Spring Mill State Park / Pioneer Village Photos by Jerry Jindrich
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Recommended Day Trip
Spring Mill State Park and its Pioneer Village

Roughly 15 miles north of Paoli, Indiana
102 Miles from Newburgh, up I-69 and then east on U.S. 150, U.S. 50, and Indiana 60 just past Mitchell. Alternate and more entertaining routes might follow I-64 eastward and then north on Indiana 37 through the Hoosier National Forest to Paoli and on to Mitchell. You could also make your way to French Lick and then to Paoli and Mitchell. The distance might increase four or five miles. The fun factor might multiply several times. In 2020, the club follwed I-64 to IN-66 and north to and through Paoli.
Travel time:
1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours (one way)

Spring Mill State Park was the destination of an October 20, 2018, driving event. Many SIR members had never been to the park and were unaware of its many attractions. We sampled the restaurant in the Spring Mill Inn and visited the park's Pioneer Village. There are also caves to explore, cave boat tours, a nature center, camping, and a Memorial dedicated to the astronaut Gus Grissom.

The following description is from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources website:
Spring Mill State Park offers a powerful illustration of the link between the natural and cultural worlds. The water flowing from several cave springs led to the founding of an industrial village in the early 1800s. Pioneer entrepreneurs took advantage of a constant water source that never froze, using it to power several gristmills, a wool mill, a saw mill, and a distillery. In turn, pioneer settlers shaped the landscape around the village, clearing land for agriculture and timber.

The restored Pioneer Village, founded in 1814, contains 20 historic buildings to explore. The centerpiece is a 3-story limestone gristmill, built in 1817, that still grinds cornmeal today. Heritage interpreters portray the year 1863 and demonstrate period crafts.

The gristmill is clearly the focal point of the present-day Pioneer Village and would have been an important part of village life in the 1800s.

Visitors can tour the mill and see demonstrations of the milling process. A series of gears driven by the great wheel outside turn a heavy millstone. Corn is poured into a hopper above the stone, ground into cornmeal which falls into a box below the wheel. The miller scoops it up, pours it into another box, and fills individual 2 pound bags for sale.

Water powers this saw, too, although there was no demonstration during our visit.

Water to drive the wheel flows from a nearby spring in this flume. The children and grownups in these pictures are trying to walk on stilts. Stilts and other kinds of period playthings are available for visitors' use.

Many of the historic buildings were restored during the 1920s and 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Costumed park staff can be seen in several buildings reenacting village activities. These women were weaving.

Other commercial structures include a distillery, tavern, blacksmith, store, carriage house, and pottery.

There are a couple of residences a school, and a walled garden. In all, it was not hard to imagine a small but bustling nineteenth century community.

Pioneer Village is open daily from May through mid-October. The park is open year-round and would make an excellent day trip.

Photographs and captions: © 2018 Jerry Jindrich

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