In 1852 early settler Chris Klein bought 120 acres of good farmland from the government, then sold it two years later to Ernest Busch, who soon sold the property to Herman Beckman (1822-1894).
Beckman kept the land until 1870, when it was sold to Diedrich H. Meyer (1820-1887), who added 40 more acres and farmed the West Creek Township farm until his death. His son, John H., then took over the running of the farm.
John H. Meyer (1850-1900) was about 20 years of age when he came to America with his parents from Germany. He was educated in Germany and soon became recognized as "one of the first-class farmers of West Creek Twp.," although he began with little capital. In 1871* he married Johanna Krudup (1855-1926), born in Westphalia, Germany, who came to this country with her parents in 1859, enduring a long ocean voyage of nine weeks before landing in New Orleans.
The children of John H. and Johanna Meyer were Henry D., Anna M., Emma M., Ida C., Herman C. and Bertha. One child died as an infant. The following is a 1904 quote from Lake County Historian pioneer Timothy H. Ball: "Since her husband's death (1900), Mrs. Meyer has given her attention equally well to both household and outdoor duties of farm management, and with the assistance of her noble children has succeeded remarkably well in her enterprise." Herman C. Meyer, her son, farmed the land, and her daughter Ida was the last one of the early settler family to live on the farm, until her death in 1979.
Johanna's daughter Bertha Meyer (1895-1941) married Hugh Souder (1882-1932). One of their four children is Ruth Grelck, whose son Dan now farms the land. Ruth and her hisband, Earl, both well known in business circles of Lowell, gave the Old Timer some old-fashioned hospitality when they invited him to come out to the farm to see the restoration of their famous old windmill and talk about their family history.
The enclosed wooden windmill has long been a familiar landmark in West Creek Township, and the Grelck's thought it worthy of being restored, with work beginning early in August this year. Many years before there was an open wooden frame windmill behind the farmhouse, but according to the fine records regarding building materials kept by Johanna Meyers, the covered windmill was built in about 1904.
The craftsmen doing the construction that year were the owner, Herman C. Meyer, and Fred Ewer, a blacksmith and carpenter in Lowell for many years. Large, 10-inch beams were used in the construction of this unique windmill with stairs leading through several floors, one of which contained a workshop, possibly a place to repair harness and other small farm equipment. The beams, sometimes crossed for strength, were put together with wooden pegs similar to the type used in early barn construction. Large gauge steel rods were used where there was heavy stress. In the reconstruction, only a few of the large wooden beams had to be replaced, and all are now protected from the elements by long-lasting materials.
One day the Old Timer found 'Chief Engineer' John Sutton, Earl Grelck and Dan Grelck hard at work on the project, and he was later informed that other laborers on the mill included Ruth Grelck, Alan Grelck, Jamie Echterling, Luke Rosinko and Dan Rosinko.
A large steel tank manufactured by the Goshen Steel Tank Co. still stands on one of the mill's floors and if filled would have a capacity of many tons.
Now, thanks to the Grelck family, the 88-year-old structure stands proudly like new again and is a pleasure to see as you drive along 157th Ave. in West Creek Twp., just east of U.S. 41, which was only a dirt trail when Diedrich Meyer bought the property in 1870 from Herman Beckman for 40 dollars per acre.
There were many interesting entries in Johanna Meyer's fine ledger book, including some noteworthy 1904 prices. It lists a tank costing 93 dollars, including fittings, which could be the tank still standing within the windmill. A pump was priced at $53.75. There was an entry on Insurance: "Fire Insurance, 6 dollars." Clothes and school supplies for one child for one year totaled $14.40. One shirt was 50 cents. Overshoes cost 48 cents; mittens, 23 cents; and yard goods, 32 cents. A hat, overalls and shoes totaled $2.25. About that time, a (horsedrawn) buggy could be purchased for about thirty dollars.
According to a story written in 1974, the two handy men who fashioned the original covered windmill, John Meyer and Fred Ewer, were also the engineers of an early telephone system for the West Creek neighborhood. Telephone lines were suspended from trees, posts and buildings to form a connection between homes of about ten families. When the phone rang, all parties would answer their receivers to see who was wanted on the phone.
Now, another relic of the past has been saved for future generations. A quote from that 1974 article still applies: "The old windmill overlooking its vast countryside still continues to reel in the eternal drifting wind."
* NOTE -- Although this article lists the marriage year of John H. Meyer and Johanna Krudup as 1871, Johanna Krudup Meyer's obituary named their wedding date as Oct. 26, 1876.
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