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The invention of the self governing windmill and its subsequent successful manufacture greatly influenced the development of the western two-thirds of the United States. Windmills from that period tell the story of ingenuity, hardship, success and failure of the early settlers as they applied a new technology to conditions in an environment with which they were barely familiar. Between 1854 and 1920, over seven hundred companies had manufactured tens of thousands of windmills. There are now only two of those companies left, one of which is in Texas. Most windmills from that period have now been lost and those that remain are in the hands of private collectors or in sparse exhibits in general purpose museums. The passing of these windmills means that future generations can only learn about the windmillís history through pictures.

In the mid-sixties, Billie Wolfe, a faculty member of Texas Techís College of Home Economics, taught courses in Housing Design for Family Living. Supporting documents for these classes included photographs of farm and ranch structures. Those photographs invariably had in the background a windmill. Usually it was just the remains of a tower, topped with bits of castings, loosely bolted arm strut and a bullet ridden tail. While houses continued to be the subject matter of her lectures, she realized that the windmills in those pictures were rapidly disappearing and they became the focus of her interest.

Dr. Grover Murray, President of Texas Tech at the time, was working to establish the Center for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and his visits with Ms. Wolfe brought out the importance the windmill played in providing water for early settlers in those lands. He encouraged Ms. Wolfe to continue her photography and began funding that work through his office. The Texas Tech museum was being moved to a new and larger structure and Dr. Murray envisioned a permanent exhibit of windmills to be a part of that new facility. However, a collection of early mills suitable for display was unavailable and that wing of the museum was never built.

During the following 30 years, Ms. Wolfe traveled throughout the country, searching for windmills, interviewing farmers and ranchers who owned them and frequently securing a mill and shipping it to Lubbock. In 1992, Ms. Wolfe learned from Alvin Davis, Director of the Ranching Heritage Center, of an unusual collection of restored windmills in Nebraska that was for sale. She visited Mitchell, Nebraska, and met Don Hundley, owner of the Windmill Hill Museum. He had the premier collection of early American windmills in the country, many beautiful hand pumps, difficult to find windmill weights and rare salesmanís model mills. In 1993, terms were negotiated and a down payment made for his entire collection. In the past, museum groups (the Smithsonian was one) and private collectors had attempted to purchase the rarest and most unusual of Hundleyís windmills, but fortunately, he had always wanted to keep his collection intact. Ms. Wolfeís assurance that the collection would remain together was a key factor in persuading Mr. Hundley to sell to her.

In the summer of 1993, Georgia Mae Ericson introduced Ms. Wolfe to Coy Harris, a Lubbock native and CEO of Wind Engineering Corporation. Together, they established the National Windmill Project as a non-profit organization. Harris planned, arranged and moved the entire Hundley Collection to Lubbock which consisted of 48 windmills, 171 weights, 56 pumps, numerous photographs and models. The windmills were reassembled by Harris and other helpful windmillers and they remained in storage awaiting a permanent home. Between 1993 and 1997 Harris and Ms. Wolfe worked to raise money for the windmill museum. Sufficient funding was secured from Texas foundations, individuals and several Lubbock businesses to enable the group to pay off the Hundley note and keep the operation on a subsistence level.

In the Fall of 1996, Ms. Wolfe suffered a stroke whose effects kept her from working on the windmill project. But her many years of work locating and convincing windmill owners to save and protect their family windmill was rewarded in the summer of 1997 by the City of Lubbock which offered the windmill group an interesting section of land just south of Mackenzie park. A permanent home for the windmills had been found. Ms. Wolfe passed away in November of 1997, never having seen the first windmill go up at this handsome site.

This 28 acre tract of rolling hills, (rolling for Lubbock) was ideal for the large number of windmills the organization owned at the time. The National Windmill Project was renamed the American Wind Power Center in order to reflect its broader interest in wind power history and began erecting windmills. In December 1997, the Scarborough-Linebery Foundation of Midland awarded a grant of $1,426,320.00 to the American Wind Power Center (AWPC). This money was issued in the form of a challenge grant toward a $4.7 million Master Plan. Using the initial proceeds from that grant the windmills were moved to a 9000 square foot building and a formal opening was held on June 20, 1998.

From that beginning the windmill museum opened a much larger display building in May of 2001 which houses over 90 rare and unique windmills. Windmills, some of which are as large as 25 feet in diameter, are being erected over wells and tanks in the outdoor Linebery Windmill Park in clusters or alone.

Coy Harris as Executive Director has supervised all of this construction as well as the continued development of the museumís collection of rare mills. On August 28, 2001, the museumís 100th windmill was erected and new monies were secured with plans calling for an additional 100 windmills on the grounds over the next several years. Rick Nidey, the museumís master windmiller, Mr. Harris and the other staffers work to keep these old pumpers working with occasional field trips to secure an old mill that to most people would look like a piece of junk iron. Typically this junk was a windmill that was used in the 1800ís or early 1900ís by a family desperate for water.

The American Wind Power Center has become internationally recognized as the place to visit for observing windmills in their natural setting, photographing groups of windmills and serving as the premier educational facility where the windmillís heritage is taught, seen and heard. Common to those who grew up on the Plains, the windmills hold a fascination for people from outside this region. The dynamic characteristics of windmills are magnetic and the visual movement of large numbers of these water pumpers is simply indescribable.

Complementing the many windmills is a large collection of photographs, drawings and models in the Windmillerís Art Gallery, and other very rare collections of windmill artifacts. On October 20, 2001 the museum introduced the Elmer and Melvyn Miller Windmill Weight Collection in a new display room specially built for this large collection of windmill weights. On August 30, 2003 the ď80 JohnĒ exhibit was opened to the public, an exhibit depicting the fortitude and foresight of the early Black Texas Ranchers. The WINDSMITH museum store is also located in the building specializing in a unique variety of windmill related keepsakes.

 

Volunteers this Quarter Board of Directors Staff
  • Joann Stewart
  • Ron Dingle
  • Andrea Hamlin
  • Dr. Rick Honey
  • Mike Wragg
  • Glendon Stokes
  • Judy Teeas
  • Suzan Winton-Duhan
  • Eddie Bilderback
  • Russ Hendrick
  • Lin Hendrick
  • Renae Hendrick
  • Cary Harris
  • Shelley Harris
  • Bobby Milligan

 

  • Randel Terry
  • Cindy Martin
  • Mark Welch
  • Dr. Randy Craig
  • Carey Behrends
  • Rodney Collins
  • Chris Roberts
  • Paul Cowley
  • Dexter Duhan
  • Jill Nelson
  • Vic Bobo
  • Grady Fort

 

  • Coy Harris - Executive Director
  • Tanya Meadows - Director of Marketing
  • Eddie Sosa - Staff Windmiller
  • Sharon Whorton - Assistant Manager
  • Cary Harris - Special Event Staff

 

1701 Canyon Lake Drive Lubbock, Texas 79403
Phone (806) 747-8734 or
Fax (806) 740-0668

 
 

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