The Summersville Mill History
As provided by the Summersville Town and Country Historical Society,
February 1972 Volanda Laidley, President
The Summersville Mill in Summersville, Missouri, has an interesting history and is one of the few mills left in the state still operating and producing soft wheat flour. The history of the present mill dates back to 1886 when Jim McCaskill, who had a store and post office in town, purchased and installed machinery for a grist mill. Previously, one had to go to Barricklow (Bear Claw) to get grinding done. (Located by the town of Eunice) This usually took more than one day as one would have to wait in line. The mill would often operate all night to get caught up on grinding.
Needing a larger mill, Mr. McCaskill sold the old machinery to Horace Greeley, who moved it to Alley Spring, where it is still probably used in grinding meal as added tourist attraction for the park visitors.
In 1894, a roller process was added to the larger mill by McCaskill at a cost of $3000.
Doc DeForest purchased the mill and in 1927 sold it to the present owners, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Donovan. Their son, Vance, is now doing a nice job of managing and operating the mill.
The following excerpt was taken from an article
- “The Alley Spring Story”- by Gerogia Greene, which appeared in The Shannon County Historical Review, July, 1964, concerning the part George Mccaskill, brother of Jim, played in the old mill at Alley.
On February 13, 1893, Charles Klepzig sold the spring property to George Washington McCaskill. At one time McCaskill was in the grocery business at Summersville, and the store building is still standing. His brother, James, built the roller flour mill there which had a capacity of 60 barrels a day. George moved from Summersville to Eminence; and lived for a while in Winona. From 1885 to 1891, he was treasurer of Shannon County. In 1893, the present Alley mill was built by millwright, Jerome Thurkill, assisted by Albert Wilson, Wid Smith, Frank Carr and several others. Just after the mill was finished, owner McCaskill’s life was touched by a family tragedy. His sister, Lizzie, was killed with her infant son in May, 1894, by a cyclone which tore through the countryside near Summersville.
A pleasant afternoon was spent recently with Mr. Joe Donovan and his son, Vance, discussing the operations of the mill. Mr. Donovan ran the mill until a few years ago when his son took over.
In the interview, Mr. Donovan, now 81 years-old, stated that he grew up in the milling trade. His father built a flour mill in central Texas in 1884, and as a boy he helped in the mill. He stated that the mill first was powered by water, then as time progressed a gas engine was installed.
He recalls that in busy times the mill operated 24 hours a day; and that flour came out as fast as the wheat was fed in. “It’s not that way any more,” quoted Mr. Donovan. “Our main business now is in feed,” he said.
At one time, folks depended on the mill for all of their flour and meal. They would bring corn to the mill in wagons and wait for it to be ground. One hundred bushels of corn could be ground in one day even when a mill was operated by steam power.
It was common for a family to buy 100 pounds of meal at one time. Mr. Donovan discussed the up-to-date changes that have occurred in the milling process.
New methods and improvements make the work more efficient.
Loading and unloading are now done by an elevator and conveyor system. In the past, Mr. Donovan said he had to sack it and carry the sacks to the grinder. Labor costs have also changed. A man used to work all day for $1.00, and be glad to get it.