1. Watkins Mill
A visit to this mill, which stands on the rolling hills of northwest Missouri, comes highly recommended from MU history professor Susan Flader. The only remaining example of the nation’s historic woolen mills was built by Waltus Watkins and his wife. It started as a cotton farm. The winters, however, were too cold for cotton, so Watkins built the mill in 1860. The mill may be the only one in the world that still has all of its original machines intact. The site offers living history events throughout the year, including cooking demonstrations, where costumed interpreters prepare meals using original Watkins family recipes with products grown from the garden.
26600 Park Road North, Lawson, MO 64062; 816-580-3387
2. Missouri Mines State Historic Site
Flader also suggests visiting this 25-acre site in the old Lead Belt of the eastern Ozarks, which has seen 108 years of persistent mining operations. It is the premier lead mining district of the world, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has converted the site into a museum. Tours offer a look at the old mining district and the opportunity to see mining machinery as well as a mineral collection. Minerals, mineral jewelry and books are available for purchase in the museum shop.
2800 Pimville Road, Park Hills, MO 63601; 573-431-6226
Arabia Steamboat Museum
Nancy Hunt Grant, mayor of Hartsburg, recommends a visit to the cargo ship Arabia, which carried passengers and goods during America’s westward expansion. It sank in 1856 and was rediscovered 132 years later with its cargo intact. Visitors can explore the museum and learn the history of the steamer.
400 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64106; 816-471-1856
3. Hermann’s German settlement
In 1836, the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia sold shares in a proposed community to be settled in Missouri to counteract the loss of native customs and language among their countrymen. The vastness of the land and the abundance of wild grapevines was reminiscent of the settlers’ native Rhine River region. This area became the present city of Hermann. Missouri Historical Society attendant Mari Carroll thinks this settlement is a must-see for visitors. They can explore the Deutschheim State Historic Site, where the German past comes alive. The site features a refurbished house containing Biedermeier furnishings, Chinese and German porcelains, and German silver dating from 1810 to 1845. It offers exhibits of 19th-century gardening and farming tools in a barn on the property. The historical sites downtown are within a six-block region. Of special interest: Wine connoisseurs can check out the local, award-winning wineries.
Hermann, MO 65041-1033; 573-486-2744 or 800-932-8687
4. Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Nature Center
Carroll also suggests getting a flavor for Missouri history by visiting this center, which features a full-size replica of a keelboat as well as dioramas depicting the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition and the American Indian tribes they encountered. Visitors can see examples of the flora and fauna they encountered on their journey, as well as a representation of life in early 19th-century St. Charles. Historical books and unusual gift items are sold in the facility’s gift shop.
2 Bishop’s Landing, 1050 Riverside Drive, St. Charles, MO; 636-947-3199. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday; $2 Adults, $1 Children and students under 17
5. Battle of Lexington State Historic Site
Patsy Leubbert, the senior reference archivist at the Missouri State Archives, recomends a visit to this site. Oliver Anderson’s mansion, where many Union soldiers died during the Battle of Lexington, stands on the old battlefield for visitors to explore. Remnants of the trenches can still be seen, and tombstones of Union soldiers are displayed on the 92-acre site. Exhibits and audio-visual programs that explain the events of September 1861 are available to visitors as are walking tours, picnicking and antique and gift shops in the area.
1300 North John Shea Dr., Lexington, MO 64067; 660-259-4654