In northwest Arkansas, the prettiest part of the state in my opinion, a few miles east of Bentonville, home of Wal-Mart, and Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas, and only 25 miles southwest of Eureka Springs is one of the few surviving water-powered grist mills, the only working mill in Arkansas, and what is thought to be the one and only under-shot (the water flows under the wheel instead of over it) water powered mill in the whole U.S. of A. War Eagle Mill is situated in a wonderfully peaceful rural setting; wooded with some open fields, the War Eagle Creek running beside it (which powers the 18-foot cypress water-wheel) and a wooden-decked single-lane bridge crossing the flowing water.
The history of the mill began in 1832 when the first one was built by an 19-year-old man and his wife, Sylvanus and Catherine Blackburn after he came upon the site while traveling west looking for a spot to build a home and raise a family. A talented builder he was as the home he built in 1831 is still standing and in use today. Being the only mill within 25 miles, a long distance back when you hauled your corn in a horse-drawn wagon over rutted trails, theBlackburn Mill proved to be a great success and very profitable.
In 1848, a heavy rains flooded the valley and the mill was pushed into the river and washed downstream. When the the water receded, Sylvanus and Catherine rebuilt the mill and expanded the structure to mill lumber as well as grain.
In 1861, when the civil war broke out, Union troops came into northern Arkansas and there were several battles in the area. Sylvanus took Catherine and their nine children to safety in Texas and borded up the mill. The Union soldiers moved into the area and for a short time, used the mill to grind grain for the soldiers. Confederates headed to the valley and the Union forces retreated. The Rebels used the mill for several days, but then moved on for the upcoming battle at Pea Ridge. Seeing they couldn't hold it, the Confederates burned the mill so the Union forces could not use it again.
After the war ended in 1865, the Blackburn clan returned to their still standing house, but the Mill was gone again. Sylvanus’ son, James Austin Cameron Blackburn took on the task of reconstructing the mill for a third time, which he finished in 1873. The Mill, now the largest in Arkansas, grew even more prosperous. Lumber cut at the War Ealge saw mill was used to build much of Fayetteville, AR.
J.A.C. ran for the Arkansas Senate and when he won, he didn't have enough time to perform his Senate duties and run the Mill, so he sold it to a family named Kilgore. They operated the Mill until 1924 when, for the second time, the Mill burned down by a fire of unknown cause.
If you are into hiking, biking, or bird watching, the mill is just down the road from Hobbs State Park Conservation Area. From an easy 1 1/2 mile trail with benches and picknic tables to an interconnected series of trails covering 21miles, you can find whatever level you might want.
From Little Rock, go west on I-40 about 115 miles to AR-23 at exit 35. Turn right (north) on AR-23. You will go through the Ozark National Forrest, a really pretty drive in itself. Continue north into the town of Huntsville where you will need to carefully follow signs and get on AR-412 W/N. Continue north and west on AR-412 for about 11 miles until you can connect to AR-303 north, which is also known as CR-98 and High Sky Inn Road. You will come to the mill and fair area after about 7 miles. Watch for the signs.