Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Bulletin of the U.S. Agricultural Experiment Station of Nebraska, Volume XI, Article 5; Bulletin No. 59 [1899]


[A classic work on vernacular architecture and agricultural engineering.]

While engaged upon the preparation of a paper treating of the relations of the homemade windmills of our State to its agriculture, the writer finds such great and increasing demand for some short and immediate report on the subject, that he is led at the request of correspondents to publish the following brief preliminary paper, awaiting the time when a systematic and formal report may be possible.

lt is not the writer's object or intention to offer our citizens advice—for he is the one who is under instruction—but rather to bring together views of a number of mills, and to compile facts about their uses, construction, cost, and durability, which may be of possible use to prospective builders, and by which they may be enabled to select the design which seems to them least faulty, or best suited to their individual wants.

In the judgment of the writer, whose seven years of residence has enabled him to visit nearly every corner of the State, this is an important agricultural movement, and is worthy of much fuller treatment than is possible within the scope of this paper.

The importance of this movement, inaugurated by our inventive farmers, is made manifest in that many acres of garden truck, fruit land, and even farm land are irrigated; that stock is supplied with water; that ranchmen and sheep herders are benefited; that dairy products are increased and improved; and that the comfort of the village and the rural home is often enhanced. The merit of homemade mills has enjoyed such prompt recognition that they are going up daily. Not to the detriment, we are happy to say, of those important adjuncts to the farm, the shopmade mills, but in addition to them. . . .

The towns in the Platte valley are each of them oftentimes windmill centers about which are often clustered twenty to thirty or more mills of homemade design. Columbus, Grand Island, Kearney, Overton, Cozad, Lexington, Gothenburg, Ogalalla, and intermediate and adjacent towns are, in a way, each a center for homemade mills as well as other forms of water lifters. Those at Grand Island are especially numerous as may be better appreciated from the fact that we were unable to see them all after having driven for four days among the excellent mills designed and built by the German farmers living around this growing city.

As said before, the first mill sets the style in mills for a community. Accordingly in certain German settlements we find the old-fashioned Holland mills, more or less modified, until they little resemble the original or mother mill.

In other communities especially in eastern Nebraska, the Jumbo or "go-devil" mill is the prevailing form. In central Nebraska, and well to the west, the type of homemade mill known as the Battle-ax is plainly the prevailing type, and it is a first rate form of mill. Besides there are a variety of other designs to be described later in a more specific manner.

Includes 78 figures (pen & ink drawings).