Walking Tour

Visitors Center & Museum1. Visitors Center & Museum
The Visitors Center and Museum is a great place to start and end your journey into the 1800s. To expand on what you’ll see during a tour, you can peruse the bookstore, explore exhibits, and see an orientation film funded in part by Watkins Mill Association.
The Watkins Home2. The Watkins Home
This beautifully restored house was constructed from 1850-1854. It had two parlors, a winter kitchen, eight bedrooms and a full basement with food storage rooms and the dairy. Waltus and Mary Ann Watkins, their nine children, two foster children, Waltus Watkins’ mother and younger sister, and several of their farm and mill workers lived in there. House guests would often stay for weeks.
Summer Kitchen3. Summer Kitchen
Wood stove cooking and other household chores were done in the outside kitchen during the summer months. In 1984, the Watkins Mill Association replaced the period cooking stove you’ll see here, allowing staff and volunteers to demonstrate wood stove cooking. The Smoke House4. The Smoke House
The Watkins butchered 80-100 hogs every year. The meat was salted, smoked and then stored in a large sycamore log taken from the property. The cured meat was packed in ashes to keep out insects and give it the best flavor.
Fruit Dry House5. Fruit Dry House
Fruit from the Watkins orchards and other farms was sliced and dried on pullout racks, then packed in jars for sale or for storage. A slow fire was lit and tended to maintain the right temperature. This commercial sized dryhouse is two to three times larger than those found on most farms. You can see it in use during Fall on the Farm.
Site of Former Log Cabin6. Site of Former Log Cabin
When the Watkins family first settled here in 1839, they lived in a two-room cabin until their brick house was completed in 1854. In the early 1960s, site manager Booker Rucker, and archaeologist, conducted digs here. Certain artifacts recovered from such projects are on display at the Visitors Center and Museum.
Site of the Former Privy (Outhouse)7. Site of the Former Privy (Outhouse)
It the 1800s, it was common practice to dispose of dangerous items (broken guns, broken glass, medicine and chemicals) by putting them down the privy. In the Visitors Center and Museum, you can see artifacts recovered in archaeological digs of the Watkins privy.
Ice House8. Ice House
Blocks of ice were cut from a fenced pond and stored in the ice pit, which could hold a year’s supply of ice. Sawdust was used to separate and insulate the blocks.
Garden9. Garden
The vegetables, herbs and flowers you’ll find here today are all heirloom varieties that were grown before 1885. In the past 20 years, staff, volunteers, and Master Gardeners from the University of Missouri Extension have expanded the garden and made it more historically accurate.
Chicken House10. Chicken House
Mrs. Watkins kept up to 600 chickens and around 150 turkeys here. Today, you can see heritage poultry breeds, including the Dominique chicken, which is recognized as America’s first chicken breed. With fewer than 5,000 breeding birds in the country, the Dominique is on the “watch” list of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Help the Watkins Mill Association preserve this breed and fund the purchase of these animals by making a donation today.
Sheep Barn11. Sheep Barn
Merino and Cotswold sheep produce the finest wool. Cotswolds are known to have been in Clay County in the 1870s. Today, they are on the “threatened” list of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Help the Watkins Mill Association preserve this breed and fund the purchase of these animals by making a donation today.
Site of Former Brick Kiln12. Site of Former Brick Kiln
Mr. Watkins used materials from his property to make everything he needed – even bricks! – to build his home, mill and outbuildings. He also ran a brickyard in Lawson in the late 1800s. This is one of several temporary “clamps” or kilns used in brick making.
Cemetery13. Cemetery
According to her wishes, Jane Minter Watkins, Waltus’ mother, was buried in the peach orchard. Her grave was marked with a limestone obelisk, and as other family members died, they were buried around her. Waltus and Mary Ann’s headstones were replaced in the early 1930s. Pieces of the original markers, likely damaged by grazing cattle, are buried beneath the new headstones.
Site of Former Mule Barn14. Site of Former Mule Barn
Built in 1849, a large timber-framed structure housed two log corncribs and stalls for the driving mules.
Woolen Mill15. Woolen Mill
Built in 1860, the woolen mill produced fabric, shawls, blankets, knitting yarn and custom products for sale throughout west central Missouri. Forest Ingram and Lee Oberholtz purchased the mill in 1958 and with George Reuland, formed the Watkins Mill Association. With that, they began a long history of restoration and preservation.
Former Woolshed16. Former Woolshed
The Watkins bought wool from farmers and dealers all over northwest Missouri. The wool was stored in this two-story woolshed until it was taken into the factory where it was made into yarn, cloth, and blankets.
Former Scalehouse17. Former Scalehouse
Wagonloads of wool and grain were weighed prior to going to the factory or gristmill. Livestock could also be weighed on the big floor scale.
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