Flour and Grain Mill Still Grinding: Missouri's Historic Dillard Mill

Operating gristmill uses century-old equipment in the Ozarks

| July 2000

The gristmill, once an integral part of every rural community, is a thing of the past.

But the past remains alive in southeast Missouri, where the Dillard Mill continues to churn along much as it has for decades.

Rick Brown is the water-powered gristmill’s caretaker and operator. He’s quick to admit that he took the position with no background or experience in mill operation. It would be a daunting task for many, but not for Rick.

“Well, the first time I ever went up in an airplane,” he said, “I jumped out of it.”

In other words, Rick, who once served in the Army’s Special Forces, dives right into challenges. The mill has responded to his style: The hundred-year-old equipment there hums along just as it did in 1957 during its last official working days.

Its history, though, goes back to the mid-1800s.

The road to becoming a historic site

The first mill on the site, Wisdom’s Mill, was built in the 1850s. The small community of Dillard grew up around the mill. That mill was destroyed by fire in 1897.