(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Spring 2019
Connecticut farmers used small windmills for years, primarily to pump water for livestock and for household use. Information about where these windmills once stood, however, is often hard to come by. In Lebanon, there was a windmill at Redwood, the historic home on the southwest corner of West Town Street and Exeter Road. According to the Norwich Bulletin, in April 1913 a fire threatened Redwood when the house next door burned to the ground. Redwood’s kitchen roof was badly burned, but the house was saved because of its windmill. More than 100 men responded to the fire alarm and formed bucket brigades to bring water from the windmill’s storage tank to douse the flames.
In 1978 dairy farmer Clayton Williams (1899 – 1981) recalled in an oral history interview in the archives of the Lebanon Historical Society that there was a windmill-driven water system on his farm at 105 West Town Street when his parents moved there about 1902. The windmill tower was 60 to 65 feet tall and had a 1,500- to 2,000-gallon storage tank about 30 feet above the ground. A pump was buried underground to keep it from freezing. The gravity system fed water through pipes laid to the barn and the house. Williams also recalled windmills at 234 Trumbull Highway in the Liberty Hill section of Lebanon, 688 Trumbull Highway, just north of the Baptist Church, 15 West Town Street, and 1035 Trumbull Highway, one mile south of the town green.
The last remaining windmill is located on the McCaw farm between the houses at 812 and 820 Trumbull Highway. Although the blades or sails are missing, the tower is a striking landmark on the east side of the green.
Learn more about the impact of water on Lebanon at the Lebanon Historical Society’s new exhibition “Working Water,” on view through September 1, 2019.
Donna Baron is director of the Lebanon Historical Society Museum. This story is based on Alicia Wayland’s “Windmills,”Lebanon Provisions, Summer 2015.
On view March 1 to September 1, 2019 this exhibition investigates the history of water-powered businesses, the development of resorts and camps on old millponds, and the impact that weather has had on the water resources of Lebanon, Connecticut.
Lebanon Historical Society Museum, 856 Trumbull Highway, Lebanon