Many of Minnesota’s State Parks do a nice job of preserving historic sites, landmarks, structures, and other points of interest. Down in Minneopa State Park in Mankato, MN there is a good example of one of them. Here we find the Seppmann Mill, the remains of a windmill built by a German immigrant dating back to 1862.
Born in 1835, Louis Seppman emigrated from Germany at age 17, and in the year 1857 he wound up in southern Minnesota. A stonemason by trade, Seppmann set out on building a windmill on his land for the purpose of grinding grain into flour. This began in 1862, although the outbreak of the Dakota War of 1862 against the Dakota Sioux delayed his plans. It was completed in 1864. Seppman carved most of the wooden internal machinery himself. He modeled the windmill after mills in his native homeland.
The original sails attached to the four arms were 72 feet long, end to end, and the mill stands 32 feet tall. The diameter at the base was 30 feet, and the mill is topped with a wooden dome that pivoted on a track to face the correct direction to catch the wind. The arms and sails are now long gone, damaged numerous times by windstorms, lightning, and a tornado.
Seppman initially faced struggles getting the windmill to work, as he did not have much farming background. He faced windless periods, machinery malfuctions, and almost accidentally burned the mill down before getting it to work properly. He later had many good years, bringing in farmers up to 30 miles away to have their grain milled here. In 1890, a storm damaged it into disrepair, and Seppmann ceased operations. His son later donated it to the state of Minnesota in 1929. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. It is housed inside of Minneopa State Park and maintaned by the state park officials.
It’s a nice piece of handiwork, standing solid as ever atop a bluff overlooking a prairie containing large boulders, or “glacial erratics,” which were deposited here by the glaciers over 15,000 years ago. Next to the mill is the reconstructed warehouse, where Seppmann lived during a period of the mill’s early years. Although the warehouse and mill interior are not open to the the public, viewers can observe the mill up close and marvel at this oddity, still standing in its original location.