Across the pond with Rex Wailes: Nantucket Windmill

November 19th 2019 by Nathanael Hodge

Part 10 of a weekly series of blogs about Rex Wailes' 1929 trip to the USA and Canada.
Poster Image

Nantucket Windmill before 1885


Saturday 11.5.29

Next morning, Saturday, I met Mr. Fuller as arranged and we walked up to the mill which he unlocked and left me with a flash light, and instructions to return the key to him at 1 p.m. I spent all the morning there, measuring up and taking photographs.

Interior of Nantucket Windmill: Vertical shaft and pins which engage cogs in the drive wheel. Brake beam, with counter weights at the right. Photo by William F Macy, reproduced by Rex Wailes in his 1931 paper on windmills in New England

Hopper and bin enclosing the stones. Photo by William F Macy.

It is in good order, as it is a show place in the summer - 25 c. per head, and they get a bit of money to keep it up that way. A small boy on a pony was very interested in my photographing and I was in turn surprised to see with him a well bred beagle. He told me that they hunted rabbits with them, they have three varieties of rabbits but no hares.

When I returned to Mr. Fuller he suggested an expedition to the oldest house in Nantucket which the Society owns. I met him at 2.30 and he took me up.

The storm shutters were screwed up, a flash lamp was necessary. It was very interesting and from the inside might have been English. They have a few objects of interest and a lot more are moved down to the Museum each winter. One thing that I photographed and measured was an old wood and stone pestel mortar, used in olden times for pounding grain into meal. They have also a curious old well and bucket lifters which I photographed.

Painting of the four windmills on the Popsquatchet Hills, Nantucket

When we had finished there we returned to the Pacific Club where I photographed two framed photographic reproductions of old paintings of Nantucket windmills. There were originally three others on the ridge where the remaining mill still stands. The last of the quartette had 8 jib-sails. This would be Portugese practice - not surprising considering the large number of Portugese Settlers in Rhode Island, & Massachusetts. There was also another mill where the cemetary now is, called the "Round Top" Mill, to distinguish it from the others. That has gone too, though within living memory.

Painting of the "Round Top" Mill

Having made some notes I went on to the Atheneum. They were just about to close, but promised to look out books on the mills for me when they re-opened in the evening. This they did and I got some most useful information. I then called on Mrs Adams, the curator of the Museum, who offered to shew me over the Museum herself on Sunday morning, an offer I accepted readily. She then asked me to meet the family and I had a pleasant 3/4 hour with them.

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