Windmill1635It all began in 1990 when Terry Rodman’s wife, Kris, asked him to build her a Dutch windmill to represent her Dutch heritage. As the project progressed the seed that it planted in Terry’s mind took root and began to grow and so did the simple little windmill Kris had asked for. The Dutch windmill took three winters to complete. Rodman set it down in three sections, and it sits amid a collection of 30 some windmills from all over the United States as well as several other countries.
“Kris just wanted a little lawn ornament, but I got to thinking that a nice big one, up there on the knoll, would look nice,” said Rodman. “Now I have lost count of how many I have here and across the creek. Plus three I have put up in Jasper, Minn In the beginning I just got to collecting them and then people started asking about getting a windmill, and I got into selling them and putting them in different locations. Mostly it is people who live on a century farm or they remember the windmill that used to sit out in the pasture and want one there again,” added Rodman.
By profession, Rodman was a blacksmith, welder and machinist with a shop in Jasper, just two miles south of his home on Highway 23 in southern Minnesota. This gave him the advantage of being able to make any parts that might be missing from windmills he acquired.
“Sometimes people will just stop and ask if I would like a windmill they want removed. Often I will see an abandoned windmill, and I will inquire if it is available. Sometimes they are willing to part with the windmill, but people have a funny thing with windmills. Very often, even though the windmill has not been in use or even kept up for years, they still have a sentimental attachment to it and don’t want to part with it,” said Rodman.
“In Jasper I put up an Iron Turbine mill with scoops. It was patented in 1876 and came from California. It looked like pieces of junk when I first got it, so I used pictures of one like it in Nebraska to make the parts needed to put it together. There is one other one like it that is kept inside, in a museum-type place, that one is all shiny.
One came from Houston, Texas, and I overhauled it so it could pump like new. Others have come from California, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. A three-legged one came from Chicago, Ill.  My wife and I have ended up traveling a lot, we vacationed in Brazil. I bought one there, and it took nine months for it to get here. It is the only one of its kind in the United States. I also have windmills from Australia and Argentina, Canada, China and South Africa,” Rodman said.
“Most people think the taller the windmill is the more water it pumps; they are built a certain height to catch wind currents. The amount of water pumped is determined by the size of the blades. A windmill with an 8-foot diameter fan will pump 565 gallons an hour. The 12-foot two-fan windmill will pump 600 gallons a minute,” Rodman said.
After selling his shop, Rodman found he needed a place to work on his projects and ended up moving into another building down the street from his former business and also ended up buying many replacement tools to make windmill parts.
“The Gem windmill was patented in 1876. It was the first successful steel windmill. Many think that windmills are a thing of the past, but in the southern states they are still used in pastures too remote for electricity. There is a plant in Hurley, S.D. that ships all their windmills south, and they are very visible when you travel that area,” said Rodman.
“Some people collect windmill weights, and they have become quite valuable. Some are special shapes, like a horse or rooster or spotted cow which is rare. There are at least 50 designs, and they are hard to find now. A Minnesota man has a complete collection, and it has taken three generations to build that collection. One of my favorite windmills is the Pivoting windmill. The counterweight on the bottom goes up, and the top half of the windmill tips down to the ground ,,and you can tie it off so there is no climbing to work on it. That one came from Indiana. Another neat one is my double fan; it is special. There are only three others that anybody knows about. I found it in Hutchinson, Kan. It was made around 1919 to 1927 and was made to pump a lot of water quickly for row crop irrigation, and it would pump much more water than a regular windmill.” Rodman said.
The tour of windmills began with a power mill, which does not pump up and down but around and around, and it is used to drive a saw or grinder with a large belt. It was produced by Aermotor, a company originally based in Chicago, Rodman explained, as he put the large belt in place. Very few of its kind are still around.
During a trip to the Netherlands the Rodmans saw some working mills that are still used to grind corn and have water wheels but have the same kind of gears as windmills but are used only for grinding. One day Rodman plans to have a water wheel set up and in working condition.
“It has been a very interesting hobby, and my wife and I have met so many nice people and traveled to some very nice places. Sometimes someone driving by will just stop to see what all these windmills are about. I have groups and individuals that call and set up a time for a tour. We have a lot of people come and go,” said Rodman.
The Windmill Man can be reached by phone at 507-204-0012 or by email at krodman@frontier.com.