Topaz Mill. A privately owned mill, fed by a spring leading to the North Fork and White River. This is one hard place to find but truly worth the drive into the back woods to photograph. Walking around Topaz is like going back a hundred years.
The mill was established in 1895; at that time a center attraction and business for a small community . You get to it off of Highway E, south of the junction of Highway 76 and 181. It had a general store, blacksmith shop, and barbers
Settlers came to these wooded hills in Missouri looking for good places to set up a mill and springs were perfect since they flowed more reliably than streams. They would travel on horseback and wagons. Usually it would take two hours to grind one hundred pounds of corn. A family might need three hundred pounds each of corn meal and wheat flour to get through the winter. Those that came to the mill would bring their own corn for grinding partly because it was easier to grow in poor soil. Since travelers to the mill came from a distance a blacksmith might set up shop to reshoe the customers’ horses.
The slow decline of the mill communities came about as modern times crept up on them. Better transportation with the railroad, cars, and over-the-road trucking of goods made it easier for goods to get to people. Increased prosperity made it possible for people to afford imported flour.
Go for a drive down that dirt road into the woods to an abandoned community and you just might find one of these gems. It tends to draw us into those times. You can hear the pounding from the blacksmith in his shop with the sound of the rushing water flowing over the wheel. It brings the earning of those times of self-reliance and community
Songs: The Old Mill
HERE from the brow of the hill I look,
Through a lattice of boughs and leaves,
On the old gray mill with its gambrel roof,
And the moss on its rotting eaves.
I hear the clatter that jars its walls,
And the rushing water’s sound,
And I see the black floats rise and fall
As the wheel goes slowly round.
I rode there often when I was young,
With my grist on the horse before,
And talked with Nelly, the miller’s girl,
As I waited my turn at the door;
And while she tossed her ringlets brown,
And flirted and chatted so free,
The wheel might stop or the wheel might go,
It was all the same to me.
’T is twenty years since last I stood
On the spot where I stand to-day,
And Nelly is wed, and the miller is dead,
And the mill and I are gray.
But both, till we fall into ruin and wreck,
To our fortune of toil are bound;
And the man goes, and the stream flows,
And the wheel moves slowly round.
By Thomas Dunn English