On September 30 we toured the Watkins Woolen Mill in Lawson, MO. This Missouri state park and historical site is the only 19th century woolen mill in North America with its original machinery. It is both a National Historic Landmark and a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark. The site has both the woolen mill and the Watkins family home, as well as a very nice visitor center.
While on our tour, we learned from our wonderful guides about the numerous steps that wool sheared from a sheep goes through to become fabric or yarn, the kinds of work that children did at the factory, the additional mills run by Mr. Watkins (a grist mill and a saw mill), the town of mill employees that sprang up as the mills became prosperous, and many details about the daily life of the Watkins family. The kids were able to see a grist mill stone, to feel various types of wool, to see the giant 16 foot flywheel and all the amazing equipment throughout the woolen mill. We also saw the expansive kitchen garden full of heirloom vegetables and herbs, and we took a moment to visit the heritage breed chickens on our way to lunch.
Here is some of what we saw on our visit:
If you are interested in exploring the site on your own, the Watkins Mill historic site has some events on their calendar:
Saturday, October 10, 12pm-5pm – Fall on the Farm
Costumed interpreters demonstrate rural life of the 1870s: sheep shearing, corn shelling, cider pressing, gardening, blacksmithing, wood stove cooking, seed saving and Victorian games. The Mt. Vernon church and the Franklin School will be open to the public. Admission to this event is free. There will also be tours of the woolen mill for a fee.
Saturday, October 24, 5:30pm – Halloween Campout
Bring the family camping and enjoy the park’s Halloween campout. Activities will include the spookiest campsite contest, a K-9 costume contest, campsite trick-or-treating (campers are encouraged to bring candy for trick-or-treaters) and a spooky nature program. Regular camping fees apply. Please call 877-422-6766 to reserve campsites. For more information, contact the park at 816-580-3387.
Saturday, December 5, 2pm-7pm – Christmas on the Farm
Visit with costumed interpreters as you stroll along lantern lit paths to the Watkins family home, where you will be greeted by the smell of hot apple cider and the sound of Christmas carols. Enjoy free samples of traditional treats, flaming of the plum puddings, reading of the family letters and a visit with Father Christmas. Activities at the visitor center will include kid’s crafts, live traditional holiday music and a performance by the Lathrop Singing Mules grade school choir. This event is free of charge and the Watkins home is open for the duration of the event. For more information, contact the historic site, 816-580-3387.
Special thanks to S.D. for arranging this great event, and to K.H. for the awesome photos!