Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mill to Market

To my knowledge there are no working water grain mills in Oklahoma. However, in visiting family in Arkansas in recent years one theme that has emerged is learning about old mills. Talk about innovations in sustainable energy!

The constant thumping is a reminder of the wheel slapping the water and pulling in bucketfuls of water to spin and make the internal wheel grind up grain. Watching the internal mill turn is mesmerizing to kids and adults alike.

Image in Public Domain.

Just beyond Oklahoma, near Rogers, Arkansas you can visit the fully operational War Eagle Mill where a fully functional water wheel grain mill operates on a site where this was first done in 1832. The lumber mill that was also formerly here provided most of the lumber to build most of Northwest Arkansas. Lessons in trials and tenacity can be learned from this business that washed away in 1848, was a source of strategic conflict between the Confederate and Union army before the Confederates burned it to the ground in 1862, and burning again in 1924. Despite historic hardships, in 1974 the mill was rebuilt. Today the Roenigk family continues to recognize the importance of this historic and sustainable place and through their business provides a market for local organic farmers, while continuing to provide healthy whole grain options for family suppers.

Enjoy the restaurant above the scenic river, admire the architecture of the bridge, bring a fishing pole, learn about outhouses. And while you are there make sure to go and visit the adjacent Hobbs State Park and their wonderful nature center.

Some other mills that are fun to visit:
  • The historic Inn at the Mill in Fayetville where you can see the site of the oldest business in Arkansas.

  • The Old Mill in North Little Rock. While this site is purely a historical fabrication, it still provides a great visualization about how these old mills worked and what buildings built in this region in the early 1800s would have looked like. The faux wooden sculptures and elaborate bridges created by Dionico Rodriguez are quite amazing. It captivates the imagination and also has stunning grounds maintained by the local master gardener chapter. 
Where do you like to go, in Oklahoma, or otherwise to visit historical agro-businesses? What do you love about stone ground grains?

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