Windmills have been used for irrigation pumping and for milling since the 7th century. In the early days of the United States, the development of the “water-pumping windmill” was the major factor that allowed farming and ranching vast areas that were otherwise devoid of readily accessible water. The multi-bladed wind turbine atop a lattice tower made of wood or steel was, for many years, a fixture of the landscape of rural America.
You remember seeing these in those old western movies.
Built in 1902, this is the last intact windmill factory in the United States. Cousins Louis and George Kregel began windmill production in 1879 in the town of Nebraska City, where we are staying. They moved the factory across the street, to this site, when they went from wood to steel windmills. They produced Eli-brand windmills until the second world war. Due to materials rationing the factory discontinued production. After the war, George’s son, Arthur, took over the business and focused on water well and pump services. The factory was in use for those services until Arthur’s death in 1991. Thereafter, concerned community members turned this into a museum to preserve the factory.
They left the factory as it was when the last man left the premises in 1941, when they ceased the actual production of windmills: