I am beginning my narrative with a brief outline of my own family in order to acquaint you with these eastern people who were of the sea, and the Quaker folk, who came to take up life in a new location, which was indeed strange to them. But this is to be mainly a history of the early days of the community surrounding Flint’s Mill which was a thriving enterprise before the advent of the town of Newburg. I hope to give you a graphic picture of 90 changing years.

Published in the Rolla Daily Herald Aug 26, 1955


I am beginning my narrative with a brief outline of my own family in order to acquaint you with these eastern people who were of the sea, and the Quaker folk, who came to take up life in a new location, which was indeed strange to them. But this is to be mainly a history of the early days of the community surrounding Flint’s Mill which was a thriving enterprise before the advent of the town of Newburg. I hope to give you a graphic picture of 90 changing years.

In the year 1862 David Johnson and his wife Mary, and their children Samuel and Rachael started from Massachusetts to what was then called the “great far west.” David came from a line of seamen and ship’s carpenters, and Mary from good old Quaker stock. both were coming West in the hope of regaining their health and many things they were to face were doubly difficult on this account.

They settled near Rockford, Ill., for a few years where my brothers Albert and Edward and myself were born. Later they came by covered wagon to Rolla and lived for one year. Then my father homesteaded several acres of ground near Flint’s Mill about 2-1/2 miles south of the present location of Newburg.

The thriving Mill, which ran day and night was the central point of all local activity. Small mills of this type were located in various rural areas, to grind the grain after the crops were harvested, as large mills were not accessible in those early days. The patronage of Flint’s Mill was not confined to that section alone, but farmers came from surrounding counties as well—a great many by ox team. As this entailed a trip of several days, they had to either camp by their wagons or be accommodated by the mill owner for bed and board. You can readily see why the mill was the thriving center of the community!
    
‘Round about were farm houses, all with open fireplaces, where most of the cooking was done, and many with puncheon floors. These floors were made of split timbers with the bark side down. Grease lamps were used by some, as coal oil lamps were still rare. Our family was considered ultra modern—we had coal oil lamps and a team of horses instead of oxen!

None of the streams were bridged and public road funds were unheard of. The farmers built what roads they could with inadequate equipment. When the spring rains came these roads were nearly impassable for weeks.

Back east, our relatives engaged in much anxiety over our well-being “away out West.” In fact, my grandfather insisted all civilization ceased beyond the Mississippi River! As a result, they kept us supplied with great boxes of herring, tea and dry goods.

House-raisings and quiltings were some of the forms of entertainment—also square dances and “singings.” Regular religious services were held in the home, as schools and churches had not yet been built. Christmas and July 4 were the only holidays generally observed. Our sources for pleasure being limited, we made much of what was available. Weddings called for much celebration. Marriage licenses were not required. The wedding dinner was always held at the bride’s home and the “Infair” dinner at the home of the groom, usually followed by a big dance.  I well remember a dance held at Knotwell, after a heavy rain had fallen. Rivers were swollen. but our spirits were not dampened. When we reached the swollen steam on horseback, we plunged our horses in and swam them across.

For a while, no school was held in the area, and my mother taught us at home. Later we attended a “pay-school” in the cooper’s shop at the mill, and finally a schoolhouse was built.

At first, an all-day trip to Arlington wan necessary to get mail. Therefore, we did not get any but once a week. Finally, an arrangement was made whereby the teamster for the mill picked up all mail for that neighborhood at Rolla when he went up with his load of flour.

Another thriving industry nearby was the Ozark Iron Works at Knotwell. They claimed a population of 2,000 there. Many were employed at the Iron Works proper. A large force was also kept busy cutting timber and burning it in pits to make charcoal to fire the furnace. Traces of these charcoal pits can still be found in the woods. Blacksmiths were very essential then, as were both oxen and horses to be shod.

During this period, two families were growing up who were to take prominent parts in the development of Phelps County. I refer to the Hudgens family at Point Bluff and the Yelton family on Mill Creek.

Later as a teacher, I spent five happy school terms on Mill Creek and boarded in the homes of both these fine families. Incidentally, the prevailing wage for teachers was $20 to $25 a month, the teacher agreeing to take care of the janitor work. Board and room was $5 a month for a five day week. No trace whatever is left of Flint’s Mill, which lay to the east of us.  A modern school building now stands on the northwest rise and is known as the Hickory Point School. That once thriving community is now completely changed, and I cannot recall a single original structure still standing.