Windmills were once a common sight across the Great Plains and played an important role in the settlement of the American West. Windmills allowed settlers to farm the fertile plains in areas not blessed with abundant streams and rivers. Used primarily for pumping water from underground wells, wooden windmills dotted the landscape throughout the 19th century. Metal windmills, popluarlized by Thomas Perry and LaVerne Noyes of the Aeromotor Company, became more prevalent in the 20th century because of their increased efficiency. Metal wheels turned faster than wooden wheels, and with the improvements such as back gearing (which reduced the ratio of pump strokes per revolution) and self-oilers (which eliminated the need to climb the tower to add oil), wooden windmills became obsolete and were not produced after 1940.
To pump water from an underground reservoir, windmills used wind to move the rotors on the wheel which forced internal gears to move the pump rod in a reciprocal motion. The pump rod forced a plunger and check valve below the water table on the downstroke and forced water to the surface on the upstroke when the check valve on the plunger closed.
This Star 24 model windmill was likely purchased at the Hinshaw Merchantile Store by H.D. Horton in 1920 and used on his farm in Plevna, Kansas. The Star 24 was produced by Flint and Walling Manufacturing Company of Kendallville, Indiana and was one of the most popular models of the day. During a windstorm in 1948, the wheel was blown off the windmill but the tower was undamaged. The replacement wheel was a 6 1/2 foot Monitor WB model. The Monitor, named for the civil War battleship, was produced by the Baker Manufacturing Company of Evansville, Wisconsin, which had been producing windmills since 1872.