Why is This Central MN Town Called Watkins?
Watkins is a town of 962 people located in northern Meeker County along Highway 55 west of Kimball and east of Eden Valley. It was established in the 1870s and has had a post office since 1887. To help tell the story of Watkins I was joined by longtime Watkins residents Frank Eder and Jerry Oster and current Mayor Christopher Rowan. Oster has lived in Watkins his whole life and says he's enjoyed every minute of it. He worked as an electrician at the local hardware store, spend time as the editor of the Watkins newspaper and worked as a maintenance man in Litchfield before retirement. Eder farmed near Watkins and Rowan has lived in the community for the past 10 years and is in his 2nd term as Mayor.
Oster indicates Watkins was founded by a man named Mike Beckers who opened a General Store along the Sioux St. Marie rail line that went through town. Oster says the tracks were always busy with freight and passenger trains stopping in Watkins. The town of Watkins, according to Oster, was named after a railroad man with the last name Watkins. He says Beckers who was the founder of the town couldn't be used because there already was a Becker, Minnesota close by. Oster says Watkins didn't even live in the community but did live nearby in Forrest City.
Oster says Watkins had "the biggest and the best" creamery in the area. Oster explains the creamery was built in the late 1890s and existed up until about 10 years ago when it shutdown. He calls the shutdown was one of the saddest days in Watkins history. Oster says the quality of the cream and milk is what made the creamery so special. In 1938 at the Berlin Exposition Watkins butter was named the #1 butter in the world.
Watkins today boasts a thriving downtown that includes numerous bars and restaurants including the Red Goat, Lynn's Diner, and Bud's Bar. Keek's Restaurant is along Highway 55 across from the large Mies Outland location. Watkins also offers an Olympic size public outdoor pool near the Eden Valley-Watkins elementary school and next to the Watkins Clippers Amateur baseball park. The Clippers won the Class C state championship in 2001. Frank Eder says the Clippers draw large amount of community members to the games and they continue to be one of the best teams in the area. The Eden Valley-Watkins athletic teams also had lots of success this past school year with their football, baseball, girls track and field teams and boys basketball teams going to the State Tournament.
The Watkins Kraut N' Wurst Days Festival in early August brings the town together. Mayor Rowan says the event includes a parade, little miss Watkins pageant, a cow drop raffle, evening dance and food and drink.
If you'd like to listen to my conversations with Jim Oster, Frank Eder and Christopher Rowan they are available below.
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