A 150-year-old story woven into the fabric of American history
Located around a bend in the Minnesota River, the St. Peter Woolen Mill resides in the heart of the quaint river town of St. Peter, Minnesota.
The St. Peter Woolen Mill was established in 1867, less than a decade after Minnesota became a state, to custom process wool for sheep ranchers in LeSueur and Nicollet Counties.
Birth of an American Mill
A generations long family tradition and dedication to quality began when John Charles Brinker and wife Margaret purchased the woolen mill from Edward Borneman in 1912. The Brinker family has been the foundation of the St. Peter Woolen Mill ever since. After John Charles Brinker passed away in 1931, his son Charles Henry and wife Evelyn inherited the mill. Throughout this Brinker generation, the woolen mill was temporarily expanded to include a hatchery.
After Charles Henry became ill, Evelyn continued to operate the woolen mill until 1954 when her son, Charles Eugene Brinker, who had grown up in the business, and wife Mary Lue purchased it. The family business continued to expand with the addition of Mary Lue’s Yarn & Quilt Shop in 1965.
Tale of Endurance
Over the decades, the mill has survived many economic downturns, the Great Depression, two World Wars and ever-changing market trends, including the rise of polyester — hailed as the “miracle fabric” — in the 1950s. Fortunately, ‘70s ushered in a new era of appreciation for handmade and natural products, fueling an expanded customer base of weavers, felters, and hand-spinners for the mill.
Then, on the afternoon of March 29, 1998, tragedy struck the St. Peter Woolen Mill when an F-3 tornado nearly destroyed the business. The mill sat right in the twister’s path and the storm ripped off half of the building’s second floor and all of the third. The yarn shop was leveled. Yarn and other inventory was scattered for miles. Thankfully, the machinery was undamaged and the mill was running again in about two weeks due to the help of family, friends and the local community.
Modern Innovations & Success
Following completion of the reconstruction process in 1999, the fourth Brinker generation, sisters Patricia Johnson and Peggy Grey, assumed responsibility for the business. Today, the St. Peter Woolen Mill is one of only five mills in the United States which does custom wool processing.
When wholesale business started in 1996, the mill previously bought about 10,000 pounds of wool per year from local producers.
Now, it processes three times that much and buys wool from suppliers in a number of Midwestern states. The wholesale business has doubled in the past five years.
From our family to yours, thanks for visiting the St. Peter Woolen Mill!
“In recent years, there has been a return to natural things. People want natural food, clothes, and bedding. Green, sustainable, renewable, recyclable, organic — all of those keywords apply directly to what we sell. We’re doing the same thing my great-grandfather was when he started here in 1912, and the same thing the original owners were doing in 1867 — turning wool into quilts. Just like the story of our mill, much of the wool we reprocess has been passed down from one generation to the next.”
– Pat Johnson, 4th Brinker Generation Family
At St. Peter Woolen Mill, we perfectly blend century-old wool processing traditions with modern technology to provide the best possible finished or semi-finished wool bedding product to our customers. A result of the St. Peter Woolen Mill’s dedication to quality is the Nature’s Comfort line. The Nature’s Comfort line includes a wool-filled comforter, wool pillow and a wool mattress pad.
The St. Peter Woolen Mill’s wool products reflect the century-long family emphasis of the business. Wool-filled comforters and wool mattress pads are heirlooms, passed from one generation to the next — just like our mill.
Thinking about refurbishing an heirloom quilt or freshening up your well-used comforter? Make an investment in your comfort. Design your bedroom in luxury and discover the magic of wool for the rest of your life.
Visit one of the oldest woolen mills in America!
We invite you to come see history in the making and learn how wool is processed. Group tours are available by appointment: 1-800-208-9821