Alley Spring, Missouri
Alley Spring is an unincorporated community in Shannon County, Missouri, United States. It is located six miles west of Eminence on Route 106. The scenic Alley Mill, or "Old Red Mill" is located there on a spring and is located in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The Mill is operated as an Ozarks history museum. Nearby a one room schoolhouse and general store add to the feeling of the restored historic hamlet. It once had a post office, but it is now closed and mail now comes from Eminence. The community is named after John Alley, a miller. It was originally named Mammoth Spring and later Barksdale Spring. These names were deemed too long by the Post Office Department of the time, so the village was renamed after a prominent local citizen, John Alley.
Alley Spring is a well known spot for family reunions, picnics, camp outs and fishing trips. It became part of Ozark National Scenic Riverways in 1969. Ten thousand years ago, the Ozarks looked quite a bit different. In this region these early Indians hunted the abundant game and fished the rich waters of the nearby rivers. Alley was an almost perfect place to camp for these original Ozarkers.
In the 1830s and 1840s, European settlers from Tennessee and other areas began to homestead in the region. The rivers and springs of the Ozark Riverways area attracted them just as they had the Indians centuries earlier.
A settlement grew up along the Jacks Fork river and up hollows emptying into it. In time, the spring, then called Barksdale's Spring or Mammoth Spring, became the focus of a community. The first mill was built in 1868. A post office was established, named after a prominent local farming family, Alley. From that day to this, the area has been known as Alley Spring, Alley Mill, or just plain Alley.
It wasn't until 1894 that the current Alley Mill was built by a local speculator, George Washington McCaskill and his business partner, Jenoah H.(J.H.)Whitacre, their names are still seen engraved on the siding next to the entrance. With a turbine rather than a water wheel, and with rollers rather than stone grist stones, it was considered to be very "high tech" for its day. It served the needs of the local community by processing the farmers' grain. As flour or meal it could be sold or bartered for goods and services. In time, other services became available at Alley, including a blacksmith, a general store, and a school.
Alley Mill had a much more important role than just turning wheat and corn into meal. It served to cement the widely scattered farmers and settlers in the nearby hills and hollows into a single community. People who might live fifteen miles from their nearest neighbor would all come to the same place, Alley, at the same times of year to process and sell their grain. At harvest time, farmers from all over these hills would gather around the mill. Some would bring the whole family in wagons or by horse and mule, prepared to camp for a few days while the business got done. The mill's immediate vicinity was a bustling place where news was swapped, children played, families picnicked, friendships were forged and reinforced, and maybe a romance or two was sparked.
The community at Alley thrived for a while, then declined as times changed. While fewer folks came to Alley for the mill's services, the tradition of gathering at the spring remained. People from all over the area kept coming to picnic by the spring's blue waters, to hold family reunions and gatherings. From 1913 into the Prohibition era, Alley was even a commercial resort, attracting people who came by train from as far away as Saint Louis!
Today, as part of Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Alley Spring offers its cool waters and tranquil atmosphere to all Americans. It is still very popular with local people who still camp, picnic and hold reunions at Alley. A hundred Springs and Falls have come and gone since Alley Mill first opened its doors. As a commercial mill, it went out of business over sixty years ago, but as the anchor for a community it remains firmly anchored in the rock of time and tradition.
Haunting in the Hills
The Haunting in the Hills is an annual event held at Alley Spring. It consists of traditional Ozark demonstrations and Tales from Ozark's Dark Side. The 2010 event takes place the weekend of October 9 & 10th. All Events are free to the public. Traditional Ozark Demonstrations include: -Blacksmithing -Coopering -Soap Making -Spinning and Weaving -Candle Making -Broom Making -Basket Weaving -Quilting -Corn Shelling -Beekeeping -Civil War Encampment -Musical Entertainment
The National Park Service operates a large campground at Alley. There is a small convenience store and canoe rental as well. Canoeing is very popular on the Jacks Fork River which runs through Alley.