Sunday, October 2, 2016

Early Ozark Innovation at the Greer Mill

Blogger: Amber Schamel

Greer Mill - Reconstructed
Even though I'm a Colorado native, I spend at least half my time near the Missouri Ozarks. I thought it would be fun to feature some of the local history for you here at HHHistory.

The Greer Spring and Mill is an important location in Oregon County history. The spring itself is one of the largest in the area, flowing down to double the size of the Eleven Point River.

In 1859, Samuel Greer, one of the early settlers of Oregon County, and his partner, George Mainprize,built a mill near the spring.
When the Civil War broke out, Greer was the second man to sign up for the state militia. After the battle of Wilson's Creek, he was promoted to the rank of Captain upon joining the Confederate army. Although he was engaged in many prominent battles and sustained slight wounds to the head and shoulder, he was not disabled.

While Greer was away serving as a Captain in the Confederate army, a band of Bushwackers set the gristmill ablaze, and it was destroyed. The band also drove off most of the livestock from the local farms, which left the area in a dire situation economically.

Captain Samuel Greer

After Captain Greer surrendered on May 5, 1865 he returned to Oregon County, immediately rebuilt the mill and resumed operation. The mill became a bustling place. 

Greer was an innovative leader. He trained a team of oxen to haul logs and grain up the steep hill without a driver.

However, the mill's equipment was limited. Local settlers had to settle for cornbread and corn meal due to the difficulty of obtaining wheat flour. Ground wheat products had to be hauled long distances from railroad towns or river ports in wagons and that, of course, made it expensive.

Around 1883, Captain Greer decided to remedy this. He began improvements to the mill. He built a three-story structure with a roller mill for wheat, turbine waterwheel, and formed a new and larger dam. The improvements were completed around 1899, but folks were baffled by Greer's engineering. The captain had defied logic by installing the mill machinery uphill from the water/power source. But his ingenuity had found a way to make it work. A complex system of cables and pulleys.
Greer Spring main outlet at 401cfs
Greer Spring - Main Outlet
By Hillbilly2008 [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

The new mill quickly became popular, and business boomed. Farmers from miles around brought their grains to Greer Mill. This new hub of activity presented new business opportunities as well. A log house was built to house the customers who required lodging, and a new corral in which they could keep their horses or mules. Of course, this also required a new well lined with stone.

 After 1899, the mill was sold multiple times. By 1920, railroads had penetrated the Ozarks area, as did the products and services of the big industrial mills. Greer Mill was unable to keep up with the competition and ceased operation in 1920.

Captain Greer went on to become a representative of Oregon County at the State legislature.

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Author of over half a dozen books, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".  She lives in Colorado and spends half her time volunteering in the Ozarks. Visit her online at


  1. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Debbie! Glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. Amber, thank you for sharing your very interesting post about Mr. Greer and the grist mill. He was certainly a determined and hardworking man. It is always fun to visit HHH! Have a great day!

    1. Hello Melanie!
      Glad you enjoyed it. It was very interesting to learn about a local hero. Captain Greer certainly was a character.

  3. Thanks for all the great information and the photos. :-) Very interesting.

    1. Thanks for commenting. So happy to hear you enjoyed it, Melissa. :)

    2. Thanks for commenting. So happy to hear you enjoyed it, Melissa. :)

  4. Amber, thank you for sharing this piece of history in the Ozarks, along with the pictures. A very informative piece of history.