Restoration of 90-Year-Old Steel Windmill

Minnesota man restores 90-year-old Baker Manufacturing Company steel windmill at fourth generation family farm


| August 2010



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David Baker’s handsomely restored barn and Baker Monitor Model D windmill.

It was an overcast, dreary Saturday, with an occasional shower. But that didn’t hamper the enthusiasm of more than 50 neighbors and friends who gathered at the Carol and David Baker farm just south of Kenyon, Minn., last spring. The occasion? Watching David re-install the family windmill.

David lives on the farmstead founded by his great-grandfather, Ole Baker, in 1868. In about 1890, Ole purchased a Perkins windmill and tower from F.G. Held, a prominent local windmill supplier. Towers built by Perkins Windmill Co., Mishawaka, Ind., had distinctive channel iron cross-braces; the fan was constructed of wood blades.

In the mid-1920s, David’s grandfather, Edwin Baker, purchased a new 10-foot Monitor Model D steel windmill from Held and installed it on the Perkins tower. Produced by Baker Mfg. Co. (no relation), Evansville, Wis., the Monitor was superior to the old Perkins windmill, in large part because the gearbox was enclosed and the gears ran in oil. “The first oil gearboxes for the Baker Monitors were sold in 1925,” David says. “They were a vast improvement over the earlier open-gear models.”

The Monitor brand name was a nod to the Civil War battleship. The manufacturer claimed the Monitor’s gearbox could not be punctured by hunters’ bullets.

David’s grandfather selected the 10-foot Model D partly because of prevailing wind patterns and partly because of the depth of his well. “Our well is 212 feet deep,” David says. “It took more power to pump water over 200 feet. The gearbox head and fan of the 10-foot Model D weighed nearly 1,000 pounds. If a farmer had a shallower well, and lived where there was a lot of wind, he might have been just fine with an 8-foot fan.”

The windmill served the Baker farm for decades, pumping water for livestock and family use. It remained in use up to the 1960s, when a new submersible pump and state-of-the-art pressure water system were installed.