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Watkins Mill: The Factory on the Farm

Louis W. Potts & Ann M. Sligar

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When Waltus Watkins, a successful farmer and entrepreneur, decided to open a woolen mill on his rural western Missouri property in the late 1850s, he was not just undertaking another commercial venture.

Visit the National Landmark site in Lawson, Missouri.

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Description

When Waltus Watkins, a successful farmer and entrepreneur, decided to open a woolen mill on his rural western Missouri property in the late 1850s, he was not just undertaking another commercial venture. By locating the factory on his farm rather than in one of the thriving nearby towns, Watkins was making a conscious decision to blend agriculture and industry. In so doing, he addressed a philosophical question that had  been raised a generation before by Thomas Jefferson and others: the role of technology in a largely agrarian society. As the United States entered the Industrial Revolution and then the Civil War, the folkways and nature of work changed drastically. Watkins Mill reflects that transition, as Watkins embraced new technologies yet clung to a more traditional and paternalistic management style. In seeking to shape the values and habits of his employee-neighbors through local institutions such as the school and church, he left his mark on an entire community.

Sixteen pages of full-color photos of the mill buildings, machines, documents, and textiles still remaining at the Watkins Mill State Historic Site help tell the story of a distinct midwestern stage of nineteenth-century industrialism, as played out in western Missouri by one enterprising individual.

Contents

Illustrations

Preface

Acknowledgments

Driving on in the Same Old Way
Too Good a Home There to Leave
Good Judgment and Attention
Leaders of the Neighborhood
This Unholy War
A Reputation Not Surpassed by Any in the West
Considerable Knowledge and Mechanical Ingenuity
None but Sober and Industrious Men Need Come Here
The Last Time We’ll Turn the Wheels
Epilogue: What Eventually Will Become of the Mill?

Appendix A Watkins Mill Chronology
Appendix B Abbreviated Family Tree
Appendix C Hierarchy of Watkins Mill Employees, 1870

Bibliography

Index

Authors

Louis Potts is professor of history at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he has been a faculty member since 1971. He received his PhD in history from Duke University in 1970.

Ann Sligar was Historic Site Administrator for Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site and Park from 1979 until her retirement in 2001. She remains actively involved in historic restoration and interpretation in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Reviews

This volume, well illustrated throughout, is exactly the sort of souvenir publication for an industrial installation that is both tied to the site and puts the site into the wider context. It also makes both aspects interesting, even for those who have not visited the site, and can prove useful, even if the site is never visited.

Industrial Archaeology

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