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f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

Old Appleton bridge and mill 1972

Posted Monday, September 29, 2014, at 12:00 AM

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Feb. 25, 1972 Southeast Missourian

Children, just off a school bus, walk toward home across old iron bridge across Apple Creek. Old mill in background. (Stephen Robertson photos)

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Old Appleton is famous for grain mill, life of tranquillity

By Stephen Robertson

Missourian photographer-writer

It must be said at the very beginning that the nicest thing about Old Appleton, as far as the townspeople are concerned, is that it's Old Appleton and not some big city.

One of the first things a visitor notices is the tremendous contrast in life styles in this quiet community on the extreme northern edge of Cape County. Several hundred feet away are cars on Highway 61 hurrying to get somewhere, or maybe nowhere.

But here on the Old Appleton spur which juts away from the highway for about a half mile before rejoining Highway 61, life is synonymous with the word "tranquillity." Peace is spelled with a capital "P" in this town where the waters of Apple Creek gurgle by. Countless fishermen have fond memories of whole afternoons spent here by the old mill and bridge angling for the big ones. And it didn't really matter if there wasn't a nibble because they always went away relaxed and happy.

The town was founded in 1824 and was known then as "Appleton." It acquired the nickname "Shakerag" during the Civil War and later was renamed Old Appleton to distinguish it from Appleton City, Mo. Alfred McLane, one of the first settlers, built a flour mill on the creek in the early days of the settlement and it is still a focal point of the town.

Appleton experienced excellent growth and in its hey day boasted a distillery, brewery, blacksmith shop, soda water plant, creamery, hotel, bank and garage. The beer must have had outstanding demand because even prohibition was unable to shut off the tap.

The town fathers remember (as lads) watching while federal agents raided the brewery, smashing bottles and opening kegs.

The suds ran everywhere while the townspeople ran with their buckets to catch the foam before it spoiled. If the fish in Apple Creek could talk they would probably relate stories about how funny the water tasted whenever the federal agents visited Old Appleton.

The mill, Old Appleton's landmark, is in fine shape thanks to L.L. Buchheit, Reginald Gerhardt and Mrs. Leo Baer, the present owners. In 1967 it was a sad sight. Mr. Buchheit, member of one of the oldest families here, feared the mill would eventually be lost. It badly needed repair. The news media, including The Missourian, publicized the fact and soon Mr. Buchheit was receiving correspondence from many parts of the country. The letters were sympathetic, but not helpful.

Mr. Buchheit, the late Leo Baer and Mr. Gerhardt undertook restoration of the mill so it could be preserved. They envision a historical society, family or perhaps a restaurant taking the property some day and making it useful once again. The mill ground wheat until World War II and was used for a short period after the war for feed grinding.

Old Appleton, its mill and its easy-going life style all need to be preserved for those warm summer days of relaxation along a gurgling stream.


Editor's note:

A flash flood on Dec. 3, 1982 tore apart the historic iron truss bridge over Apple Creek. Plans to restore the span stretched into years. Restoration began in 2005 and the bridge was dedicated April 22, 2006.

Another flash flood on May 16, 1986 destroyed the old mill. It was not rebuilt.

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