A large part of my knowledge and interest in Ozarks history started with my Grandmother. She was a wonderful oil painter and especially loved to paint the many mills scattered around the Ozarks. One of the things I cherished most after her passing was a set of mills that she painted from Ozark County. I have Rockbridge, Zanoni, Hammond and Hodgson (We were not able to get the Dawt painting).
After getting home, I was pleased to find a small mill painting that I had initially overlooked. My pleasure soon turned to surprise though when I turned the painting over and saw Grandma’s handwriting:
“Falling Springs Mill in Oregon Co. Mo. where the Browns came to Missouri and settled here. They built the mill and a dog-trot house near here and lived there. The house was burned to the ground by vandals around 1940’s after the Browns sold it to the U.S. Forest Service. Our Brown Reunion was held there 2 different times”
Now I know that Grandma and I had talked about most of the mills in Missouri, but we had never talked about that one. I wanted stories. I wanted history. Now she was gone and I would have neither. I needed to know more.
A few calls to The Forest Service and a car trip with the family, found me standing where my ancestors had settled in Missouri. Nearby, I also found the The Thomas Brown Cabin and The Falling Springs Cemetery.
Thomas Brown was the first of my family to come to Missouri from Tennessee just before the Civil War. He had found this picturesque spot in the Ozarks and built a cabin for his family. I stood there staring at my own family history. I was touching the hew marks from a Great Great Great Grandfathers adze. As moving as it was, I couldn’t help but wish for Grandma to be there to share it with me and to let me ask her all the questions that were racing through my mind. How much more did she know? About the cabin. About the mill. About Thomas Brown. Why wasn’t he buried next to his wife in the cemetery?
Over the years many of these questions have been answered. But their answers have in turn raised even more questions. Questions….Take my advice and ask them now. It is our responsibility to listen and record history just as much as it is others responsibility to pass-down what they know.
BTW, …I will have some exciting news about Falling Springs Mill and the Thomas Brown cabin in a few weeks. Stay tuned.