This is the first in a series of posts that will describe the buildings spread around the farmyard at Lone Tree Farm. Some are still standing, but many have been demolished, repurposed, or replaced as the farming operations have changed through the generations. We’ll start with the windmill.
We don’t have any pictures of the windmill standing alone, but these photos from the early 1970s do show it as background. The shed converted to a garage was once used as a chicken coop and is gone now. So is the classic old pickup (although it wasn’t yet a classic when the picture was taken). The metal shed is still here and is framed with beams salvaged from a barn that once stood on that exact spot. But, both photos show the tall windmill.
The windmill tower was about 60 feet high. When the tower fell sometime in the 1980s, a neighbor had parked his new pickup about 70 feet to the south. This recent screen shot from a satellite image shows how close the falling tower got to the new pickup. He often parked a little farther north, but that would have dropped the heavy gearbox on the top of the tower squarely on the pickup! It wasn’t particularly windy, so we’re not exactly sure why the old windmill went down that day.
Even after 40 years of salvaging straight pieces of angle iron, there still is a tangled pile of the twisted pieces. That’s the ladder there in front. In recent years the fins on windmill wheels have been used for interior decorating. The pieces from our wheel have gone to sisters who used to visit the farm when they were little neighbor girls.
Here’s one of the other souvenirs from the windmill. This is the tail that directed the wheel into the wind and yes, those are bullet holes. But, they may have been added after the tower fell and before this “treasure” got stored in one of the metal sheds. Aermotor placed a lot of windmills around the country. It was wind power long before the modern wind farms. The stenciled name is probably the local supplier. Frank J. Seitz was the plumber in Ellsworth before his death in 1971, according to the town’s Centennial Volume.
After the tower fell, an electric motor on a pump jack brought the water up out of the well. The middle photo shows the process of formally plugging and abandoning the well as encouraged/required by the State. Here’s a post that has lots of pictures and describes how the well was sealed. It was educational because the family tradition was that this well had been drilled to a depth of 400 feet, but they only pulled 200 feet of casing out of the well bore.
Before the deep well was drilled sometime in the late 1940s, water was a problem. Lots of shallow, curbed wells were dug, but the deeper bedrock aquifer provided a reliable quantity. However, the water quality wasn’t so good. Dad’s sister used to take jugs of it home because it was helpful for constipation. This is the same person who, as a little girl, climbed the tower and got stuck. She panicked and froze so Grandpa had to climb up to rescue her. At that time the well wasn’t located where it was when the tall tower fell. There have always been lots of family stories about the tall tower because it was a distinctive feature of the farmyard for so many decades.