Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wind power on Old Cape Cod

Old East Mill
Heritage museums & gardens
67 Grove St.
Sandwich, Mass.

Years ago windmills, like this windmill in Sandwich, could have been found all over Cape Cod. Water power was always the preferred method for powering mills, but the lack of rivers and streams on the Cape led to using wind power instead. As times changed and the windmills were no longer needed, attrition reduced the number of windmills on the Cape. At the present time there are only a handful left.

The first windmills on the Cape were built in the early 1600's at Plymouth. Many of the original founders of the Plymouth Colony had lived in Holland prior to coming to the New World, giving a Dutch influence to the windmills. As the Pilgrims began to spread further out onto the Cape, establishing the towns of Sandwich, Eastham and others, more windmills were built.

In addition to grinding grain, windmills were used in the Cape's salt industry, both to grind it and to produce it from (evaporated) seawater. Salt was vital to the Cape's largest employer, the fishing industry.

The Old East Mill was built in 1800 in Orleans. By 1893 the mill had fallen into disuse as it had become cheaper to purchase milled grain from the mid-west. In 1968 the mill was purchased and moved to its present location by the founder of the Heritage museums and gardens, J. K. Livy III.

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