Springfield-Greene County History

Local History Website of the SMSU Department of History


Mills of Springfield and Greene County    

Click here to go to a K-5 Version--including photos of mills

The first settlers hunted and started farms to feed their families.  They soon realized that they needed flour so that they could make bread and other baked goods.  They could grow the corn and the wheat, but they needed a way to grind it.  In the early days they pounded the corn on a tree stump, making a very coarse, dark meal for their bread.   As the population grew, Julian Mills began springing up.  Julian Mills are mills that are driven by horsepower and small waterfalls.  These early mills were not sufficient to grind the flour needed for the growing community.  It did not take the settlers long to realize that Greene county had great potential waterpower.  Running water was plentiful and its power was being wasted!

In 1822, a man named Ingle erected the first gristmill in southwestern Missouri.  This mill was constructed on the James River about eight miles south of Springfield.  It was near the bridge at the crossing of the James on the old Ozark Road.  This mill was operated by power generated from the river through a partial dam, a wing dam.  Jerry Pearson, John Marshall, and William Fulbright built other early water powered mills.  Mr. Fulbright’s mill was under a bluff on the Little Sac River, 2 ˝ miles north of Springfield.  This mill was operating as late as 1870.  These were large mills with over-shot water wheels and old-fashioned millstones doing the grinding.

A very interesting mill in Greene County was Ingram Mill.  Sidney Ingram and A.G. McCracken built it in 1859.  It was built on the James River.  It was an important mill in this area during the Civil War.  In Missouri during this era, opposing sides in the war burned many mills.  Ingram mill remained in operation throughout the war because Mr. Ingram, who was a Northern sympathizer, would operate it during union occupation.  He would disappear when the confederates took over and Mr. McCracken would run it then, because his sympathies were for the South.  Ingram mill was blown down by a tornado in 1880.  Mr. Ingram rebuilt it and operated it until 1909.  In 1909 Ingram mill was washed away in a flood.

Early in 1858, Sampson Bass decided that the modern mills were not keeping up with demand.  He decided to use steam power to power his mill.  In 1859 his steam-powered was up and running.  It ran during drought and the Civil War.  This mill was near the Pomme de Terre River in Greene County.  It was the first of many steam-powered mills in this area.  Steam mills were built in Springfield.

Queen City Milling was established in Springfield in 1879.  It stood at the Frisco track and Boonville Street intersection.  It had a capacity for grinding many thousands of bushels of grain in a day.  It produced around 200 barrels of flour per day.  The John F. Meyer & Sons Milling Company bought the building and established a mill there under their name.  This was a very important milling location because the Frisco Railroad made export of this flour very simple.  Meyer flour was exported all over the United States under various names.

Mills were very important to the settlers of southwestern Missouri.  They were a necessity to the building of a strong community here.  It is interesting to see the ingenuity and invention that went into them to increase production.  The history of mills in Greene County is an interesting part of our heritage.

Author: Karen Girdler

“History of Greene County," 1883 by Holcombe
“Personal Reminiscences," 1914 by Martin Hubble
“Pictorial and Genealogical Record of Greene County, Missouri” 
“Past and Present of Greene County Missouri," 1915 by Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Website Created and Maintained by F. Thornton Miller, SMSU Department of History