https://ozarksalive.com/topaz-a-spring-fed-time-capsule/
Topaz Mill was built sometime between 1840 and 1850. Information shows that John Talley was the first to set up a store at the mill area. Richard Hutcheson bought the store from Talley around 1890, after which his brother Robartus relocated with his family from the St. Louis area.
Richard eventually became discouraged and sold out to his brother and moved away. Robartus saw the need for a bigger store and a post office. His wife was the postmistress at Topaz all the years they lived there.
Around the turn of the 20th century, a new mill and a new way to harness power for the mill was implemented. By raising the level of that spring 12 feet, running the spring water down a raceway, dumping it down a boiler flue on to a turbine, there was more power than with just the waterwheel.
Topaz grew and as is common in the Ozarks, became the gathering place of the locals. At one point there was a blacksmith, tomato canning factory, a garage, general store, and a barber shop.
By the 1940s, the town was almost gone. The mill made flour through the 1920s and ground corn through the 1930s. The post office closed in 1943 and the general store closed in 1945. The O’Neal family purchased the property in 1957. The third generation of the O’Neal family cares for the mill.
34 miles From West Plains
Take Highway 63 north to Willow Springs. Take the 2nd Willow Springs exit for Highway 76. Turn left at the top of the ramp. Stay on Highway 76 for 11.5 miles. Turn left on E Highway. Stay on E Highway for 4 miles then continue straight on E-276. The mill will be on your left in 1.4 miles.
Make it a day Trip
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