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A Haunting at the Mill

Photo by Christy Porter
Recalling times of old were, from left, front row: Liliana Low, Civilian Conservation Corps worker, Aubrey and Evalyn Low, Alred school children; second row: Cheri Low, Seasonal Naturalist, as local legend Suzie Nichols, and Karen Dalbom, Alred school marm; third row: Kristie Nelson, Park Naturalist tour leader, Diesel and Jaxon Harrington, Traveling Medicine Show; back row: Eli Kenney, the Miller, David Guthrie, Asst. Park Superintendent, as the Storekeeper, Devyn McGregor, Union soldier, and Aron Low, Confederate soldier.

By Christy Porter, Managing Editor

 Times of long ago were recalled at the Haunting at the Mill in Montauk State Park on Saturday. Park staff and volunteers shared with attendees to the event the people, attire and traditions of when this mill was established in the Ozarks.

Diesel and Jaxon Harrington did a fine job as they touted the benefits of their products with the Traveling Medicine Show. It is not known whether there were any partakers.

The Montauk Mill that stands today is the center of Montauk State Park, and at its establishment in 1896, it was the center of the community, continuing as such for 31 years. Its three predecessors in the valley were lost to flooding and fire, shared Kristie Nelson, Park Naturalist. Of unique design it was built using a technique called stacked lumber, the walls are not hollow, making it unlike any other mills in Missouri. Nelson also explained the reason for the slanted porch.

Visitors first met the Miller, or Mill Manager, as portrayed by Eli Kenney; he explained the functions of the office, which also included the post office for the local community.

Stepping inside, an explanation of the rollers and various equipment used for grinding the grain was given by Nelson.

The storekeeper, portrayed by David Guthrie, Asst. Park Superintendent, offered available wares in stock, something for everyone, including medicinal products, tobacco and shoes, “one size fits all, male or female.”

In 1926, the mill was sold to the Missouri State Park Board, now known as the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. One final milling season was completed in 1927.

Company 1770 of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was assigned to work at Montauk in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Many of these workers were WWI veterans. Their work began the transformation of the area into a recreational site still being enjoyed today. Liliana Low explained the challenges of being a CCC worker in her portrayal.

White settlers came to the area around 1830, and the first mill was constructed in the 1850s. There was settlement in the valley during the Civil War, with both Union and Confederate soldiers present.

A checkers game with light-hearted banter took place between Union soldier Devyn McGregor and Confederate soldier Aron Low in the back of the mill.

Alred School Marm Karen Dalbom and Alred school children were introduced at the side door of the mill. They shared their school day and instruction with those not envious of having to attend school on this particular Saturday.

A distraught local legend, Suzie Nichols, portrayed by Cheri Low, Seasonal Naturalist, met those in the mill yard seeking information about her horse, Old Don, or the scoundrel who had stolen him. With no information forthcoming, she kindly shared candy from her apron with those in attendance.

Kaylyn Dalbom, Park Superintendent, a rural American, served hot chocolate beside the fire for those that needed refreshment after their trip back-in-time.

Photos by Christy Porter

Prior to the Haunting at the Mill tours a craft festival was held at the picnic shelter. Youth of all ages created bats and spiders and unique pumpkins fitting for the season. Children and adults alike enjoyed the old-time games and loved the sack race on the side yard.

Photos by Cheri Low

Presenters offer a sincere thank you to their dedicated volunteers and everyone who helped before, during and after this event to make it a well-attended success.

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