Saturday, November 29, 2014

Vintage Windmills: Sentinels of the Prairie

A collection of vintage windmills was a delightful sight on a recent road trip across Nebraska. Cruising along US Hwy 20 near Jackson the rolling hills suddenly sprouted a view worthy of turning our car around for a closer look.

Panorama views of the Sentinels of the Prairie

These restored vintage windmills are a rare collection of mills from the 1880's to the late 1930's. Mr. Leonard Gill who is the owner of the property and the nearby landfill invites visitors to wander through the area reading the signs giving the history of many of the windmills. 

Bob-Tailed Raymond windmill is the yellow  mill below. It was made by Althouse Wheeler Corporation of Waupun, Wisconsin between the 1870's thru the mid 1890's. The exact age of this particular windmill is unknown but it is very old and very rare. Its iron of the mill was found near Milford, Iowa in 1995 among old farm machinery. The next two windmills behind the Bob-Tailed Raymond are named Perkins. They are very attractive, expensive and very rare. 

Colorful and stately mills add a delightful touch to the surrounding hills and rural life. 

The picture below is one of my favorite windmill pictures. The stately silhouettes and bare trees against the sky remind me of my childhood days traveling across the Nebraska farm lands on our way to visit my grandparents' ranch in the Sandhills.

Dempster No 9 is a "solid wheel" windmill, meaning it doesn't fold up. It was made with a large vane as the newer steel windmills were. These mills were made by the Dempster Manufacturing Company of Beatrice, Nebraska, between 1908 and 1925. This mill was found on a farm west of West Point, Nebraska in 1998. It was on the ground among old machinery. 

Below is the Pipe Raymond. Below it is the picture of the sign telling the history of this windmill. 

This very tall windmill is the Elgin "Model E" produced first in 1900 and continued to be made until 1915. It was available only with a steel folding wheel. It was referred to as the Hummer. 

Signs of description were not available for the pictures of the next two windmills below. Many of these windmills were pieced together from four or five similar mills. Perhaps the details were not exactly determined but I love the form and designs of these. The painting on so many of these windmills makes them especially attractive. 

This windmill reflects the very large wind turbines we now see  across the country in windmill farms. This design is characterized by it's three rotary blades. Again there is no description available but I suspect it's one of the more recent varieties. 

In the past every farm had a windmill to feed their animals, grind corn and to pull the water from deep below the surface. It was a sign to travelers that people lived nearby and that it would be a welcome stop especially during the hot summer months in Nebraska.  Around this collection of windmills was the typical sights of the midwest. Animals, tractors and rolling hills of grain reflected the history of our early settlers and the lives of those continuing to work the land. 

As I ponder our beautiful homeland I am drawn to thinking of the song America the Beautiful reflecting on it's amber waves of grain. As a Nebraska native I smile to see how this collection of vintage windmills amid the fields of grain uphold the important rural heritage that is a proud part of the USA. 

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