1939 - Present
The area that encompasses Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site and Park was originally settled by Waltus Lockett Watkins in the 1830s. His first dwelling was a small log cabin, but by the 1850s Waltus had begun his stately brick home that can still be viewed today. Around the same time, the woolen industry was gaining prominence in Missouri. Seeing an economic opportunity, Watkins began to construct a woolen mill on his 80-acre tract of land in 1860. The large structure was built from lumber and handmade bricks produced on site. The mill was powered by a steam engine and a 30-foot tall riverboat bailer. During the Civil War, the mill was raided and was forced to suspend operations, Watkins expanded the mill during the closure, and by the end of the war, the mill was furnished with modernized looms ready to resume production. At the height of its production, the prosperous mill employed around 40 operators and produced a variety of textile goods. Around 1900, operations were scaled back due to a decline in the woolen industry.
The mill is the only example of a 19th-century textile mill in North America with its original machinery preserved. The preservation quality is such that the site has earned a National Historic Landmark and National Mechanic Engineering Historic Landmark designations. Since 1964, the property has been part of the Missouri State Park system.
Today, visitors can tour the mill, visit the Watkins farm and home, walk trails, swim, fish, camp, boat, and ride the paved bicycle trail around the lake. Visitors can also see the Octagonal shaped school built in 1856, and a church built in 1871.
Date: 1939 - Present
Subject: Woolen mills; Watkins, Walthus L.; Manufacturing
Contributing Institution: Missouri State Parks - Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site
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