Windmills......Lifeblood of the American Plains
by: Bobby McDonald
Of course, the windmill wasn't invented in the United States and had been used in Europe for centuries before the development of the American Plains. The Persians are credited with first developing the apparatus to "harness" the wind and use it to power and pump things on the ground. But, it was an innovative young man by the name of Daniel Halladay, who from his small shop in South Coventry, Connecticut, that first pattented the design that could "regulate itself" and helped to develop the Plains region of the United States. Halladay developed the Halladay Standard Mill in 1854 and began a revolution of settlement in areas that needed something to pump water from beneath the ground to the surface. He later moved his business to Batavia, Illinois, and operated a plant from that location.
The American Plains had long supplied abundant grass, that supported large buffalo herds, but was restricted from cattle ranching, cultivation, and settlement, by an availability of water, where needed. Well, when farmers found that below the surface of the rich and fertile land, there was an abundant supply of water (mostly within 200 feet) they needed something to pump it to the surface. And, Halladay's invention was just that source. By digging a well, installing pipe, and supply power with a windmill, the precious water could be brought to the ground surface and used to water livestock, provide for household needs, and to water crops. The ability opened an entire new frontier for American settlement, and soon the windmills were "dotting" the Plains of America.
Did you know that most windmills are installed 27 feet in the air?
Do you know what the standard diameter of the steel wheel is? It is 8 foot!
The common windmill served as a portable, affordable, and self-governing piece of equipment to open settlement to our own state's western regions and with their installations settlement moved westward and begun on the Plains of Texas. Large cattlemen installed the windmills and began stocking the vast grasslands with cattle, and settlements began "springing up" to supply the labor and the goods and services needed to support the industry.
Texas and all of the Plains Region of the nation owe much to the windmill in developing the area and allowing its settlement.
Today, a new "breed" of windmill, that is much, much taller, is seen all across West Texas and the Plains Region of the U.S. as wind turbines are being installed to supply electric power and have opened another frontier for business and energy in our state.
So, that windmill that's seen against that beautiful sunrise or sunset, made a huge impact on settlement and the future of the Plains of America!