Fort Ross windmill

 At Fort Ross were built two windmills. Why they were windmills rather than water mills is probably due to a cultural selection by people coming from wind-swept steppes. The fact that the area of Fort Ross is also subjected to frequent winds probably made the choice easier still. Since the mills at Fort Ross were the first ones to exist in California, of course, this issue has attracted heightened attention. References to them are often found in the respective travel notes. Thus, from the documentation, we know about the conclusion of the construction of the first mill in 1814 (Khlebnikov, 1976, p. 108). 

 The mills in Spanish/Mexican California were strictly water or animal driven. In French and Spanish literature, dating from 1841, there are references to two separate windmills, one of which was known as the “new” mill. Thus, the new mill must have appeared in Fort Ross sometime between the year 1839 and 1841.

 In the case of this windmill, of particular importance is an image of a windmill that was drawn by Ilya Voznesenskii in 1841 (see figure 1). It is worth reviewing and taking closer consideration of this image. 

  It should be noted that the mill that is shown in this image can be attributed to the stolbovka type of windmill ( see figure 2) This provides a good representation of the mill’s barn under the gable roof. The facade of the mill's barn is not visible to the viewer, but, nevertheless, we can assume the presence of two pairs of blade-wings, one of which is clearly seen on the brim of the gable roof of the mill’s barn/grainery. As for the blade-wings, this figure does not give us any reason to doubt the number of blades of the mill. In the case if they were actually more than shown here, the painter would not have failed to portray them in this watercolor.  

           ( Fig.2)

The village of Velikiy Dvor,

   Kargopolskiy District,

    Archangelsk Region.


     Watercolor painting of Fort Ross Windmill in 1841 by                                            Ilya Voznesenskii. 

The foundation of mills of this type requires a construction of log-frame cribbing. Before us in this interpretation by Il'ya Voznesenskii is an image depicting a high cribbing. The cribwork, judging on the basis of the unparalleled well-preserved examples on Russian soil, becomes sharply narrow somewhere in the middle of this height, forming a narrow neck with a rotating mechanism at the base of the mill’s barn/grainery. We see a similar cribbing device in the Voznesenskii watercolor painting. It is known that such a log cribbing construction provides greater stability for the entire structure, which is highly important under the kind of wind loads that a windmill typically experiences.

  Such mills required a substantial center post. This post would have been sunk into the ground at least two meters.  It would have been typically 50 cm (20 inches) in diameter based on a Russian drawing in Medvedev’s file on windmills on file at Fort Ross (Fig. 3).  The post would have supported the transverse pole on which the rotating mill wings would have turned to meet the prevailing wind.  Typically, such post-mills utilized a long support pole attached to a wheel that would eventually wear a groove in the ground surface over which it rode. It would be conceivable that evidence of the post hole and the groove could still be found. 




                              ( Fig. 3) 

       Windmill cutaway (Medvedev 1994)













                                                                 "California`s First Windmills: The Russian Windmills of Fort Ross" by 

                                                  Glenn J. Farris, Senior State Archeologist Cultural Heritage Section, DPR                    July 17, 2001 (Revised June 18, 2007)

                                                          "Explanatory note regarding the project for recreating the windmill at Fort Ross"

                                                                   Compiled by:  Lyudmila Leonidovna Petrovа,  Anton Pavlovich Maltsev