Wednesday, October 24, 2012


 The historic Boxley Grist Mill is located in northwest Arkansas, within the boundaries of the Buffalo National River.
 The three-story mill was built in 1869 by Robert Villines.
 The mill continued to operate through three generations of the Villines family, from Newton County, Arkansas.
 This "clothes line timeline" on the barbed wire fence adjacent to the mill tells the story that by the late 1950's, demand for corn meal began to decrease, as store-bought bread became more popular, which naturally decreased the demand for services provided by the mill.
 In addition, a flood of the area during that time period caused the mill to completely shut down.
 The back side of the old mill shows that even though it is not directly adjacent to its water source, the swirling waters of a flash flood could definitely affect the soundness of the foundation.  The mill eventually was turned over the the National Park Service and was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
 Some of the old gears, rusted out by years of disuse, can be seen on the back side of the mill.
 Once you step inside the mill, you will get a glimpse of a pioneer "food factory". 
 Fortunately, for people visiting inside the mill (who do not have a clue as to the principles of a grist mill operation), there is a very helpful placard that explains the process.
 I took this photo of a placard, using the flash on my camera, mostly so that I could read it later.  There is no electricity inside the mill, so if visual acuity is important to you, you may want to take a flashlight with you in order to see or read details inside the structure, which is only lighted via the daylight coming through its windows.
 The restoration of the first floor is complete which enables the visitor to see an old turbine, old pulley system, and the hopper where mill was poured in before it was ground.  Anytime I visit a grain mill, I am reminded of the warning given to us in Luke 17:2-3.  It says "It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves."  Enough said---I get the picture! 
 In addition to the equipment shown above, there are some old flour and cornmeal  bins on display.
 The National Park Service has a notebook available for visitors to peruse, that shows photographs of the restoration process, which was started in 1984 by the National Parks service.  Thanks to a grant from the Gorgas Science Foundation ( ) historic rehabilitation will be ongoing for the next several years.
 With such limited funding, the National Park Service relies heavily on volunteers to facilitate the mill being open for viewing.  When I was a volunteer there last week, it was through the North Central Chapter of the Arkansas Master Naturalists ( ).  Likewise, the Buffalo National River Partners ( ) have had a huge role in providing volunteer assistance as needed, throughout the Buffalo National River park locations. 
 It was gratifying to see that members of the Jasper High School Student Council were also assisting last Friday, as part of their required community service projects.  Transporting these kids to this nearby treasure right in their own "back yard" will give them a better appreciation of the blessing they have of living in the Ozarks!
 This photo of a gate adjacent to the mill is a reminder to say that if you would like to visit the Historic Boxley Grist Mill site, you need to take steps immediately to make your visit!  It is not open year round, and there are only six days left in 2012 when you can go inside.  The mill tours will be available between 10 am and 1 pm, on Friday, Saturday, & Sunday, (October 26,27,28); then again between 10 am and 1 pm, on Friday, Saturday, & Sunday, (November 2,3,4).
 I think we have the lovely couple shown in this photograph to thank for the renewed interest in the Historic Boxley Grist Mill!  Several years ago, two swans mysteriously appeared (to the surprise of local ornithologists!), and seemed to be quite content making their home on the old mill pond.  It was a rarity in these parts when they first came, and people were coming from all across the state to view them!  Their appearance was followed regularly in the local newspaper!
 The nice thing is, they are still there!  Since their original Newton County "debut", they have been tagged with the fashionable green "necklaces", so that their activities can be monitored and studied by appropriate wildlife biologists.
 However, decades before the swans appeared, I attended a fall session of the Ponca Photography Workshop, headquartered in the Boxley Valley.  I remember instructor, Mike Mills ( ) telling the participants that we must meet at an incredibly early hour the next morning, at this certain place along Highway 43, that runs through the valley.  He said with the chilly morning forecast for the next day, there would be a mist rising from the  old mill pond that would provide fantastic photo opportunities.   Guess what!!??  He was right!!  The images are still etched in my mind, even though I could not place my hands on the old 35 mm photographs I took that memorable morning!  His comments were the first to educate me that there was even an old mill back by the pond, even though I grew up in the area.  One reason for that is because there have been so many trees grow up that partially hide the mill from travelers along Highway 43.
 Another reason for getting to the Boxley Valley early in the morning, is to get to see the elk that are known to graze in the field beside Highway 43.  I took this photo of a very content-looking male elk last Friday, as he gazed over the herd of female elk grazing nearby.  To start planning your trip to enjoy the beautiful scenery available in this area, log onto or phone 870-741-2884.  Even if you cannot get there when the mill is open, it is definitely worth your gas money to visit this beautiful place!  The elk are there year-round, and the Elk Education Center in Ponca ( ) has wonderful facilities, including picnic tables and clean restrooms!  Driving, hiking, bicycling, or ziplining the Boxley Valley will give you MILES OF SMILES so check it out!  Tricia
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