“Whooooomp…whooomp…whomp.” The wind mill blades started turning slowly, as if the wind had trouble pushing the enormous blades. But move they did, round and round and round, settling into a steady rhythm on the hot summer day in Little Chute, Wisconsin.
I stared up the 100 feet, fascinated. A windmill, I decided, was a stationary ship with four long rotating arms to hold its sails. And just like sailing, the more the sails were adjusted to catch the wind, the faster those enormous blades pump out their whomp-whomp beat.
The Dutch windmill in Little Chute is a replica of 1850s mills in the Netherlands. That was truly the era of wind mills, as there were 9000 of them–nearly five times as many as the wind turbines used today.
History of Little Chute
Little Chute’s windmill is a dream come true for the Dutch Catholic community that came to the Fox River Valley after the Menominee people sold four million acres of land to the Federal Government in 1836.
Father van den Broek had come from Amsterdam, Holland, in 1832 to be a missionary to the Fox Valley locals, who immediately built him a large wigwam that served as his home and church for a number of years.
Once the land became available for settlers, Father van der Broek went back to the homeland and returned with three full ships of families to make their home in the area. He delivered his sermons in French, English, and German, as well as the Indian language, being teacher, doctor, and priest throughout the Valley.
Today, Little Chute and its surrounding area is believed to be the largest Dutch Catholic community in the U.S.
Little Chute Gets Its Windmill
It took more than a decade for Little Chute’s wind mill to make its first whomp-whomp in the Fox River Valley after the decision was made to purchase the replica. Fourth generation Millwright, Lucas Verbij, built the mill in the Netherlands, then disassembled it and shipped it to Little Chute to be reassembled.
For me, the most fascinating part of being inside this traditional wind mill was the tongue-and-groove construction. Instead of modern nails and bolts, each piece of wood is carefully carved to fit into its slot in the grand design. Wind powered mills are sometimes said to be the first factories, even preceding the Industrial Revolution that began in the mid 1700s.
Making a Dutch windmill like this isn’t as easy as just taking a few pieces of board and fitting them together either. Rather, the Little Chute wind mill is made with various types of wood and many man-hours! Running a mill isn’t easy either, so all of the volunteer millers need training. The mill really works too, grinding a variety of different grains.
As well as its windmill, Little Chute also has St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church, which was started in 1860 and completed in 1868 after the Civil War.
Tour Little Chute’s Windmill
While you may not be able to stand on top of the windmill like I did, you can take the same tour through Little Chute’s windmill with WLUK-TV in this three-minute video:
For information on visiting the Little Chute Windmill, see their webpage: http://www.littlechutewindmill.org/index.php Tours are seasonal, from April 1 to Thanksgiving (full hours in the summer), with admissions at $6 for adults. Little Chute is located on the eastern border of the city of Appleton, Wisconsin, and on the Fox River.
I visited during the Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival in June–it’s a lot of fun!
Thank you to the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau for hosting my visit to the Fox Cities.