Restoration of old windmill gives a glimpse of history

Bill Dalley stands next to his latest windmill, a 14-foot Eclipse, at his outdoor museum in Portales. Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson.

Michelle Seeber: Freedom Newspapers

PORTALES — With all the wind that blows in eastern New Mexico, it is no wonder that windmills were a factor in the settling of Roosevelt County.
Before the invention of the windmill, travelers went from water hole to water hole in search of water. There were no streams or rivers nearby from which to glean the liquid so essential for life.
It was the windmill and barbed wire that brought civilization to this area, Portales resident David Stone said Monday.
Windmills used wind to pump water from the ground — as far as 200 feet below the surface — and barbed wire prevented cattle from straying. With the two inventions, farmers and ranchers saw a future in the area.
Bill Dalley, a retired school counselor who lives in Portales, restores old windmills as a hobby. So, it is no wonder that Stone, who appreciates history, went to him after finding an old windmill on a ranch he purchased.
The windmill, Dalley said, was buried under sand and dirt on the Joe Lewis Powell-David Stone Ranch.
“We broke it down and brought it here (to Portales),” Dalley said. “Some pieces were cast to put it together, because some of the pieces had been lost.”
Dalley restored the old windmill’s wheel, which he said may have been created as early as the 1870s.
The wheel — 14 feet in diameter — rests in Dalley’s yard among more than 80 other restored windmill wheels that are part of Dalley’s collection.
Built with the blades in a slanted position, the wheel is made of oak at the cross pieces and pine for the blades.
It was painted green in its original state, with red tips on the blades. So, Dalley repainted it the same colors.
“The wheel of the windmill will eventually be mounted on a tower,” he said.
When restoring the 14-foot windmill wheel, Dalley referred to patterns of a 14-foot windmill wheel he had restored several years ago and taken to Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
“It took about two months to complete,” he said of the Stone project.
One of the aspects of this particular wheel, he said, was that it gave one pull of the pump rod each time it made a complete turn, drawing water up out of the ground.
“This was how this part of the area got its water,” Dalley said. “There are still windmills on ranches and farms today that are too far away from electricity for electric pumps.
“This particular wheel was known as an ‘Eclipse’ windmill,” he said, referring to a half-moon shaped cast metal piece that balanced the wheel’s vanes — paddles that moved back and forth with each pump of the rod. “Thousands of varieties of windmill wheels came out after 1854.”
Stone said he asked Dalley to restore the old windmill wheel, because it represented a piece of history and “pumped water at the ranch.”
Stone called the 14-foot Eclipse windmill wheel “pretty rare.”
“It’s an unusual mill,” he said. “For collectors, that mill is worth $25,000, so it’s a valuable artifact.”