Driving to Days Gone By: Grist Mills & Covered Bridges

By Andrea Brown Ross | Photography courtesy of Tishomingo County Tourism, and onlyinyourstate.com. Old Mill photography by Dave Buckheister, unclebucksphoto.com

The Old Mill | Photography by Dave Buckheister

If you’re looking for a way to escape the noisy football and festival crowds, a drive along picturesque backroads may be just the ticket, especially when you stop at historic bridges and grist mills of days gone by.

Once functional and necessary, grist mills and covered bridges have almost gone the way of the dinosaur. However, some of these emblems of yesteryear are still around. Today, they are in varying degrees of functionality, from being simply a photo opportunity to a museum. Here are a few favorites all within a day’s drive of the Mid-South area.

Falls Mill
(Belvidere, Tennessee)
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this mill now houses the Museum of Power and Industry, Inc. With its picturesque beauty and historical aspect, it’s difficult for Carey Hathaway, of Senatobia, Mississippi, to choose just one favorite aspect.
“I loved the waterfall on the creek. There was an area with a table where you could sit and enjoy a picnic lunch while listening to the water,” says Hathaway.
“My other favorite part was the mill itself. It was very interesting to learn about the way water was used to power the mill.”
Tours of the mill and museum are available daily with the exception of Wednesdays and Sundays. An 1895 log cabin serves as bed-and-breakfast accommodations. Demonstrations in blacksmithing, spinning, and weaving are also available during specific times of the month.
As Hathaway describes her experience, she explains it felt like it was out in the middle of nowhere, but that is part of the allure, a hidden gem out in the country.
“My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was worth the trip, and I will definitely go again,” she shares.

Great Smoky Mountains
If you are headed to the Great Smoky Mountains this fall, covered bridges dot the area, but two of the most picturesque are the following:
The Harrisburg Covered Bridge (Sevierville, Tennessee) – Located east of Sevierville off Highway 441, this bridge was constructed in 1875. The Little Pigeon River runs underneath it.
Emert’s Cove Covered Bridge (Sevierville, TN) – Constructed in the late 1990s in honor of the area’s first settler, Frederick Emert, the bridge is located off Pittman Center Road. The bridge overlooks the middle prong of the Little Pigeon River.

Dawt Mill
(Tecumseh, Missouri)
Located off Hwy 160 at the North Fork of the White River, Dawt Mill offers an array of activities in southern Missouri. Seasonal fly fishing, floating, camping, casual and fine dining, canoeing, and kayaking are among potential activities.
Since the spring flooding in 2017, the mill has undergone a remodel and renovation while the rest of the locale has been operational. At the final stages of the process, Dallas Getson, who coordinates special events for the mill, explains what guests may expect with its reopening. The mill will have three components: a private bridal suite, an event center, and historical section open to the public.
“While guests may read about our history on our website, the owner’s wife is perusing over the available historical documents. I think guests will enjoy learning more about the history behind the mill in person and also how a mill was operated,” says Getson.
“Our Beach Bar with live concerts closed Labor Day weekend, but guests may still enjoy our fine dining experience at The Chef’s Table,” he explains.
Guests register for lodging at The General Store, which also carries snacks, beverages, and souvenirs.

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge
(Hillsboro, Missouri)
Located approximately fours hours from Memphis, Tennessee, the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge Historic Site is a publicly owned property managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Photographs of the bridge, which was constructed in 1872, are frequently seen in hotel rooms and other tourist venues throughout the state. Visit the historic site at 9001 Old Lemay Ferry Road, Hillsboro, Missouri. Contact number is 636-464-2976.

The Old Mill
(North Little Rock, Arkansas)
T.R. Pugh Memorial Park, or the Old Mill as it is commonly referred to, is a re-creation of an 1880s water powered grist mill. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the mill may seem vaguely familiar. The Old Mill was filmed in the opening scenes of the classic 1939 movie, “Gone With the Wind, and served as the site of the unveiling of the “Gone With the Wind” commemorative stamp. Today, it serves as a backdrop for countless outdoor weddings and other photographs.
Inside the mill, relics from the 1800s derivative of that time and location are displayed. Private tours are available for groups of 10 or more with advance reservations. A volunteer organization, Friends of the Old Mill, Inc., conduct tours and help maintain the park. Admission is free and the park is open daily.

Burns Park
(North Little Rock, Arkansas)
Burns Park combines history and today’s interests to make a destination all ages can enjoy. The park was used during World War I and World War II as a training camp for soldiers. William Burns, a local doctor, purchased several thousand acres where he helped build a lake, trails, and other outdoor interests. In 1950, the park was named after him. Today, the 1,700 acre park boasts several family friendly activities including golf courses, a dog park, basketball and tennis courts, soccer fields, multipurpose trails, pre-Civil War log cabin, World War II tank, and the covered bridge.

Mineral Springs Park
(Iuka, Mississippi)
Historical Mineral Springs park located in Tishomingo County features one of Mississippi’s few covered bridges. The bridge is located within walking distance of the park, but is also open to vehicular traffic. The 6 springs located in the park have an interesting history themselves. According to legend, Indian Chief Iuka, who was extremely sick, drank from the waters and was healed. The town was named Iuka in his honor. The waters were even named “best water in the U.S.” at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. The park hosts festivals and other special events throughout the year to enhance your visit.

As romantic as it may seem to drive to these locations with the changing colors of the leaves, planning ahead can make the difference between a wonderful memory and disappointment. Once located in areas of high traffic and well-traveled roads, many of these places are now off the beaten path with the introduction of interstate highways.
Make sure you are familiar with how to get to your destination, in the event cell phone service and GPS capabilities are limited. Also, do a little research ahead of time. Weather events, such as flooding, may prohibit access to some of these locations. Additionally, some locations do not offer any facilities, such as restrooms. Take care to stay on public property.
Enjoy the drive!

Read More in DeSoto Magazine online.