Caplinger Mills is an unincorporated community located approximately six and a half miles to the north of Stockton in southwest Missouri. As is common in small communities, the residents are friendly and the homes appear to be well kept. Little draws your attention as you pass through the community until you reach the end of East 676th street, where you are treated to a pleasant surprise. The roadway ends with a picturesque
view of the Sac River being spanned by a seasoned bridge. Originally part of the roadway, the bridge is open only to foot traffic and serves as a local fishing spot and tourist attraction. Built by The Chicago Bridge Company in 1895, the bridge is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and has become the community’s signature landmark.
Situated at the east end of the bridge are the ruins of a grain mill. Built in 1842 by John Caplinger, the grain mill pre dates the bridge by fifty-three years. History has not been kind to the mill. The mill was destroyed several times by fire, notably, twice during the American Civil War. Several yards to the south of the bridge, the mill’s low head dam still spans the width of the river. Water cascades over the dam when levels are high creating a small waterfall. At other times, the entire structure of the dam is visible and water flows through crevices at its top. Nothing remains of the mill today except the exterior walls, the dam, and some of the mill’s gear works outside of the south wall of the building. The walls of the mill are covered with the graffiti of individuals wishing to mark their passage through the area.
As is true of many communities, Caplinger Mills holds a forgotten place in American history. In 1863, Caplinger Mills and the surrounding area lay along the route taken by Confederate forces during “Shelby’s Great Raid”. Departing from Arkadelphia, Arkansas, on September 22, 1863, Colonel Joseph Orville Shelby set out with a force of 600 cavalry troopers, twelve ammunition wagons, and two artillery pieces, and headed toward southwestern Missouri. As they proceeded toward Missouri, Shelby’s raiders recruited an additional 800 troopers. Over the next 30 days, Shelby’s raiders entered southwestern Missouri and proceeded to harass Federal forts and troop encampments, capture Federal livestock, and destroyed Federal property and supplies. Caplinger Mills lay along Shelby’s path of advance and the grain mill was set alight by his raiders.
Shelby continued his destructive raid northward until October 13th when his forces encountered Federal General Egbert B. Brown and his contingent of 1800 men on the outskirts of Marshall, Missouri. Brown succeeded in halting Shelby’s advance at the daylong “Battle of Marshall”. Attempting to encircle Shelby’ just to the east of the town, Brown had hoped to either capture Shelby’s force or to so severely damage it as to make it ineffective. Indeed, the latter was mostly the case. Brown forced Shelby’s cavalry to split into two separate columns and retreat back to Arkansas. While fleeing from Federal forces, one of Shelby’s columns, lead by Colonel DeWitt Clinton Hunter, retreated through the Caplinger Mills area and again set fire to the grain mill.
The raid officially ended on October 26, 1863, when Shelby’s reunited columns reached Washington, Arkansas. Overall, the raid was considered a success. Shelby’s after action reports indicate he succeeded in destroying ten Federal forts and capturing or destroying an estimated million dollars of Federal property and supplies. However, Shelby’s forces suffered heavy losses. One in six of his raiders would never return home. On the larger stage, Shelby’s actions in Missouri prevented the Federal forces stationed there from reinforcing General Rosecrans’ army which was besieged at Chattanooga following their stunning defeat by Confederate forces at the “Battle of Chickamauga Creek”. For his efforts, Joseph Shelby was promoted to brigadier general.
The photographs presented here are a compilation of shots I took during a trip to the area over the recent Independence Day holiday and my first visit to the area seven years ago. During my original visit to the area, I had not started geotaging my photographs so several of the pictures will not have global coordinates associated with them. The pictures are from Crabtree Cove at Stockton Lake, an old scenic bridge 11.4 miles to the northwest of Stockton, an interesting stone fence 12 miles northwest of Stockton, and of course, Caplinger Mills.
I hope you enjoy the photo collection!