26600 Park Rd. N, Lawson, Missouri
This interesting and attractive 19th-century complex includes the woolen mill and family home of Waltus Watkins and his wife, Mary Ann. Completed in 1854, the house has a simple but elegant brick façade and 20 rooms, which accommodated the family of 11 children.
Watkins’s first venture was a cotton mill, which was unsuccessful, but he had a flair for farming and expanded a holding of 80 acres into a property of 3,600—the Bethany Plantation. In 1860 Watkins turned again to the textile business and began to build his woolen mill. Like the house, the mill was made from his own timber and bricks. Deer tracks made on the bricks before they dried can be seen in the floor of the storage shed. More than 50 textile machines were shipped in by railroad and steamboat and hauled the final 20 miles by oxen. The various hankers, pickers, twisters, and looms stand lean and elegant in silent tribute to a prosperous business that finally succumbed to new techniques of mass production at the turn of the century.
On weekends during the summer, visitors can watch an 1870s family live, work and play at the site’s living history farm program.
Adjacent to the historic site is the park, which features a 100-acre lake, campsites with hookups, and trails.
Open year-round except holidays. Admission charged for tours.