History of the Old Windmill by Evelyn Cassens

06151312 copyGolden New Era
Golden, Illinois
Thursday, December 12, 1929


Evelyn Cassens

A Dutch windmill, fifty-seven years old, the only one of its kind is located in this town, the only one in this section of the United States.  It is a little over thirty miles from Quincy.

The mill, the last of three built at Golden, has grown to be such a curiosity, that people come great distances to see it.

It is located between the C. B. & Q. and Wabash railroads, and is one of the first structures a person sees when entering Golden from the south on either of these roads.  It is operated by F. Franzen an expert miller.

Great interest centers about the windmill, as it is built of materials obtained in Adams and Brown counties, and it has withstood half a century of wear.  Its wooden parts are hand hewn.  Its timbers are from the heavily wooded sections, that at one time, were numerous in the vicinity of Golden.

EMMINGA, Henrich ReemtsThe first Holland windmill built in the Golden vicinity was located east of the village and is now only a landmark.  It was called the Custom Mill and was built by Henry R. Emminga, who came to Golden from Germany in 1852.  An expert mechanic and millwright, he invaded the splendid forests of oak, hickory, and maple, and obtained materials with which to build the mill.  He completed the structure in twenty-eight months.  The mill was sold to John H. Franzen, Sr. in 1863, and later transferred to Peter Osterman, who took charge in 1870 and sold it in 1875 to Cobus Franzen.  Mr. Franzen made his son, Fred a business partner and in March 1904, Fred Franzen  became the sole owner.  The mill is now (1929) out of operation.

Windmill Built in 1872 

The windmill now standing was built in 1872.  It is still used in the manufacture of buckwheat flour, rye and graham flour, corn meal, and ordinary mill feeds.  It is built on the tower idea and is ninety-two feet high.  The four fans are seventy-one feet long, from tip to tip, and eight feet wide.  A strong wind will produce 75 horse power.  With its three sets of lava burrs (millstones), it has a capacity of 500 bushels of grain a day.

Prairie Mills Windmill, Golden, IllinoisThe mill was passed from one generation to another—from its builder, H. R. Emminga to his son, the late H. H. Emminga and then to the present owner, Miss Margaret Emminga.

The mill is built on a site purchased on June 26, 1872 by H. R. Emminga.  He bought thirty-three acres of land adjoining the south line of Keokuk Junction, now known as Golden, from Col. Wm. Hanna.  By July 3, 1872 the material for the first story and octagonal center was on the ground, ready to be erected.  Thirty-five loads of rock were hauled from a creek some seven miles distant by farmers of the community.  The large elm, oak, and hard maple timbers were sawed by a Mr. Buss near Mt. Sterling.  The lumber from which the bolting machines and other machinery were made was also sawed there.

Work Started in 1872

On August 11, 1872 carpenters, under the direction of H. R. Emminga, began work and the first story was completed September 2, 1872.  The following winter and spring Mr. Emminga made most of the wooden machinery used in the mill.  The main drive wheel, or master wheel, of the cam and sprocket type, is twelve feet in diameter, made entirely of hard maple.  It required almost eight months to finish it.  In the fifty-two years of continuous service, this wheel has hardly shown wear.  The main shaft on which the wheel as well as the four fans are fastened is made of cast iron and weighs 4,700 pounds.  The bearing in which it rests weighs 340 pounds.  These were made special order of the City Foundry in Quincy.  The smaller iron parts were made in Camp Point.  Mr. Emminga drew all the plans and even made the patterns for the castings.

On April 5, 1873 the upper stories and the tower of the mill were erected, and on April 15 the main shaft was put in place.  Due to the weight and the great lift of 62 feet that was the most difficult part of the work.

There were two sets of lava burrs (millstones) ready for use on September 1, 1873, and the grinding of buckwheat, rye, and corn was begun.  Under the firm name of H. R. Emminga & Son, the first shipment of buckwheat flour was made to Carthage on November 8, 1873.  On March 9 wheat.  The delay was occasioned by difficulty in obtaining bolting machinery.  On August 15, 1874, the third set of burrs was placed.  This burr is five feet in diameter and weighs 5,000 pounds, and its installation completed the mill.

01090902Flour Won Prize

In September 1874, H. R. Emminga & Son sent samples of wheat flour ground in the mill to St. Louis, Missouri, where it was awarded first prize for the best flour on the market.

In the fall of 1878, H. H. Emminga bought his father’s interest in the mill and remained sole owner and proprietor until his death December 9, 1915.   After Mr. Emminga’s death, the mill was operated by the Golden Elevator and Mill Company until March 1, 1922, when it was taken over by the Consolidated Cereal Company.  J. J. Emminga and F. B. Franzen consolidated the two windmills at that time.  Mr. Franzen has been operating the old windmill described in the first part of this story in the country two miles east of Golden.  F. B. Franzen became the sole owner of the plant on March 1, 1923.

In the early eighties, the making of wheat flour was discontinued because of the roller process.  Efforts in other lines were increased and these are still in demand.  Buckwheat, graham and cornmeal ground on the large burrs are desired by a large trade.  The present operator, F. B. Franzen sends large shipments from the Golden windmill to many parts of the country.

A strong wind tore off two of the four fans on the old windmill on February 9, 1924.  Mr. Franzen was not handicapped by this.  In August 1924, he installed a 30 horse-power gasoline engine assisted by his son, Ralph, and son-in-law, Walter Reynolds, to be used till the fans could be repaired.

H. R. Emminga built two other windmills of the same type, the first, two miles east of Golden in 1854, and then one in Germany in 1863.  The mill built in 1854 is no longer being used, but the one built in Germany is still running.

Felde Windmill, Ostfriesland, Germany

Felde Windmill, Ostfriesland, Germany

Hinnerk EmmingaThe third windmill of the group located in the Golden vicinity was built by William Gronewold on his farm north of golden.  This mill was smaller, having a sweep of twenty feet and was used exclusively for grinding feed for stock.  It has been torn down.

Practically all of the flours and feedstuffs now ground in the windmill by Fred Franzen are manufactured from raw stuffs obtained from the Golden countryside.


We see the old mill standing,
As we daily pass along,
And it never makes a motion,
Though the wind is blowing strong.
Did you ever stop and ponder,
And in solemn moments feel,
That the hands that hewed the timbers,
Never again will guide the wheel?
Let us then like all good people,
While we still are young and gay
Do our part to keep it turning
As a mark to Emminga.

A note of interest: 

In 1880 the people of Keokuk Junction asked the Secretary of State to change the Village name to Golden, Illinois.  The village was known by four different names to the people.  It was Keokuk Junction to the people; by the state and the United States T.W.A.W Junction; by the C.B.&Q.R.R. Corporation Wabash Junction; and by the Wabash Corporation La Buda.  The four names were very confusing to the area and with the permission of the Secretary of State, the people voted to change the name to Golden. 

Golden, Illlinois illustration by A. Bruce Loeschen

The book, “When the Wind Blows” by Anna Wienke is a valuable resource for learning about the Prairie Mills Windmill.  She is the great granddaughter of Henrich Reemts Emminga, and her book can be purchased through the Golden Historical Society, Golden, Illinois.

A hearty thanks to those who shared photos for the two Prairie Mills Windmill posts.   (Illustrations by A. Bruce Loeschen)

Learn more about Margaret-Meta Emminga in the next two posts.  Quite an interesting lady for her time!

Read more about H. R. Emminga at Hinrich (Henry) Reemts Emminga

Two excellent websites of interest on this subject:  Golden Windmill and Illinois Windmills

And if you haven’t read the previous post, Windmill is of Interest, click here


About corinthrose

Born again Christian, helpmate of 42 years, domestic engineer of two children, GRANDmother of six darlings, professional volunteer, fanatic photographer, and a wanna be writer. Occasionally, infatuated with family history, flower photography, and traveling with my hiking buddy.
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2 Responses to History of the Old Windmill by Evelyn Cassens

  1. Fascinating story about the windmill. I’ve seen grist mills powered by water, but have never seen a windmill.

  2. Pingback: Emminga Goods Draw Crowds by Evelyn Austin | Corinth Rose

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