The Windmill Legacy

When studying farmsteads across the Midwest, I have noticed there seem to be a common grouping of buildings. The farmhouse is, of course, the structure in which the farm family lives and gathers. The barn is usually the largest and central structure of the farmstead, looming gracefully against the horizon. Some other outbuildings usually accompany the barn, such as a tool shed or a chicken coop or perhaps a corncrib. Occasionally a large silo sits close to the barn, used for storing grain for either feeding the livestock or waiting to be planted in the fields the next spring. And, quite often, situated in a pasture adjacent to the farmstead, is a large iron windmill.

Like most of the other farmstead outbuildings, the windmill is no longer a functioning part of the daily farm business. Its function was to use the wind power to turn pulleys and operate a bar that pumped water out of the ground and into a tank for the pastured livestock to drink from. Sadly, with the development of rural water and well systems, the need for a windmill has been eliminated. The very nature of how a windmill functions makes it an efficient mechanism in which to deliver water to the livestock, as it operates completely on wind power with no need for electricity or oil.

Many windmills are still standing today, but the large metal blades are no longer turning. Through time and misuse, the bearings and pulleys have seized and frozen. Some windmills have rusted and only parts of the original structure are still standing. Still others have been covered and overtaken by vines, trees, and weeds.

These marvels of the past are yet another reason to salvage the history that we are still able to bring safely into our homes. By reclaiming barn wood and making furniture out of it, the farmsteads of yesterday still have a legacy. Even though windmills, silos, and barns may become more and more extinct on the Midwestern horizon, the beautiful furniture that was a part of their history lives on in our living, dining, and bedrooms. You can help to further that legacy today.

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