LAWRENCE COUNTY, Mo. — You’ll find a lot of old mills scattered in the hills and hollers across the Ozarks.
Most sit idle, some have been turned into homes, some just tell the story of what life was like in our area generations ago. But how many of those old mills can still do the job they were built for?
We found one such mill in Lawrence County, and it’s been a labor of love for a husband and wife who moved to Missouri from Florida years ago.
See for yourself in this Oliver’s Ozarks report.
Clyde and Janet Beal are always eager to show people around the project on their property.
“I shake it. The heavy stuff goes on the floor. The light stuff goes through the screen” says mill owner Clyde Beal.
This rural Lawrence County couple are the proud owners of Britain Mill, a fully functional grist mill that dates back to at least 1839.
“It is a grist mill that has historically ground wheat and corn. In its last years of operation, it only ground corn which was for animal feed by that time. The place has been owned by about 5 different families. When it was operating commercially,” says Clyde Beal.
The Beal’s left the sunshine of Florida to buy the property and the mill about 15 years ago says Clyde Beal.
“I found the place in Country Living magazine. We came from Florida. Bought it immediately,” says the other mill owner, Janet Beal.
The original mill sat just a few feet from where this restored replica was built in the 1970’s. Clyde got it going and grinding again, even bringing the old water wheel back to life.
“He took parts and drew it out on paper, representing every part of the water wheel and laid it out on our driveway. And then he put them together and during a flood, you can really see it turn” says Janet Beal.
Nowadays the Beal’s welcome passersby to the mill who just want a look or an actual taste of days gone by.
“We have a lot of people who want to come out here and have their pictures taken in front of the mill. So we let them do that,” says Janet Beal.
“We have a couple people in Springfield who will drive all the way out here to get 5 pounds of product then drive all the way home,” says Clyde Beal.
So listen closely the next time you’re driving down Highway 96 near Halltown in Lawrence County. You just might hear the sounds of yesteryear.
“It’s historically significant to Lawrence County,” says Clyde Beal. “You will not find another operating grist mill in Lawrence County. This is the only one.”
It’s called Britain Mill because the Britain family owned the mill the longest, about 40 years in all. The Beal’s offer tours to people who want to stop by the old mill.