Edwards Mill looks like something out of an old pencil drawing, or an oil painting of bygone eras. Its weathered wood paneling, cedar porch posts and giant waterwheel give it a rustic, yet regal appearance where it sits on the edge of the mill pond. The interesting thing about Edwards Mill is that it is not a historical location on the outskirts of a former mill town, or an abandoned site that you might pass on your Sunday drive – Edwards Mill is right in the middle of a college campus. College of the Ozarks, located in Point Lookout, Taney County, MO, is proud to keep old time milling traditions alive and well at Edwards Mill through the hearts and hands of the students who work there.
College of the Ozarks is a unique institution is Southwest Missouri where students who demonstrate financial need are given the opportunity to work off their college tuition at on campus work stations, and graduate debt free. The school was established in 1906 as a high school, and became a four year college in the mid-1960s. There are many different work stations for students to gain skill sets during their four year C of O experience – and one of these is Edwards Mill.
Edwards Mill was built in 1972, and named after Hubie and Alice Edwards. Hubie Edwards and his wife, Alice, visited the college and decided that there was a need for a gristmill. Hubie was a former miller out of Kansas, and he and his wife donated the funds to build the mill. The facility was designed by Bill Cameron, another former millwright. He oversaw the construction to ensure that the mill would be efficient in both production and maintenance. Once Edwards Mill was finished, the water powered milling process and Alice Edwards’ passion for weaving were combined, and today, the students at Edwards Mill grind flour and other products, and weave rugs and baskets to sell to the public.
There are fourteen students that operate the mill, along with their supervisor, Andy Thomas. Four students operate the milling area, five students make baskets, five students weave rugs, and Andy oversees it all. On top of making products to sell, the Edwards Mill team also hosts visitors, tour buses, and field trips. Guests at the mill can see up close and personal the time honored techniques that often get lost in today’s modern world. “We try to take on the role of a teacher,” said Andy. “It’s our job to facilitate the experience, and show them how and why it’s done.” He also said that visitors enjoy the unique atmosphere and the chance to purchase souvenirs from the college. Edwards Mill receives most of its visitors in the fall, but it is open year round.
The products that are crafted at Edwards Mill include stone ground yellow cornmeal, whole wheat flour, and yellow grits. The mill also sells baking mixes like pancake, biscuit, funnel cake and muffin mix. The ingredients for these baking mix products are purchased in bulk and then hand mixed by the students. And then there are the hand woven baskets and rugs that are woven on site. Other products sold at the mill from other campus work stations include meat from the beef and hog farms, milk from the dairy and jellies from the Fruitcake and Jelly Kitchen.
Although Edwards Mill has held on to its historic past through the years, there have been a few modern changes made here and there. The milling equipment, for example, is no longer powered by water for the day to day milling needs, but has been converted to electric power. (Andy notes that the mill still has the capabilities to power everything by water if the need ever arose.) Much of the equipment is newer and more modern as well.
While some parts of Edwards Mill have made a leap into the modern day world, the old fashioned values that were there when the mill was first established are still the same: hard work, dedication and an appreciation for crafting and creativity. The team at Edwards Mill knows how important it is to carry this torch. “It’s so we don’t become oblivious to where we’ve come from,” Andy said, “and we get an appreciation for the big picture.”