Path Home Shows 2009 Show Archive March 2009 Show 0909 Windmill Museum

Windmill Museum

While generating electricity from the wind may be the wave of the future, harnessing the energy of the wind for practical uses is a concept that is well over a century old and one that played a role in the settling of our state.
Windmill Museum


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Shattuck Windmill Museum

Show Dates

Show 0909: Windmill Museum

Air date: March 1, 2009



Rob:  Well while generating electricity from the wind may be the wave of the future, harnessing the energy of the wind for practical uses is a concept that's well over a century old, and one that played a key role in the settling of our state.  Our Russ Jowell takes us to Shattuck, Oklahoma, where we visit a unique museum dedicated to that all too familiar rural landmark, the windmill.

Russ:  On a small corner in the small town of Shattuck Oklahoma, Phyllis Ballew is doing her part to preserve a small piece of Oklahoma history.

Phyllis Ballew:  This little tiny, called a giant, windmill here, used to pump water over in gage Oklahoma.  And it came to us from an old fellow, out just, who lived over by Gage.  And we’re happy to have it.

Russ:  In her role as director of the Shattuck Windmill Museum, Phyllis is hoping to give those, who visit, a small glimpse into what life was like in this part of the state nearly a century ago.

Ballew:  So we just wanted to show how people actually lived out here in this country early on, and why the windmill was so important to the way they lived.

Russ:  So why were these spinning steel towers so important to life in northwest Oklahoma?

Ballew:  There wasn’t’ any water.  Actually there was very little surface water, so the windmill was the only way that these folks were able to keep their farmsteads going, their cattle fed and watered.  That was just terribly important.

Russ:  And it was out of that necessity that gave roots to the plethora of designs on display, here at the museum.

Ballew:  Well we started out with four in a row on the far side that belonged to Marvin Stinson, down from Leedy.  And it has just grown from there.  We’ve had various people donate windmills to us that have come from their homesteads.  We’ve tried not to have more than one of a kind, because all of these, I think there are 53 up right now, and each one of them is different.  And each one of them has an amazing story to tell too.

Russ:  Amazing stories like that of the Eclipse.

Ballew:  It was manufactured by Fairbanks Morse, and it was made specifically to pump water for the railroad locomotives.  It’s just a beautiful windmill, and there was a reason that it became the workhorse of the plains, because it was easier to repair than some of the other wooden windmills.

Russ:  And in the heydays of the windmill, simplicity was a staple of life, as Phyllis showed me inside this rather cramped clay hut on display.

Ballew:  We’re in a little sod house that was actually being lived in, about 1904.  If you can imagine that people still lived in this kind of a little space as late as 1904.  I bring kids tours in here, and the kids will look around, and they’ll say “my room is bigger than this.”

Russ:  But despite its cramped interior, most of what people needed to live could be found right inside these four walls.

Ballew:  The bucket is here simply because this is where your running water came from in this little dugout.  You’d go out to the windmill, bring in your bucket of water, then you had a dipper and you used your dipper.  Everybody drank out of the same dipper.  It was just where the water was.  And of course your hand washing and everything took place here with a big chunk of lye soap.  And that’s the way they took care of their water needs in those days.

Ballew:  We think we know what hard times are; we think these people must have really had a hard time when things like that happened.  Water will sometimes run down the wall if we get a really hard rain.  There’s still spiders, if you would probably notice if you were standing where I am, that take up residence in here.  So it wasn’t just an easy life, for sure.

Russ:  Showing us all, that while these exhibits may be relics of the past, their lessons are very much alive today.