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
Watkins Mill Videos

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We had a lot of people come out to see weaver Rob Stone, Ardyth Stone, and Gordon Tompkins assemble some historic looms from our archive collection. Next Saturday, the 27th, Historian Mike Dickey will be at Watkins Mill talking about the indigenous peoples who lived here before the Watkins arrived. You can stay up to date on park events with the "Events" tab on our website. mostateparks.com/park/watkins-mill-state-park ... See MoreSee Less
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Normally, our Facebook editor would crop this Throwback Thursday image so all you saw was the little girl, in 1938, looking through the fence towards the brick kiln. But, people have been asking, "where are you getting all of these old photos?"The answer is that the Watkins family kept all of their letters and photos and we have them along with clothing and other artifacts in climate controlled archive rooms. All of our artifacts are cataloged, coded, and recorded in a database with backups in Jefferson City and other locations. So, here's a behind the scenes photo of the photo with its catalog number and archival mounts on acid free paper.mostateparks.com/park/watkins-mill-state-park ... See MoreSee Less
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It's Toil in the Soil Tuesday with the Greater Kansas City Master Gardeners! The Master Gardeners are in the historic Watkins Garden every Tuesday morning, weather permitting. mostateparks.com/park/watkins-mill-state-park ... See MoreSee Less
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Watkins Mill Association
Mailing address
P.O. Box 155
Kearney, Missouri 64060

Main Entrance of Watkins Mill
NE 161st Street and County Road RA, USA

[email protected]

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