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Meeting Minutes
Torch Club of the Fox Valley
10 March 2016
Atlas Coffee Mill & Café

Notes taken by: Jude Kuenn, secretary
Attendees:  Karen Bachhuber, Jim Baumbach, Nancy Bodway, David Debbink, Marcia Debbink, Mary Flanagan, Paul Freiberg, Walt Hedges, Jean Jepson, Barbara Kelly, Bill Kelly, Jude Kuenn, Cam Maurice, Amy Oberg, Mary Poulson, Richard Schoenbohm, Jan Smith, Bob Swain, Peter Thiel, Scott Valitchka, Sofia Wilson

Guests: Cynthy Anderson, Dick Schoenbohm


Meeting called to order at 6:35pm.

Business segment adjourned at 6:55pm for dinner.
Richard Schoenbohm presented “Windmills – Pre-industrial Age Power Houses”
Less than 300 years ago, if you wanted to operate any labor-saving machinery without animal power, choices would have been kinetic energy from blowing wind or falling water. Of the two, windmills reached their apogee in the 17th and 18th centuries. They pumped water, ground grain and spices, ran sawmills and aided many other industries.

Richard’s great great grandfather, Friedrich Ernst Schonbohm, lived from 1837-1928 and was a miller from age 15 until retirement at 73, in 1910. He then sat down and wrote his life story.

Friedrich was born in Friederiken Vorwerk, where his father worked on a windmill overlooking the North Sea. Friedrich’s career as a miller was in the final heyday of windmills.

Windmill types:

These later mills were commodious, often contained two sets of milling stones and four or more levels. The cap was the staging area for grain, the next level down contained the stones, below which there was a room for collecting and bagging ground grain. The ground floor was for wagon access, storage and living quarters for the miller and his family.

No reliable records of the earliest forms of sails on NW European windmills, when reliable, records noted the design was two spars crossing at right angles. Attached to spars were wooden lattices forming ‘ladders’ over which cloth was laced. Sail cloth was used to control power and rotor speed of turning sails. Such sail design eventually allowed a threefold increase of sail and tenfold increase of power. There were also spring sails, though they were not as efficient as cloth sails.

Of these, Friedrich rented a post mill, Aussen Mill, in 1876 in Aurich. Westeraccum Mill, a tower mill, was also rented in 1884. He bought the Bahnhofs Mill in Jever in 1889 and added the ‘fan tail’ ~1904, using the wind to wind the mill cap. Friedrich worked at the Wittmund smock mill as a mill helper, when just 15 years old. As a helper at the Hilgenstein Mill, he wrote of early mornings and long days with very little to eat or drink. 

Not just a miller, Richard’s great great grandfather bought, ground and sold grain, went into baking and selling bread commercially, and cut and sold peat from surrounding moors as a third business.

The end of wind power came to the family in October 1939. Ground flour dust being very flammable, could have been sparked by a cigarette, started a blaze. The upper wooden structure could not be saved. The windmill was never rebuilt. The tower stump was roofed and turned into a home for Friedrich’s grandson Volkmar and his wife Herta. They ran a bakery, taken over by their son Garrelt, until his own retirement ~10 years ago. The mill property was sold, all structures demolished. There is no trace of the Bahnhofs Mill except for the family photos and Friedrich’s written history.

Next meeting is 04/14/16; speaker will be Jan Smith.

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