Friday, December 3, 2010

1864 Seppman Windmill near Mankato, MN

With the recent moves towards "greener" energy in the last decade, one might think wind power is a relatively new concept for Minnesota. You'd be amazed though (as I was) to learn that a windmill constructed from 1862 to 1864 still stands in Minnesota! This hidden gem of Minnesota history is actually part of Minneopa State Park located 5 miles west of Mankato. We had no idea it was there until we visited the park in May of 2009 and ended up spending quite a bit of time there reading and learning why it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The mill is a Gristmill which at one time ground grain into flour by way of four gigantic wooden arm and sails- that measured about 70 feet in diameter. It was built by Louis Seppman, a German immigrant who modeled the mill after those in his native country. Though successful at first, the windmill seemed destined for ruin as it was damaged again and again by weather. In 1873 two of it's wooden arms were struck by lightning and needed to be replaced. In 1880 two more arms were carried away in a tornado. The mill limped along for 10 more years using only 2 arms until yet another storm in 1890 broke those off as well. There were very good historical markers on the site which told this whole story and more. According to the markers, extensive structural damage, together with competition from water and steam powered mills and the invention of the "roller process" made this windmill unprofitable to operate. I never produced flour again and closed in 1890. It was quite amazing to see this massive stone structure still standing nearly 120 years later. Also on the grounds, down the hillside was a Granary building that was almost completely rebuilt during renovation in the 1970's. If you have the chance to visit, Minneopa State Park is one of the best State Parks I've been to, and the Seppman Mill is icing on the cake. Here is a good article I ran across regarding this long abandoned stone windmill