Gill landfill windmills

A row of windmills is shown at the Gill Landfill west of Jackson, Neb. Nearly two dozen distinct windmills make up the collection.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal file

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JACKSON, Neb. | It's been years since Midwest farmers and others relied on the wind to provide the water needed for crops and households. Windmill wheels spinning in the breeze in pastures and next to farm homes was once a common sight.

A collection of antique windmills along U.S. Highway 20 near Jackson gives passersby a glimpse into that past and also shows off the variety of the wind-driven machines that at one time were a basic necessity.

The collection of nearly two dozen windmills stands near the entrance to the L.P. Gill Landfill and is open for public perusal. It's not uncommon to see motorists pulled over taking pictures.

The authentically restored windmills date back decades. The frame of a Pipe Raymond made by Althouse-Wheeler Co., of Waupun, Wisconsin, is stamped 1920. Others were made in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Nebraska. Their manufacturing dates range from the 1880s to 1940. Others were found in Kansas and Minnesota.

Many of the windmills may look alike or very similar, but each one is different.

The collection includes a Perkins Model E, Boss Dempster, Baker Monitor Model M, a 1930s Ozark, a Large Spear Challenge, Fairbanks Morse Eclipse, Pipe Raymond and Dempster No. 9.

The majority of the windmills are wooden-wheel basket types, whose slatted sectional paddles fold in like a bushel basket when not working. Unlike the iconic solid-wheel, or so-called American windmills, they prefer the wind at their backs.

Leonard Gill started the collection in 2003 at a windmill auction near Walthill, Nebraska. He was looking for a decoration for the entrance to the landfill, he said in a 2006 Journal story. Gill acquired many of the others from a windmill collector who could no longer keep up his collection.

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