Monday, June 18, 2018

The Delmar Windmills

Delmar prior to 1905 did not have a town water utility; instead each property owner had a well.  On small property lots the outdoor privy was very close to the water source.  Ignoring the sanitary aspect of it, the water well supplied the water to the household by a pump.  Usually the source of power for the pump was a women or child working a pump handle, however some households had windmills that pumped the water to a water tank on the windmill tower.  After that gravity took over when a person wanted water and opened a spigot the water would flow down from a water tank 20 or more feet in the air.  Besides people, households also had horses, pigs, and chickens to supply water to plus their home garden.  In addition there were about eight windmills scatter around Delmar that pumped water to tanks for fire protection purposes.  Usually the windmills remained even after Delmar got a public water system.  As they rotted or fell apart they were removed or sold to people outside of town for use as a water pump or a Delco electric generator for lighting.  

The windmills themselves could be purchased from Sears, Roebuck and company or through other suppliers such as Fairbanks-Morse.  

The drawback to any water supply that is above ground, such as the water tank on the windmill tower, is in the winter it will freeze.  The only picture I have found of a windmill actually in Delmar is from the “Wicomico County and Delmar Vintage Postcards” book of which that picture is shown below.

In addition there is an article in the Delmar Items Wilmington Morning News January 9, 1914

A very peculiar thing happened here when the workmen who were thawing out the windmill of Mayor Irving Culver allowed the tank to catch on fire.  The fire department had to be ordered out to save it, and then considerable damage was done before the flames were extinguished.

As with any homeowner maintained water system it was just so much more convenient to go with the town water utility.  The problem of having to release the brake on the windmill in high winds so it would not be torn apart, the adjusting of the linkage rods to the pump, the freezing of the tank in the winter and just general upkeep convinced people to go with the town system. 

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