The first thing I noticed upon my arrival in Ft. Scott, KS was a large mill, similar in design to Springfield’s own “Messiah Mills.” However, whereas Messiah Mills exist in a heavily developed area, Ft. Scott’s mill has been left more or less alone, and is surrounded by a small shanty town of outbuildings, large and small. I eagerly awaited a chance to explore the mill and its surroundings.
I was hesitant to go alone due to the potential danger involved, but was unable to find anyone to join me, so after some procrastination I took it upon myself to venture inside.
I set out on a Sunday morning, wanting daylight yet hoping to avoid prying eyes. Luckily, being in the buckle of the Bible belt most people were in church at the time, and the rest were still home in bed.
I began by scouring the building’s perimeter for a way in. Most possible entrances were securely sealed, but I eventually happened on a way into the basement area, and another that would allow me into a wooden tower running parallel to the silos, though it was a tight squeeze and the only thing inside was a ladder to the top which I was completely unwilling to climb without someone around to retrieve my body.
I then tackled the surrounding structures, all of which were accessible, in various states of decay, and utterly fascinating. They ranged from sheds to shops to a huge fan for drying grain, large enough to walk through. The biggest building, outside of the main silos, was several stories with a basement, and connected to the main tower via a series of rickety catwalks. A feeble wooden gate barred entrance, though it was easily circumvented, and a thick wooden ladder connected the various floors. The first floor seemed to be a power house of sorts. The lowest level was completely flooded, and the upper levels were rendered inaccessible due to my unwillingness to climb higher than I could reasonably walk away from falling.
Once I was satisfied, I proceeded down into the main building. I entered through the basement, which was horrible, as basements in these type buildings tend to be. The floor was covered in a layer of muck, mostly decaying grain, and the walls and ceiling sported a thick layer of cobwebs. Luckily an old conveyor belt ran throughout the length of the building, which provided a more pleasant walking surface. There were rooms and offshoots to the left and right, though all were empty and some were barred by impassible sheets of webbing.
Disappointment came when I arrived at the foot of the tower. While there was a stairway, making for an easy ascent, it was completely surrounded by what can only be described as a “moat” 6-8 feet deep and too wide to leap across. I’m normally not opposed to getting my feet wet in the name of exploration, but this was the kind of water I did NOT want to find myself submerged in. After trying everything I could think of to reach the stairs, short of actually swimming across, I was forced to admit defeat.
If ever I return I’ll bring along a raft of some sort, and hopefully a friend, though I imagine the upper floors were very much the same as every other mill I’ve been to.
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