Life of a Ranch Wife

The first windmill manufactured in the United States was patented in 1854. While the designs vary, they are still vital to ranching operations today. (Photo by Lanna Mills)

By Lanna Mills

We take many things for granted today, especially things that are so easily accessed now that in the past took great difficulty. You’re thirsty, so you walk a few feet into your kitchen, grab a cup, turn a handle on your sink, and fill your glass, or you go to the fridge and grab a bottle of cold water.

You have cows in the lot so you set a tank and fill it from a rural water hydrant. Instant gratification! This is something that is an everyday occurrence for us. We don’t think twice about it.

However, it hasn’t always been so simple. Ranchers had to get water from a spring, creek or pond at one point in time. For ranchers, this meant that if there wasn’t a water source nearby, the land was useless for grazing because just like us, cattle can’t go long without a drink of water. The windmill changed everything for farmers and ranchers.
The use of windmills meant that farmers and ranchers could pump underground water to the surface to use for drinking water, watering livestock and for use on crops and gardens.

Windmills played a large role in the expansion of railways because early steam engines required water to operate.
History states that the first windmill manufactured in the United States was patented in 1854 by Daniel Halladay who designed his self-governing windmill in his machine shop in Connecticut but later moved his operation to Illinois.

Halladay’s windmill turned to face changing wind directions automatically and regulated is own speed of operation, which prevented destruction during high winds. Shortly after, others began manufacturing similar windmills.

They began popping up everywhere, and between 1880 and 1935 more than six million were sold by roughly 20 manufacturers. The first windmills were made mostly of wood, but as time changed windmills became all metal, which allowed them to last longer and require less maintenance.

Windmills work by the fan or wheel, made up of blades (like your ceiling fan), which spin on a shaft. The shaft drives a geared mechanism that converts rotary motion to up and down motion. In turn, that motion drives a “sucker rod” or pump rod that is inside a pipe that goes down into the well.

Read the April issue to learn more!