US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Water-Supply and Irrigation Papers of the United States Geological Survey, No. 29


Department of the Interior

Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899



I have the honor to transmit herewith a manuscript entitled "Wells and Windmills in Nebraska," prepared by Erwin Hinckley Barbour, professor of geology in the University of Nebraska and acting State geologist. The data for this manuscript were obtained by Professor Barbour incidental to his studies of the geology of the State, and have been rounded out by special work carried on under his direction. The original manuscript as prepared consisted of two parts the first upon wells, and the second upon homemade windmills but owing to delays in printing the first part, it has been considered advisable to combine the two papers into one and thus secure earlier publication. The manuscript as thus combined is offered as one of the water-supply and irrigation papers.

In the earlier numbers of this series considerable space has been given to the subject of windmills and discussions of the results obtained by experiments. These facts have been presented in the hope of stimulating the development of more economical and efficient methods of raising water for irrigation. In the present paper another phase of the matter is presented, and it is shown that by the use of material at hand a thrifty and ingenious farmer can produce results worthy of imitation. It is not to be supposed that homemade devices will be as efficient as those made for competition in the open market, but in the country, far from centers of population, it is not always practicable for the farmer to obtain such machinery. Lack of ready money and difficulty of transportation may prevent his obtaining the best windmill or pump. Under these conditions it is infinitely better for him to use the means at hand rather than go without. It has been shown by Professor Barbour that where one man in a community invents and builds a useful device of this kind others are quick to imitate, so that one homemade windmill or pump is copied on neighboring farms for miles around.

It is pointed out in this paper that the homemade windmill is not necessarily a contrivance incident to poverty or hardship. Many of the mills of this kind have been made by men who might afford to buy shop-made mills, but who, having sufficient ingenuity and possessing the necessary materials, have preferred to combine these to produce effective machinery. They have merely exercised in this direction the thrift whose existence is shown by countless other tokens about their farms. The homemade windmill must not, therefore, be considered an indication of poverty, but rather the reverse, since it is usually accompanied by progress in all lines.

The subject matter of this paper is related to water conservation in the small way. Throughout the Great Plains region the supply of water is so scanty and so widely disseminated that as a rule it will be impracticable to provide great storage reservoirs or other works of considerable magnitude. On the other hand, for the utilization of the resources there must be innumerable attempts to employ the small amount of water almost everywhere available; and this can be done most economically through the use of the ever-present force of the wind. Thus windmills throughout at least one-fourth of the United States must ever be inseparably connected with the utilization of wells and with the development of the country.

Very respectfully,

F. H. NEWELL, Hydrographer in Charge.