Hodgson Mill by Tim Layton
Hodgson Mill is located 17 miles northeast of Gainesville Missouri on Hwy. 181 in the Sycamore area. It is advertised as the most photographed mill in Missouri and for good reasons. The mill and the setting is like a page from a storybook.
Grist and timber mills, which once flourished, are remnants of a bygone era. They stand as testimony to the culture and communities of rural America. These mills harnessed the power of water, particularly natural springs, to grind grain and cut timber in small communities throughout the United States.
The first mill on the site on Bryant Creek was built by William Holeman in 1861. Alva Hodgson bought the mill in 1884. The original burned and Hodgson built a new one in 1894 and, in 1898, his brother George Hodgson became operator and part owner of the mill. After a grocery store that stood near the mill burned in the “50’s”, Charles T. Aid purchased the mill and it became know as the Aid-Hodgson Mill, remaining in production until 1977.
The mill was built over a spring that is reported to produce 30 million gallons of water a day. This water stays a constant 58 degrees year round.
Before rural electrification (REA) came along, generators were powered by the spring, giving them power to run a cotton gin, sawmill and overall factory. Word has it that this is where the “Big Smith” overall originated.
Though the mill no longer grinds grain, it still houses the old milling machinery. (The nationally distributed line of stone-ground bakery products bearing the Hodgson name is now produced at a modern mill in nearby Gainesville.) Standing nearby is an old round gas pump, its glass top now clouded and stained.
Issuing from the bluff under the mill building, the spring is still picturesque. It nourishes native ferns and mosses clinging to crevices in the sheer rock wall. Some of the water is diverted to the mill pond, where watercress and other marine plants thrive. Inside the mill building, an opening to a cave in the face of the bluff provides natural air conditioning.
A modern day facility in nearby Gainesville, MO is still producing and distributing the all natural stone ground flours of the past under the Hodgson Mill name.
1880's STYLE SILVER GELATIN GLASS PLATE NEGATIVES
Based on the history of the mill, I decided to photograph the mill using handmade silver gelatin dry plate glass negatives in my 4x5 large format camera that are from the same late 19th century period when the mill was first built. The plates are developed in the darkroom under red safelight and then they can either be printed in the darkroom or a digital scan can be done to make a wide range of contemporary type prints.
The handmade silver gelatin dry plates are remnants of an era gone by, just like the grist mills and I think this is why this medium is the perfect choice to tell the story of this amazing mill. The look and feel of a silver gelatin dry plate cannot be duplicated with modern day digital cameras because the silver gelatin emulsion is a chemical-based process that responds to light much differently than digital cameras.
HODGSON MILL BEHIND THE SCENES PHOTOS
Hodgson Mill is a beautiful and peaceful place that the entire family can enjoy. Don't forget there are some nice hiking trails and camping all around this area. There is a place across the street from the mill to enjoy a picnic and lots of places to float on the river too.