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This place is well worth visiting

By Henry Timman • Jan 18, 2019 at 12:25 PM

If you ever find yourself in northeast Indiana with some time on your hands, consider visiting the Mid-America Windmill Museum at Kendallville, Ind. This museum displays more then 50 windmills along its path of mills, as well as a museum and visitors’ center housed in a 19th-century barn built without nails.

Many of the windmills on display were made by the Flint & Walling Company, which was founded at Kendallville in 1866 and which still operates. Now, though, their chief products are water pumps. In the late 19th and in much of the 20th century, many farms across the entire world depended on windmills to pump water for domestic use and for livestock sustenance. During this same time the firm also produced well pumps and cistern pumps for domestic use in the days before we enjoyed water under pressure.

There were several pump companies located in northern Indiana, and Flint & Walling have outlived all or most of them. This company was formed in 1866 by two Norwalk, Ohio, gentlemen who gave up a comfortable middle-class life here to take a chance and go into business together. Simeon Flint had come from Canada with his wife, Jennie, and found work in the Baker foundry and later in the shops of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, which were located partly on the tract now occupied by the new fire station on Whittlesey Avenue.

In Norwalk he met up with David Walling, who was working in the “Perkins Shop,” a foundry and metal-working firm across Whittlesey Avenue from the railroad shops. He was married to Frances Peters of Norwalk. She was a daughter of Eli and Mary Jane Peters, who lived many years at 23 Woodlawn. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Frances Peters was one of the “belles” of Norwalk at the time of her marriage.

Both men lived close to their work. The Flint home was the house still standing at 83 North Prospect, while the Wallings dwelt in a house no longer standing at 140 Whittlesey.

For a long time the company in Kendallville sold its windmills under the name “Star.” Because of their knowledge of metal work, Flint & Walling also made windmill towers, storage tanks, corn shellers, feed cutters, grinders, shredders, washing machines and a variety of other metal tools for farm and home use. In their earliest times they also made wooden water pumps, which were widely used on wells and cisterns. Their report for the year 1891 shows that they made (and sold, I presume) 15,688 windmills; and kept 164 employees and 10 traveling salesmen busy.

I’m no expert business analyst, but I believe that the firm has survived more than 150 years by changing with the times ... as opposed to the buggy whip and butter churn people who sometimes were forced out of business as times changed and their business practices did not.

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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.

Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.

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