December 1984



Interesting series of articles on early villages in Cape Girardeau County as prepared by Missourian writer.


Although situated on the north bank of Apple Creek and therefore, geographically speaking, located in Perry County, Wilkinson's Mill has always been regarded as a Cape Girardeau County institution.  It was undoubtedly the first mill on Apple Creek, which stream, by the way, was at one time declared by the government of the United States to be a navigable stream.


According to the most reliable information, this mill was built by a man named Bowen, who lived near the mouth of Apple Creek, perhaps at the expense and instructions of John Logan, a reputed Indian doctor and the father of Gen. John A. Logan of Civil War fame.  Certain it is that John Logan, who had married the widow of Don Louis Lorimier, was one of the earliest owners, and the mill was for many years known as Logan's Mill.  It had an inevitable reputation as a place where was manufactured the finest flour of cakes and pastry, and supplied the wants of the better class of settlers in Cape Girardeau County and many other settlements.  It seems that John Logan sold the mill, which used water as power exclusively, to Charles Ingram, who lived just east of the mill.  On the hill, a few hundred yards east from the mill site, is the Ingram burial ground, where Charles Ingram's grave can still be located.  It had a peculiar brick structure above it, but the structure has tumbled down and, while the hand-made brick are still hard and serviceable in spite of the fact that they were placed there nearly 90 years ago, the mortar binding had deteriorated and crumbled and the building has collapsed.  It was a small structure, about 8 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 4 feet high, with arched roof.  A small marble slab still intact, bears this epitaphic inscription.


In Memory of Charles Ingram who departed this life April 9, 1843, Aged 77 years, 6 months, and 7 days


At the foot of the grave stands a large persimmon tree, around which winds the shaggy vine of the trumpet honeysuckle, or lonicera, which strangles slowly the three that supports it.


After the death of Charles Ingram a slave of the family seems to have continued to operate the mill, which was a grist mill and saw mill combined.  This slave, Bill Ingram, after the Civil War, had given him his freedom, remained with his master's family and performed the duties of the head miller.


In 1817 John Wilkinson came to America from England and settled in Indiana.  He and his brother build a boat in Evanston, in which boat they made a trip to St. Louis.  On the second trip to St. Louis their boat sand in the Mississippi opposite to what is now known as Wilkinson's Island, whereupon John Wilkinson established a residence on the west bank of the Mississippi, entered land and began to rebuild his fortune.  In 1852, he purchased from the heirs of Charles Ingram the mill on Apple Creek.  John Wilkinson improved the mill and it became known as Wilkinson's Mill, which name it bore until it was demolished.  He died in 186, but the mill was operated by W. R. Wilkinson, a son, for many years.


A modern turbine wheel was put in about 1880, and some years later, while W.R. Wilkinson was operating the mill as a merchant mill, steam power was added. At various times the mill was operated by the Logans, the Ingrams, W.R. Wilkinson, Dick Boren, Munson Wilkinson, Adolph Ziske.  It has not been operated since 1900.  All these have long since died and the families of most of them have entirely disappeared from this part of the state.


The dam, constructed partly of wood and partly of stone, has been razed and subverted from its foundation. Near the banks on both sides of the stream will remain parts of the wooden cribs that were once filled with stone and on which rested the heavy logs that held the timbers in slanting position.  All the remaining fragmentary timbers show the careful work of the broadaxe and mortising chisel.  Parts of the foundation walls remain although dilapidated and crumbing.  Square, sawed posts protrude from the ground on which once stood this building full of activity and vigorous pursuit of business.  Twisted shafts and cogwheels, two large turbines, red with rust, heave beams and timbers on which still are fastened journals and shaft-hangers, the bar that bears the handles with which were once used to open the flood-gates to the turbines, the hewn stone for a foundation for an engine, and a very heavy cylindrical axle, these reminders, are strewn around over the mill-site and in flood-time covered with sedimentary matter, left by the receding waters.


The roadbed of the once so busy highway is still discernible as it winds south between the creek and the bluff.  On the rock-strewn hillside to the east, where once stood a thriving village, are particles of glass and brickbats mixed with the fragments of fossilized strata showing petrified Mollusca and south of the former village, bluffs composed of a porous, ochre-like stone, rear their heads in grotesque formation over the pits of former quarries.  Along the banks of the creek, north and south and around the bend westward, large sycamore trees rear their settled trunks and slanting over the water as if to hide the same from view, spread their branches until they meet in a canopy in midstream.


Over the remaining foundation of the dam tumble in bluish green cascades the rippling waters of Apple Creek, ever rushing onward, unhampered by retaining walls and unharnessed by turbines and waterwheels, everlasting, endless and without termination of existence or duration, gurgling and impetuously edifying in foaming whirlpools, like a might spring poem in the depth of which silvery Easter waters run over colored pebbles, silently steals the quietude of the dusk upon this tranquil scene while the mind files back to the time when the Red Man roamed these hills and wooded plains, when the hard pioneer looked upon this beauty spot and resolved to settle here, when the rumble of the stone burr, cruising the golden grain into powder of alabaster whiteness, was first heard by the startled wild creatures in the forest roundabout.  While the shadows of the night fall over the landscape, one imagines the blazing Easter fires on the heights reaching towards heaven with their wings of glowing scarlet, and the trained ear can perceive the symphonious consonance of the immortal resurrection hymns that are the universal property of the human race.


DID YOU KNOW? One of the most striking features of the immigration in Cape Girardeau County was that it was anything but a random cross-section from all regions of Germany.  The tiny Duchy of Brunswick, source of only six of every 1000 German-Americans nationally, accounted for nearly one-fourth of those in Cape County.  An even greater share hailed from the province of Hannover, especially the district bordering on Brunswick.  Such clustering was typical of immigration in rural America generally.  It made for closely knit communities, helped cushion culture shock, and generally produced few extremes of wealth or poverty.  Urban immigrants, in stark contrast, were more divorce and more uprooted in a number of respects.


from a paper by Walter D. Kamphoefner at a meeting of the Pioneer America Society October 5, 1984