Windmills

In the eastern p0rtion of the United States the old-fashioned dug well was common to every home that did not have access to a living spring. It was from eight to thirty feet deep and was curbed with stone or brick or perhaps was without curbing. Water might be drawn from it “hand over hand” but usually it was drawn by means of a pulley suspended over the well by a heavy crossbeam attached to upright timbers. . . .

West of the ninety-eighth meridian comparatively tew such wells are found. The water lies too deep and the soil is too hard. The wells are sunk by drill, a hole six inches in diameter and anywhere from thirty to three hundred feet deep, and walled by sheet-iron casing. The bucket, also of metal, is nearly four feet long and three inches in diameter and is fitted with a float valve in the bottom to admit the water. If anyone ever looked on the water in such a well, he did it by use of a reflecting mirror. Ordinarily the bucket furnishes the only proof of its existence, and in actual practice that proof sometimes fails. Such were the typical wells of the East and the West. In the East they were handmade with pick and shovel; in the West they were bored by itinerant well-drillers, who moved their machines about from place to place as they plied their trade. . . .

It followed from the nature of the wells in the West, particularly their depth, that men had to devise new ways of raising the water to the surface. In the beginning great hope was nourished for the prospect of artesian wells, which were found in certain favored localities in Kansas, Texas, and elsewhere. The excitement over artesian wells ran high for a time, and bonuses were offered for every such well found. Extensive boring revealed that the possibilities of water from such a source were very limited, and men then turned to ground water. Here they were confronted with great depth on the one hand and a slow delivery on the other. It was a task to raise water from fifty to two hundred feet by hand, an almost impossible task where cattle were to be watered. Furthermore, because of the small capacity of the well it was desirable to raise the water as fast as it was available and at all hours. . . .

The windmill was adopted, adapted, and developed until it met all these requirements most admirably. It could be made at a cost ranging from $1.50 up, depending on whether it were home-made or shop-made; it would deliver a small amount of water day and night as long as the wind was blowing. Within a short time after its introduction the windmill became the unmistakable and universal sign of human habitation throughout the Great Plains area. As before stated, it was the windmill that made it possible for the land to be fenced in small areas and for the stockmen to cut their ranges up into pastures.”