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Living Life to the Fullest In Southwest Missouri

Jolly Mill

Jolly Mill

I first heard about Jolly Mill several years ago in a Facebook post. In response to a question about where to go for a family picnic in the area, someone had responded “Jolly Mill.” I had never heard of it, so I went online to do some research.

Nothing. I found no information about Jolly Mill, so I filed the name in my mind, hoping to come across information about it someday.

That day came on a beautiful Sunday this September, and it was quite by accident. Wanting to take advantage of the warm weather, we packed up the kids to go exploring. My husband had selected the Capps Creek Conservation Area near Pierce City as our destination.

When we arrived at Capps Creek, we walked through some fields to a pond where another family was fishing. Through conversation, we learned that we were less than a mile from Jolly Mill Park. Less than a mile! In fact, all we had to do was turn left out of the parking lot, cross the creek and then we’d be there. I had wondered where this place was for so long and suddenly we had stumbled across it. I felt like Indiana Jones discovering the Lost Ark.




Walking through the park made me feel like I was on the set of an old Western movie. There are several bridges, a water-powered mill, a pavilion, a school house, a saw mill, a play area for children, and walking trails.

Several signs posted throughout the park describe the history of the area. Here is a summary.




Built in 1848 by Thomas and John Isbell to produce spirits and grist mill products, this brown wooden building (known as Isbell’s Distillery) became the center of the village of Jollification (over time, the name changed to Jolly Mill).

In the 1870s, George Isbell refused to pay the new taxes on spirits, so he switched to flour milling. In the 1920s, when flour milling was no longer profitable, the owners turned to grist milling until all production ceased in 1973.

In 1983, the Jolly Mill Park Foundation purchased the mill and it was then entered onto the National Register of Historic Places.




There is also a one-room schoolhouse on the grounds. Originally known as Hazel Hill School, it opened in 1885 as the first public school in Barry County School District #1. At that time, the school year lasted only five months, and one teacher taught eight separate grades.

In 1940, the name of the school changed to Chapman School, after the people who lived in a nearby home. In the 1980s, the school was donated to the Jolly Mill Park Foundation by the Chapmans and moved to the park grounds from its original location about a mile away.




Next to the school is the Shepherd Sawmill, which was established in 1915. You can peek inside the windows and see the old office and…




…an old tractor.




While kids might not appreciate the historical buildings, they will have a blast on the play set. Thanks to chasing my three-year-old up the long flight of curved stairs, I discovered that there is a great view of the park from the top, so it’s worth the climb.




On the other side of the school house is a pavilion that sits on the edge of a spring. The flowers were still blooming when we visited the park, so it made for a picturesque spot.




The spring water is amazingly clear. Even from a distance you can see trout swimming in the water.







On the west side of the park, there is a grassy field where kids can run around or play catch. There are also picnic tables and charcoal grills available.

Jolly Mill is located just about an hour southeast of Joplin at 31630 Jolly Mill Dr., Pierce City, MO. There is a small fee to enter (you can also purchase a yearly pass for unlimited visits). Pets are not allowed in the park.

A trip to this quaint, historic park allows for both exploration and relaxation, making it a great place for a Sunday afternoon picnic.


*For information about the park, call 417-476-5421 (there is no website).






Living Life to The Fullest!

Joplin MO LifeI love seeking out new experiences and finding places off the beaten path. I started Joplin MO Life in August 2013 as a way to share my discoveries with others in the Joplin community so that they can learn about the resources that exist right in their own backyards.

I have worked in education and event planning, and have always loved to write. I hold a master's degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a bachelor's degree in marketing from Tulane University.


  1. Thanks for the wonderful write-up. I’m president of the park board & we all are proud that the park has been built and maintained by private donation. P.S. we really got blasted by this last flood, but we’ll be back soon.


    • I’m so sorry to hear about the flood damage at the park. We’ll come visit this spring or summer. After all, Jolly Mill is one of our favorite parks!

  2. What happened to jolly mills why did the waterfall and all water source get killed I was upset I didn’t make it over the summer but devastated when I went yesterday actually saddened will it ever be the same

    • Jolly Mill’s destruction was due to the forces of nature. Last December, this region experienced record flooding and it wrecked havoc on the idyllic Jolly Mill. There have been several fundraising efforts to help fund the cleanup and restoration of this area treasure, and if you would like to participate, you can donate here:

  3. We are hoping to have a small family reunion at Jolly Mill this Fall, and need to know if there is a need to reserve an area of park benches, etc. Dates are still being determined, but right now I’m focusing on whether or not reservations are required. Thank you.

    • That will be a great place for a family reunion! I’m not affiliated with Jolly Mill so you’ll have to contact the park directly at 417-476-5421 (there is no website).

  4. I attended the Chapman School for one year, which I believe was 1949. That was of course before it was moved. We lived directly across from the school in a rented house, which as I recall, belonged to the Chapmans. We had a wood/coal stove for heat, a pump and water bucket for our water and two two-holer privies, “Girls” and “Boys’ out back. Our teacher, Ethyl Swaffar, taught all 8 grades. She was teacher, Principal, Superintendent,Janitor, Nurse, Playground Supervisor and Administrator all rolled into one.

    No playground equipment, we played “Shinny”.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Dennis! It’s always fun to hear from people who have personal connections to historical places.

  5. I would like to check this place out with the family ,but i heard it was distroyed ..did they rebuild


  1. Kiersten + Josh | Southwest Missouri Engagement Photographer - DuMond Photography - […] their contagious laughter and fun personalities. We spent the morning with Kiersten and Josh at Jolly Mills Park in…

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