THE WINDMILLS OF AUBURN, INDIANA
At the turn of the 20th century there were numerous windmill manufacturers producing various designs of water pumping and power windmills in steel and wood configurations. A large majority of these manufacturers were located in the central Midwest encompassing the states of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. Convenient access to raw materials, skilled labor, and the shipping options available including the railroads, likely contributed to the concentration of these companies within this area. Another factor was a receptive and growing market of customers in need of an easier way to raise water from their wells.
The Northeastern corner of Indiana hosted a large number of windmill companies including the ones located in the town of Auburn, Indiana and the town of Auburn Junction, Indiana. Auburn, Indiana was founded in 1836. Auburn Junction, Indiana established a Post Office in 1884 which was in operation until 1931. Auburn Junction was located at the intersection of the Baltimore & Ohio, The Eel River, and the Fort Wayne, Jackson, and Saginaw Railroads, which likely contributed to the name. Today the only evidence of the existence of Auburn Junction are the Baltimore & Ohio tracks which are still in use and operated by CSX, and a half mile section of the old Fort Wayne, Jackson, and Saginaw tracks that serve as a spur to local factories.
Between these two towns, slightly over a mile apart, several windmill companies produced wood and steel wheel pumping windmills, along with windmill regulators, pumps, and related water pumping apparatus.
The Beard and Rakestraw Manufacturing Co. of Auburn, Indiana produced windmills based on the designs of founder G.M. Beard who was awarded patents for two of his designs in 1881. Patent # 242251 was for a windmill and # 240077 was for a windmill pump. The pump patent was an improvement over his original patent # 213314 for a windmill pump awarded in 1879.
In December 1886 Monitor Manufacturing Co. assumed operations of the Beard and Rakestraw Manufacturing Co. and continued to produce the designs patented by founder G.M. Beard. The main windmill produced was named the Improved Monitor which was a solid wheel wood windmill that used brass bearings in a steel sleeve. During the same time period the company started producing the “Diamond” windmill which was a solid hinged wheel windmill that used steel shafting that ran in babbitted bearing boxes which was less costly to build. Company literature describes the “ Diamond Mill which we are now manufacturing, in order to be in a position to accommodate customers wanting a mill with the shaft running in Babbitted Boxes, and costing them less than the Monitor, which has the bearing for the wheel independent from the bearing for the shaft.“
Some of the earlier documentation shows an address of Auburn for the company while later literature lists Auburn Junction as the physical address. Historical records cease to exist for the company after 1893 suggesting that the financial Panic of 1893 caused the company to succumb to financial pressures of the day.
An interesting hand written footnote discovered on the cover of an original catalog from the Monitor Manufacturing Co. has a reference to a lawsuit between the Flint & Walling Co. of Kendallville, Indiana and the Rex Manufacturing Co. of North Manchester, Indiana. The note describes the catalog as “Exhibit O” in this lawsuit. The hand written note is dated July 27, 1893. Further research is needed to determine why a Monitor Manufacturing Company catalog was used as an exhibit in a lawsuit between two competing windmill manufacturing companies that were located within 50 miles of Auburn, Indiana.
In 1875 Elias Zimmerman joined his son, Franklin T. Zimmerman forming Zimmerman and Company located in Auburn, Indiana. Initially they were a building materials supplier, most likely due to their family history of operating a sawmill. They soon expanded the product line to include church furniture. In 1882 they started producing the Monarch water pumping windmill. During this time they also started producing a hydraulic windmill regulator, which was used to shut the windmill off and furl it out of the wind when the tank it was filling was topped off.
The year 1886 brought additional opportunities for business which required more capital so Zimmerman and Company was reorganized with outside capital as the Zimmerman Manufacturing Company. The company continued to produce the Monarch windmills, both wood and the later steel versions of these direct stroke water pumping windmills, and the Windmill Regulator, the “Little Giant” for the next 23 years. The year of 1890 saw the company expand their product line into the production of buggies and carriages. The number of these new conveyances soon exceeded the windmill and water supply side of the business and in 1909 that part of the business was sold to a company organized for the express purpose of purchasing the windmill and water supplies product line from the Zimmerman Manufacturing Company. Celina Manufacturing Company, of Celina, Ohio was the name of the new company that purchased the water related product line. The Zimmerman Manufacturing Company then focused its efforts solely on the production of carriages, buggies, and the revolutionary addition of engines to these carriages which were some of the early horseless carriages produced in the United States. They continued to produce motor vehicles into the late 1910’s when the firm liquidated.
Northeast Indiana has a rich history of windmill manufacturing and these two companies are interesting examples of the development, and manufacturing of these amazing mechanical devices that used only the power of the wind to make life easier for the early settlers of the Northeast Indiana and many other parts of the country at the turn of the 20th century.
Following is an excerpt from an original catalog describing the Warranty from the Monitor Manufacturing Co. in Auburn Junction, Indiana.
“We warrant the Improved Monitor Wind Engine to be well made, well painted, and perfectly self-governing in high winds; less bolts to get loose, and more perfect than any Wind Engine made. Should any mill set up by us, and properly cared for, blow down within one year from the time of its erection without the tower upon which it stands going with it, we will furnish a new mill or repair the old one for nothing.“
MONITOR MANUFACTURING COMPANY
1. Baker, T. Lindsay North American Windmill Manufacturers’ Trade Literature
1998 University of Oklahoma Press
2. Baker, T. Lindsay AGuide to United State Patents for Windmills and Wind
Engines 2004 The International Molinological Society
3. Trade Catalog – Monitor Mfg. Co. Auburn Junction, Indiana