The mill can be seen just below the smoke stack below.

Old Flour Mill Hid a Treasure


As I was growing up in Searcy in the 1930s and reached the age at which I could walk around my neighborhood by myself, I discovered the old mill building on the northwest corner of the intersection of Spruce and Vine streets. This was only two blocks from my home at North Spring and Academy streets. As I recall, and as you can see in the middle of this 1906 photo, it was an imposing, no, ominous two or three-story building of rusty metal siding and roofing that may at one time have been painted barn red. I believe it had a stone foundation wall with openings as indicated in the sketch. I recall the front of the building was on the south, or Vine Street, end.

The building in its declining years was what lawyers call an attractive nuisance. It was certainly attractive to me, and on more than one occasion I crawled through one of the foundation wall openings into the full unfinished and unused basement with standing water eight to ten inches deep. I discovered on my first visit a pile of dead No. 6 dry cell batteries as well as a few Hot Shot six-volt ignition batteries. I couldn’t believe my good fortune! I helped myself to two or three of the No. 6s and one Hot Shot and proceeded home to begin the disassembly in my Dad’s shop. What I was after was the large central carbon anode that I used for marking on concrete sidewalks. According to Searcy, Arkansas: A Frontier Town Grows Up With America by Raymond Lee Muncy, the building was the Searcy Mill Company and the last flour was milled there in 1905. By the time I came nosing around, the smoke stack, visible in the above photo, had disappeared. My conjecture is that after the milling of flour ceased, the stack, steam boiler and machinery were disposed of. The dead No. 6 and Hot Shot ignition batteries in profusion were evidence that perhaps at one time there was a gasoline engine in the old mill perchance powering a grist mill or woodworking machinery. I tried to make the sketch as I remember the old mill except for the smoke stack. I made the vantage point about where the clock is on the north side of the Courthouse dome. According to Floridean Wakenight Lyle, with whom I corresponded, the mill was in the Phillips family that came to Searcy from Sidon. Theo ran the mill and J.D. the paint and wallpaper store at the corner of Spruce and Race streets catty-cornered across from Wakenight Electrical and Plumbing store. Bert was a carpenter, while Tom was distinguished by having married Florrie’s aunt, Alpha Smith. Radnor is the one I remember fondly as he was very patient and courteous to me, a pesky kid in the store buying batteries and vacuum tubes as well as getting old tubes tested. I never knew Natalie Phillips Shoffner. If you have additional information about the mill or people who worked there, please share it with the historical society. The mill is barely a memory today but to a boy of the 1930s it was an irresistible treasure chest. vvv


(The writer is a member of the White County Historical Society who lives in Springdale, Arkansas.)