Destroyed by owner, 1934
(1854 - ?) Wheat
(1854 - ?) Buckwheat
(1854 - ?) Corn
(1852 - 1854)
Henry Emminga (1854 - 1863)
John Franzen (1863 - 1870)
Peter Osterman (1870 - 1875)
Cobus Franzen (1875 - 1904)
Fred Franzen (1896 - 1930s)
Henry Bruns (1930s - 1934)
In February of 1852, Henry Emminga, a trained millwright and mechanic
from Ostfriesland, Germany, immigrated to Adams County, Illinois.
After building his home and barn, Emminga constructed what would be his
first of three windmills. With the exception of the grinding
stones (shipped up the Mississippi River from France, then hauled by ten
oxen to Golden), the mill was constructed entirely with hand-cut native
trees and local limestone for the foundation. With the help of the
entire community, the 40-foot, ground-sailing mill was pieced together
and completed on June 5, 1854.
After six years of grinding, business probably was not great for Emminga. One problem was the mill’s location. Although the mill was a local necessity and was situated relatively close to the railroads and the Mississippi river, only dirt roads existed between different locations in the county, making the shipping process a terrible experience. The other problem was that the mill could not catch the wind. Like most traditional mills in Germany and Holland, the windmill was built with its sails just barely scraping across the ground. The tall prairie grass and crops probably prevented the sails from catching enough wind to make the windmill productive enough for profit.
Thus in 1860, Emminga disassembled the mill and then rebuilt it atop a frame building; this was done to raise the sails about twelve feet to catch the wind more effectively, and the new building also allowed Emminga more room for shipping and receiving. A stage was built over the roof of this building so that the tail pole's winch could be reached. This was probably the first windmill in the state to introduce the concept of building Dutch smock tower mills atop wing buildings to raise the sails. Indeed, all of the windmills in the state built after the Custom mill follow this design pattern. This construction would also influence Emminga’s future mills.
Wishing to keep his family safe after the outbreak of the Civil War, Emminga decided to sell his property and move to Felde, Germany. The Custom Windmill was first sold to Emminga’s uncle, John Franzen, in 1863. The windmill continued to generate profit for Franzen when in 1870 he sold the mill to Peter Osterman. After five successful years of operation, Osterman sold the mill back to the Franzen family. Cobus and his son, Fred, operated Franzen & Son mills into the twentieth century. Sometime during the 1920s, a gasoline engine replaced wind power, and the mill was sold off to Henry Bruns just ten years later. Bruns demolished the windmill in 1934.
While in Germany, Emminga established a farm and built his second Dutch windmill, again constructing a smock mill and stage atop a building to raise the sails. After the Civil War, he and his family returned to Adams County and, about one mile southeast of his old plot, began work on the Prairie Mill that still stands in Golden.
-Wienke, Anna. When the Wind Blows… Golden: Taylor Publishing Company, 1998.