The Watkins Mill Association

In 1958, The Watkins Mill Association (WMA) was founded to preserve and support the living history of the Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site, the last textile mill with its original machinery still intact in the United States. Watkins Woolen Mill, located northeast of Kearney, flourished from 1860 until 1886 when the cloth shear broke; they continued portions of their manufacturing until 1898. WMA has cultivated an 1870’s venue that highlights quality cultural, artistic and historic education and healthy outdoor activities for all ages.

WMA efforts assist in bringing over five hundred thousand visitors from all over the nation to Watkins Mill each year. The site provides important information about work and life in the 1800s, including farming, homesteading, business, craftsmanship, technology, wool yarn and cloth production, women’s roles, and the history of the industrial revolution in rural America.

Missouri State’s budget cuts, coupled with the rising utility costs, directly challenge operations. Attempts are being made to offset some of these challenges by increasing visitors, members and volunteers while providing necessary monetary support, directly funding cultural initiatives, brick/mortar priorities and healthy outdoor events when State funds fall short. WMA recently funded a $25,000 restoration of the Watkins home’s front porch. The goal is to help generate more funds to close the gap, allowing WMA to continue to support and restore this historic one-of-a-kind gem of days long gone for future generations. Read our History

Our Accomplishments

Since its inception, Watkins Mill Association has been the Historic Site’s “Friends” organization – proactively supporting its preservation and living history. Major contributions include:

  • Arranging for Watkins Mill to become a State Historic Site and State Park, with support from Clay County voters.
  • Promoting Historic Site recognition (1) as a National Historical Landmark by the United States Department of Interior, (2) on the National Register of Historic Places, (3) as a Clay County Historic Landmark, and (4) as a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark.
  • Underwriting restoration and ongoing care of the Mill – including roof, windows, paint, and Mill equipment.
  • Underwriting restoration and ongoing care of the Watkins Home – including windows, paint, masonry tuck point, and front porch renovations.
  • Arranging return of most Watkins Family original furnishings to the Home.
  • Replacing the Home’s formal parlor carpet and summer kitchen wood stove.
  • Advocating for the Visitors Center and Museum to be built.
  • Recruiting Volunteers and hosting the annual Volunteer appreciation dinner.
  • Promoting educational opportunities and resources at the Historic Site.
  • Helping launch a cooperative project with the University of Missouri Master Gardener Extension Program.
  • Funding an Internship position in the Museum archives and contributing toward the purchase of storage to protect artifacts housed there.
  • Hosting the 1999 annual meeting of the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums.
  • Providing seed money for the Visitors Center’s orientation video.
  • Funding ongoing needs – including sheep, Historic Interpreter costumes, processed wool, fabric and yarn for exhibits, as well as ongoing property maintenance.

Our Gratitude

We would like to thank the following people and organizations for their roles in creating and preserving Watkins Mill.

  • Taylor & Patti Abernathy Charitable Trust – Bank of America, Trustee
  • William J. Brace Charitable Trust – Bank of America, Trustee
  • Clay County Historical Society
  • The Francis Family Foundation
  • Henry Frass Family
  • Forest Ingram
  • The Kemper Family Foundations – UMB Bank, Trustee
  • William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee
  • Caroline Martin
  • Betty & Byron McDaniel
  • Means Living Trust
  • Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Parks
  • Lee Oberholtz
  • George Reuland
  • George Stilley
  • The Sunderland Foundation
  • University of Missouri Extension Master Gardeners of Greater Kansas City
  • Voters of Clay County, Missouri
  • Waltus Watkins Family
  • Herbert A. & Adrian W. Woods Foundation – Bank of America, Trustee

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We are having a WMA member's only Happy Hour March 19 5-7PM. You must be a member of WMA to attend. Members mark your calendars... invitations were sent yesterday but we need your info to send them. If you want to be a member or you are a member and need more info please contact me at [email protected] This is a new benefit for members and we are looking forward to this event.
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Watkins Woolen Mill
Northeast of Kearney, MO 64060
Main Entrance at
NE 161st Street and County Road RA

[email protected]

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