The Wind Wheel
Photograph - Photography--greeting Cards Or Notes Are Cheaper By The Dozen!
"The Wind Wheel" was a name pinned to the windmill back in the very early days of the introduction of them. I photographed this one looking up at it as it loomed over the top of a nearby building. I love the blue cloud filled sky and the red brick wall adding to the photograph. I have always loved to see a windmill.
Before the introduction of windmills to Texas, inhabitable land was confined to areas where a constant water supply was available. There was no way for vast areas to be settled without a life-giving supply of water. The coming of the windmill made it possible to pump water from beneath the ground, and soon whole new areas of the state were opened up to settlers. The first windmills in Texas were of the European style, built by Dutch and German immigrants for grinding meal and powering light industry. What Texans needed most, however, was a windmill that pumped water. Because of its bulk and need for constant attention, the European windmill was impractical for this purpose. The solution to this problem came in 1854, when Daniel Halladay (Hallady or Halliday) built the first American windmill in Ellington, Connecticut. He added to his mill a vane, or "tail," as it was called by Texas cowhands, that functioned to direct the wheel into the wind. The wheel was a circle of wood slats radiating from a horizontal shaft and set at angles to the wind, designed so that centrifugal force would slow it in high winds; thus, the machine was self-regulating and operated unattended. Its simple direct-stroke energy converter consisted of only a shaft and a small fly wheel to which the sucker rod was pinned. This compact mechanism was mounted on a four-legged wood tower that could be constructed over a well in one day. Railroad companies immediately recognized windmills as an inexpensive means of providing water for steam engines and for attracting settlers to semi-arid regions through which they planned to lay track. In 1860 the Houston Tap and Brazoria Railway purchased the right to manufacture and use James Mitchell's "Wind Wheel" on its right-of-way from Houston to Wharton. By 1873 the windmill had become an important supplier of water for railways, small towns where there were no public water systems, and small farms. The windmills used later on the big ranches were the more dependable factory-made windmills.
According to the Texas State Historical Association website, owners of the larger ranches usually employed several windmillers to make continuous rounds, checking and repairing windmills. The windmillers lived in covered wagons and only saw headquarters once or twice a month. The early mills had to be greased twice a week, and this was the range rider's job. He kept a can (or beer bottle) containing grease tied to his saddle. When he rode up to a mill that was squeaking, he would climb it, hold the wheel with a pole until he could mount the platform, and then let the wheel turn while he poured grease over it.
The windmill industry's shift in 1888 to the backgeared, all-steel mill caused heated debates in Texas livestock and farming circles. Most ranchers and farmers welcomed the new steel windmill because its galvanized wheel and tower held up better in harsh weather; also, its gear system was better able to take advantage of the wind, thus enabling the windmill to run more hours per day. The backgeared mill could also pump deeper and larger-diameter wells.
Because of the dependability of this improved windmill, worries over water shortages were eased for the rancher, farmer, and rural dweller. This mill was the prime supplier of water in rural Texas until 1930, when electric and gasoline pumps began to be widely used.
April 23rd, 2013
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