Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Historic Structures Brought To Life: The 1633 Farris Windmill

I've done deep research on numerous structures at Greenfield Village over the past decade or so,  delving into the information I've found at the Benson Ford Research Center - the kind of information not often heard from the presenters  (due to time constraints).  And here is my latest  (as of March 1st,  2023)...a building in which,  it seems,  is not often given much thought to by most visitors,  but does add greatly to the overall picture of early America.  And,  as I gather more information or find pictures that speak to me,  I will add them.
Oh,  don't worry - there will be more to come!  At the very bottom of today's posting is a complete list with links to the other historic buildings that now sit rebuilt and restored inside Dearborn,  Michigan's historic Greenfield Village that I've written about.
Hope you enjoy this and the others.

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Built in 1633,  here is the Farris Windmill as it now stands in 
Greenfield Village.  It was brought here in 1936.
I many reading this ever thought of  windmills,  those beautiful eye-catching wind-catchers dotting the landscape of  the east coast and Europe  (and miniaturized in gardens everywhere)  as being a gristmill,  grinding wheat into flour or corn into meal?
Yeah...maybe a few,  but not many.
I will admit,  as a youngster I never gave the windmill much of a thought other than they were popular tourist attractions in Holland,  and sometimes early America,  and they looked pretty and scenic.  In fact,  nearly every depiction of Holland usually had little Dutch kids wearing traditional clothing,  wooden shoes,  and,  there in the background,  was almost always a windmill.  It never even crossed my mind that windmills were made for the purpose of grinding grain into flour or corn into meal. 
And where did I learn this milling information?
Why,  at Greenfield Village,  of course,  for this is where the once oldest windmill on Cape Cod  (from 1633) - the historic Farris Windmill -  has sat since 1936.  And then years later when I began researching gristmills as a whole I learned even more of their usage.
But before we get into the history of  the Farris Windmill,  let's look at a quick  history of windmills themselves.  I think you may be surprised at the information I was able to dig up:
Again,  we are so blessed to have such an ancient gem as
Greenfield Village in the metro-Detroit area,  a gem that holds
such treasured American history that we,  as locals, 
can visit as often as we'd like  (for the most part).
Man has used wind to harness power for centuries.  The earliest use was most likely as a power source for sail boats,  propelling them across the water.  The exact date that people constructed windmills specifically for doing work is unknown,  but the first recorded windmill design originated in Persia around A.D.  500-900.
Windmills were originally used for pumping water,  then they were adapted for grinding grain.  It had vertical sails made from bundles of lightweight wood attached to a vertical shaft by horizontal struts,  which provided structural support,  similar in the way struts for cars provide support.  However,  the design,  known as the panemone  (vertical axis),  is one of the least efficient windmill structures invented.  
It should be noted the Persians are believed to have pioneered the use of windmills to pump water around 600 B.C.   Early windmills for grinding grain were located in places like the Middle East,  China,  and ancient Greece.  Europe wasn't too far behind,  for the concept of the windmill spread to that continent after the Crusades.  The European windmills used a  horizontal axis instead of vertical ones,  as discovered through research of  Europe's earliest designs,  documented in A.D.  1270.
And just think,  the Farris Windmill was built only around 350 years later!
The controlling long lever that can be used to direct the windmill sails in the
most preferred direction was being repaired when this photo was taken.
So now let's get into the Farris Windmill history:
(This)  Dutch-style windmill built of wood was first erected near the town line of Sandwich and Barnstable on the north side of Cape Cod making it one of the oldest windmills in the country.  Windmills were quite commonplace during the initial few hundred years of America’s existence,  allowing settlers to take advantage of wind power thus not needing to live close to water to thrive.
This mill was built like those the early pilgrim settlers had seen during their exile in Holland.  The power of the winds off the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay turned the mammoth fifty four foot sails,  which would turn the millstones inside,  much like the water would turn the wheel in the more common mills we see,  such as the Loranger Gristmill,  also now relocated in Greenfield Village.  
The 1831 Loranger Gristmill from Monroe,  Michigan,  and now
also sitting inside Greenfield Village.
Loranger used water power and not wind power!
The Loranger's millstones.
Those inside the Farris Windmill would be much the same.
(see the diagram three pictures below)
As the millstones inside would turn,  they would grind corn into meal in ten minutes or in three hours,  depending on the wind force.  The long lever between the roof and the ground is used to turn both the roof and the sails in the most favorable positions.  Young men were induced to become millers by being exempted from taxes and military duty. 
As it sits inside Greenfield Village,  the Farris Windmill is near another
New England structure,  the Daggett Farm House  (commonly referred
to as a  "saltbox house"  in our modern day),  built about 1750. 
In the top picture we easily see the long lever from the roof  to the ground. 
This was used to turn both the roof and the sails in the most favorable
positions to catch the wind.  The wheel attached to the lever on the
ground made for a much easier movability than lifting and carrying it.
During a Michigan snowstorm,  though it could substitute for a Cape Cod snowstorm. 
Now,  I am not exactly sure how the Farris Windmill works in grinding as compared to the more familiar mills,  but I am assuming it is in the same manner:  the sacks of grain to be ground had to be taken up to un upper floor of the mill where it will be emptied into the grain storage bin.  On the next floor below was where the miller would ensure the grain would slide down the chute to the hopper,  which has a funnel-like appearance.  Its flow is controlled by a number of lever apparatuses that would shake an even amount into the millstones at every revolution.  On the bottom floor,  the hopper disperses the grain to two large burr stones assembled from hard granite.  The capstone,  which is movable,  revolves barely above the lower stone,  which remains stationary.  It is this lower stone which has furrows carefully carved into it to help guide the flour to the waiting bins ready to be sacked for the customer.
Since I have not seen anything but the ground floor from inside the door, 
I cannot be certain the above sketch is how it looks on the inside of Farris.  But
this is a diagram of an 18th century windmill,  and my educated guess would say
it would be close to this,  if not the same.
Inside the Farris Windmill:  through the door of the ground floor.
It was as far as I was allowed to enter.
The Farris mill was moved several times,  that being easier than 
finding a millwright to build a new one.  At that time,  the stone base was not 
a part of it,  which would have made it much easier to move.  The initials  "T.G."  
and  "1782"  were carved in one of the beams during a move.
The interior has a winding stairway which leads upward three stories 
from the ground level to the revolving roof area.
The first move of the windmill would occur in 1750 when it was bought by Lot Crowell and moved to the Lower Village of Bass River.  Moving such a structure required numerous men and teams of oxen as the two millstones used to grind the corn,  wheat and more weighed three and a half tons.  With mill makers being in short supply it was more common for a mill to be moved rather than a new one being built. 
The time in the Lower Village was relatively short as the mill would be purchased in 1782 by Captain Samuel Farris and moved to his Farris Field in South Yarmouth.  It was after this purchase and move that the mill would become known as Farris Windmill.  The three-story tower with sails measuring fifty-four feet across would remain in the Farris family for three generations.  In 1894 the mill would be sold and moved a third time.  This time it was purchased by F.A.  Abell and moved to the present-day intersection of Route 28 and Berry Avenue in West Yarmouth.
This is the Farris Windmill at its final Cape Cod location in
West Yarmouth in a picture taken in 1928, 
courtesy of the Dennis Historical Society.
The photo was taken just eight years before
it's move to Greenfield Village.
Notice it does not have the large stone base.
After Abell’s death the windmill was sold to Dr. Edward Gleason of Hyannis and Boston.  He would see the mill restored and open to the public.  This effort brought major attention to the Farris Windmill.  Gleason was approached in 1935 by a group of Ford automobile dealers who wished to buy the mill and have it moved to Dearborn,  Michigan as a gift for their founder,  Henry Ford.  Eight years earlier Gleason had attempted to give the mill and six acres of land to the town of Yarmouth,  however they balked at the potential taxes on the property claiming the town was too poor to afford it.
There was much public outcry of the potential move of the windmill,  Gleason was there to remind the town of his attempted gift.  Henry Ford actually did not want the windmill at first either.  In 1926 Ford had actually approached Gleason about purchasing another historic spot,  the Baxter Mill,  located further down Route 28 in West Yarmouth.  Gleason would immediately turn his offer down.  He would however convince Ford to take the Farris Windmill stating that rebuilding it in a museum setting would preserve it better than leaving it to the harsh Cape Cod elements.  Gleason said it was a little late for locals to care,  and the mill was sold in November 1935.
The location in the following two pictures  (from the camera of  Steven Lindsey)  shows us the last site of  where the Windmill stood before it was brought to Greenfield Village.  It is the only corner not built up at this intersection.  The other corners have a gas station,  a CVS,  and a chamber of commerce.  It is located in Yarmouth, Massachusetts.
It is difficult to imagine such a behemoth standing here!
I appreciate Mr.  Lindsey taking these wonderful  "original location"  pictures in 2021.

The move to Greenfield Village would be the mill’s fourth move and most arduous of all.  
Once the windmill was dismantled and reassembled in
Ford's Greenfield Village,  thousands of Ford dealers
from across the nation attended the official
presentation ceremony in November 1936.
(Picture courtesy of The Henry Ford)
The Farris Windmill was dismantled and shipped more than 800 miles to Dearborn to become a part of Greenfield Village,  Henry Ford’s museum.  In the summer of 1936 the windmill was reassembled and placed atop a ten foot stone foundation so to avoid anyone being struck by the mill’s sails.  That November ceremonies were held to officially present the Farris Windmill to Henry Ford.  The ceremony was attended by several Ford dealers from Cape Cod.
Greenfield Village is visited annually by more than 1.77 million people.  In the more than eighty years since its fourth and likely final move,  the Farris Windmill has been viewed by tens of millions of people from all over the world.  It may rival the most viewed historical Cape Cod artifacts anywhere,  despite the fact that it resides nearly a thousand miles from its original home.
Here is an image captured by the father of  my friend,  Kevin Amos,  from 1958.
From its humble beginnings at the dawn of the settling of Cape Cod by Europeans to its remaining relevance as an important historical artifact nearly four centuries later,  the Farris Windmill is a little piece of Cape Cod now nestled in Central Michigan.
Notice anything different about the Farris Windmill in this picture?
It has lost its stone base!
Actually it didn’t – I just did some photo-trickery.  But it did not originally have 
a stone base when it sat on Cape Cod ---Henry Ford added it when it was brought 
over to Greenfield Village in the 1930s for safety reasons.
Either way,  I was just having some fun and wanted to see what it would’ve 
looked like in its original state.

There's a kind of interesting story to tell here about the windmill and the Daggett House and my replication collection:
A friend of mine and his then fianc√© were at a local collectables store and made sure they stopped by to tell me that they had seen a lighted ceramic Dept. 56 Daggett-style house for sale there.  Of course,  I went to the place myself to see it.
Yep - there it was!  And it was beautiful.  In fact,  there were four of these houses sitting on the shelf,  all out of print from maker Dept. 56.
Unfortunately,  they were also rather pricey,  so I had to pass on purchasing one.  But every-so-often it would enter my mind and I thought about how cool the lighted house would look as part of my collection.  I really wanted to get it,  but money was tight.  However,  after some time  (and some money I acquired),  I decided to see what I could find on eBay.
There it was!  It was listed under the title  "Home Sweet Home."
No stone base on the ceramic windmill.
But still,  it looks an awful lot like the Greenfield Village set up.
I even repainted the house to give it more of a  "Daggett Gray"  look.
And it was only a quarter of the price the local collectibles shop was selling it for!  And guess what else?  With it,  in the same box,  was a windmill.  A windmill that looked suspiciously like the Farris Windmill  (the windmill was not included at the local shop).  
The windmill,  as it stands at the southeast end of Greenfield Village next to the 1750 Daggett house,  gives a most picturesque scene - as much as any other spot in the Village.
These two Dept. 56 ceramics were introduced in 1988 and were discontinued in 1991.
The original Daggett House was reconstructed in Greenfield Village in 1977 and opened to the public in 1978,  while the Farris Cape Cod Windmill was reconstructed in the Village in 1936.
They are v-e-r-y close in comparison to Daggett and Farris,  especially considering they came in the same box.  So I decided to do some research on the whole  "Home Sweet Home"  thing.
Dept. 56's website says that the house and mill is  "Inspired by the East Hampton,  New York historic landmark home of John Howard Payne,  composer of the old early 19th century tune  'Home Sweet Home'."
As the Daggett House and Farris Windmill are situated inside Greenfield Village, 
they give a strong resemblance to the East Hampton,  NY historic landmark home of John Howard Payne,  composer of  'Home Sweet Home,'  as seen in the above picture.
Okay,  so even though it's based on another historic home and mill,  I prefer to think of it as sort of having my very own Daggett House and Farris Windmill!  And with a few accessories,  I can give it a bit of life.  
Accessories add a bit of life to the scene.

To hear the song  "Hone Sweet Home" - - 

Ever since I saw this next photograph  (taken by Jen Julet),  I loved it,  for everything about it just seems to immerse the viewer into our colonial past,  at least it certainly does for me,  for we see on the left a peek at the 1750 Daggett House,  the Farris Windmill from 1633 in the middle,  and the red early 18th century Plympton House on the right.
No modernisms in sight!
A wonderful photo taken by Jen Julet
The layout of this picture of the three structures here perfectly depict a scene straight out of  America’s 18th century past.  Perhaps you are in colonial Massachusetts or Connecticut. This would not be an unfamiliar sight to you.
Now imagine yourself back in the good old colony days,  around the year 1765,  walking along the dirt pathway,  or perhaps it may be a brick walkway if you were closer to town,  needing your corn ground into meal at this windmill.
And in one of my photo-manipulated image,  here is a scene from the past of the same
buildings in the above photos,  though taken in springtime with a different distant background.
Aside from the hay and the background,  all buildings and people  (including myself) 
are as you see them.
Yes…this is what makes Greenfield Village so special,  for American history seems to jump out at you at every step!
I took this picture on a winter's day,  unintentionally in a similar position
and angle as Jen Julet's.

Now imagine you are on Cape Cod and it is the year,  say,  winter 1776.  It is night time and a glowing moon is high in the cold sky.  Ahead is the windmill,  locked up tight for the night.
As you pass near to the mill,  this is what you may see.
A photo I captured during the Holiday Nights event
(of which I stole the idea from Ed Davis!).

Stepping back a bit,  a clearer view comes in site...
This photo taken by Ed Davis
Even in the darkness of night,  its picturesque beauty can be seen.

In this picture by Chris Robey you see me
with my friend Lynn during a daytime visit.
Common everyday clothing for some of us  (lol).
Well,  I hope you enjoyed our little adventure to the once common-style of a gristmill.  You see,  as I drive through the very modern cities of our day and age,  noticing gas stations,  collision shops,  party stores,  malls,  restaurants,  banks,  cell phone stores,  and numerous other merchant shops,  my mind always seems to slip back in time,  even without the history being within my grasp,  for most of the buildings from a hundred years or more ago in my suburban metro-Detroit city have been long torn down;  the once familiar architecture of centuries past of a livery,  general store,  blacksmith shop,  cooper,  printer,  and,  of course,  the gristmill are now shadows of what has been.
I'm an old soul living in a new time...though I can still see the past.
And that's why Greenfield Village is such an amazing historical open-air museum,  for where else can one stroll through over 300 years of history,  from the early 1620s up right up into the 1930s?  This is the gem Henry Ford left not only for us in the metro-Detroit area,  but for America;  to me,  his legacy is not his automobiles but his restoration of  our past.
By the way,  have you ever wondered what stores/shops of today will be a part of the past?  Which places will evoke memories or future researchers to study?
Yeah...I do...

Until next time,  see you in time.

To read on other Greenfield Village homes and structures I researched,  please click the following links:

Ackley Covered Bridge 1832
At one time, covered bridges were commonplace. Not so much anymore. But Greenfield Village has one from 1832.

Daggett House  (part one)
Learn about the 18th century house and the family who lived there.

Daggett House  (part two)
This concentrates more on the everyday life of the 18th century Daggett family,  including ledger entries.

Doc Howard's Office - The World of a 19th century Doctor
It's 1850 and you're sick.  Who are you going to call on?  Why,  good ol'  Doc Howard,  of course!

Eagle Tavern
Learn about the Eagle Tavern and 19th century travel

Eagle Tavern: Eating Historically 
Taste history while being immersed in the 1850s
Firestone Farm at Greenfield Village
Learn about the boyhood home of Harvey Firestone, the tire magnate.

The Giddings House
Revolutionary War and possible George Washington ties are within the hallowed walls of this beautiful stately colonial home.

Built in the late 18th century,  with some slight modifications from its original style,  this is one of the oldest original American log cabins still in existence.  

These buildings were once a part of everyday life in American villages and towns and cities - including the Gunsolly Carding Mill,  the Loranger Gristmill,  Farris Windmill,  Hanks Silk Mill,  Cider Mill,  and the Spofford and the Tripps Saw Mills,  all in one post!

Noah Webster House
A quick overview of the life of this fascinating but forgotten Founding Father whose home, which was nearly razed for a parking lot, is now located in Greenfield Village.

The Plympton House
This house,  with its long history  (including American Indians)  has close ties to Paul Revere himself!

Preserving History
Henry Ford did more for preserving everyday life of the 18th and 19th centuries than anyone else! Here's proof.

Tales of Everyday Life in Menlo Park (or Francis Jehl: A Young Boy's Experience Working at Menlo Park)
Menlo Park is brought to life by one who was there. First-hand accounts.

Richart Carriage Shop
This building was much more than a carriage shop in the 19th century!

And for some haunted fun, 
Ghosts of Greenfield Village
Yep - real hauntings take place in this historic Village.

Yes,  some of the structures that now sit inside Greenfield Village have connections to America's fight for Independence.

Follow the route that Thomas Edison took as he rode and worked on the rails in the early 1860s,  including the Smiths Creek Depot.

Virtually each structure inside Greenfield Village has come from another location,  I took on a project to seek out the original  locations of many of the local buildings.  
Where they first stood when they were first built.

Homes that played a role in our country's fight for Independence.

Research has shown that,  as a young attorney,  Abraham Lincoln once practiced law in this walnut clapboard building.  I think this post will make you realize just how close to history you actually are when you step inside.

Recreating this store to its 1880s appearance was extremely important as the overall goal,  and so accurately reproduced items were needed to accomplish the end result,  for many original objects were rare or too fragile,  with some being in too poor condition.  

This post is part history and part family history:  a blending of the two.  And one way to show how you can place your ancestors in their time.

Saving Americana - that's what Henry Ford did - and in doing so he showed everyone the importance of  everyday life history.  This is how it all began.   

Nothing is placed randomly inside the structures at Greenfield Village.  The curators carefully consider each and every object before allowing it to become part of the site. 
And the Clothing Studio at The Henry Ford covers over 250 years of fashion  (from 1760 onward)  and is the  premier museum costume shop in the country.

Much of the history of the Farris Windmill was written in an on-line article from 2022 by Christoper Setterlund - his words are what I italicized in the post.
(click HERE to see the original article)~
Some windmill information came from HERE
Cape Cod web site HERE

~   ~   ~

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