Bollinger Mill remains fixture in community

Sunday, May 31, 2009
Bollinger Mill, Burfordville, Mo. (Diane L. Wilson)

The bridge is nearly as old as the town and the mill has kept the town going during some of the worst times. The Bollinger Mill in Burfordsville, Mo., has been a historic site since 1967, a place for tourists and locals to picnic, sightsee, and travel back through history.

Bollinger Mill was founded by George Fredrick Bollinger in 1800. Bollinger received a Spanish land grant which enabled him to move his family from North Carolina to Missouri and let him build both the mill and the nearby dam. The mill became a fixture in the area. The original mill was built with logs, but was rebuilt with stone in 1825. Union soldiers came along during the Civil War and burned the mill to prevent the passing of flour and meal into rebel hands. Only the stone foundation survived the fire, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' website.

After the war ended, Bollinger's family sold both the foundation and 640 acres to Solomon Burford. Burford had the mill rebuilt to be a four story structure that has stood from 1867 to today. From 1897 to 1953, the mill was owned by the Cape County Milling Co. In 1953 the milling company went out of business, prompting the mill to be sold to the Vandivort family, who were related to George F. Bollinger. The Vandivorts donated the mill to the Cape Girardeau County Historical Society in 1961, which in turn donated it to the state in 1967.

Bollinger Mill has been restored as an operating, water-powered mill. The mill contains examples of milling machinery and equipment such as separators, scourers, roll stands, millstones, bolters, purifiers, bran dusters, conveyors and chutes.

The covered bridge is now closed to traffic, but visitors can walk on its planks and enjoy the historical significance it has. It's the oldest standing covered wooden bridge in Missouri, and one of four standing wooden covered bridges in the state. The other three are The Locust Creek Covered Bridge in Linn County, the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge in Jefferson County, and the Union Covered Bridge in Monroe County.

A family from St. Louis walked through a covered bridge that was built in 1868 while visited the Bollinger Mill State Historic Site in Burfordville, Friday. The bridge is the oldest of only four covered bridges left in the state. (Diane L. Wilson)

Originally built by Joseph Lansmon, the Burfordville Covered Bridge spans the Whitewater River. At 140 feet long, it has a clearance 14 feet high and 12 feet wide. Construction originally started in 1858, however the Civil War started and building plans were delayed while the construction workers fought in the battles, according to Missouri State Parks. The war ended in 1865 and the bridge was completed shortly thereafter. The construction style is called Howe-truss, named for William Howe, who patented his original design in 1840. It is covered to protect the bridge's intricate design, a weave of yellow poplar going both vertical and diagonal, fastened against the top and bottom of the truss. This was perfect for those travelers without their own covered transportation when they needed to seek cover from inclement weather.

In 1967, the Missouri Legislature passed a bill authorizing the Missouri State Park Board to take possession of five covered state bridges. One of those bridges was destroyed in a flood shortly after the Missouri State Park Board took ownership. That same year, the Cape Girardeau County Historical Society donated Burfordville Covered Bridge and Bollinger Mill to the state. The record flood in 1986 increased the pressure of the current of the Whitewater River, and the force was strong enough to move the bridge just enough to close the bridge to traffic. The most recent repairs to the bridge were completed in the summer of 1998 when the trusses were repaired.

Tours of Bollinger Mill are available 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. The 43 acred historical site also has picnic tables, lots of room to roam, and a historical cemetery that includes the remains of George Bollinger and his family. For more information, call 573-243-4591.

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