Kregel Windmill Factory Museum
Upon visiting the museum a few months after they opened, our group had a few questions that could not be answered.
I was very interested in this museum and decided to ask more questions, find out what others wanted to know, and go try to find the answers.
A few of the questions were....
When was the ELI patent issued or was it ever?
answer -- We don't know
When did Louis Kregel leave the factory?
answer -- late 1880/early 1881
How many people worked in the factory?
answer -- 5 at one time (1880-1900)
Was the first "Kregel Mill" ever produced?
answer -- yes (at least 20)
No, we do not know when the first ELI was patented and as far as we know the only patented design is the swivel of the Knuckle. The blue print of the ELI wood spoke for the fan and wood stem with a steel plate is dated 1906 and this would be a close date. It is also not surprising that you did not find Louis Patent in the files as I do not believe that he ever produced the model that that “George and Louis” made as a prototype see attached.
George Kregel was born May 14 1859 to Diedrich and Helena (Arntgen) Kregel. Diedrich came to Iowa with his parents Gerhard and Margarethe Kregel in 1846.
(Gerhard was born in Germany, in the Russian War of 1812, came to US in 1832, farmed in both the old country and in US and helped dig a canal while in Alabama). They had 6 children.
After arriving in Iowa they lived in a log cabin for 10 years then in the house that Dietrich (4th son) lives in.
Henry Kregel (Gerhard and Margarethe's first son) moved from Iowa to Nebraska City on or shortly before 1870. Henry married Mary Petring. Their son Louis born Feb 26 1859, was part of the Kregel Windmill factory and patent the first Kregel WindMill then in the early 1880's moved to St Louis and was involved in embalming and casket making.
There are 59 boxes of records on the Kregel family at the Historical Museum in Lincoln. Everything was saved from 1878 through presentday (1981), as far as I can tell. There is everything from Clara's day books (for household items), George and Arthur's bank books, family tax returns, paint records for the house, property sales, George Kregel's windmill regulator (Feb 12 1894) patent , George Kregel's beehives (Nov 14 1905) patent, and George Kregel's Windmill-Pitmen (Apr 8 1913) patent. Louis Kregel's wind engine patent was not found in any box.
There is a box with employee time books, invoice bills, Earnings reports, correspondences with both clients and other dealers, theft reports, operation expenses, repair notes, invoices, cash payments, insurance records, financial records, and many boxes of ledgers, and more.
The first thing I looked at was early employee time books. The first year recorded was 1882.
There were 5 employees.
In 1885 there were still 5 employees.
It wasn't until 1887 that George's name appears in the book. (although after looking at his earliest bank book – January showed he had $200 and by October he had $2000 in 1879.)
I then looked at the shares sold. 12 people had shares.
George Kregel (owner),
Clara Kregel (wife),
Donald Kregel (son),
F. W. Petring (Clara's sister's husband Oliver's brother-inlaw),
Oliver Kimmel (Clara's sister's husband),
F. J. Sands,
F. W. Cleveland,
L F Cornett,
Frank McCartney, and Lena Rodenbock (Louis' sister)
So thus I begin the timeline here.
In 1870, Louis Kregel was living in Nebraska City with his parents and siblings.
George Kregel was still living in Iowa with his parents. (George's parents never moved to Nebraska City).
The Louis Kregel's wind engine was patent July 9 1878.
(This Document/article is on page 57 of a book titles, "Nebraska City Centennial 1854-1954". It can be found at NSHS)
This is a photo of the L.G.'s windmill patent 1878
An interesting thing I found among sales times, was 4 different Company Letter Heads. The First being
Kregel Wind Mill Patented July 9 1878
(there were 4 documents with this on it – all bills of sale 1879)
L.G. And G.F. Kregel
manufactureres of Kregel Wind Engine and Dealers inPumps, Piping, Etc.
(there were also 4 of these. Dated 1879 Each had the same info as the other 4 . It was the written agreement between them.)
"Kregel Wind Mill M'fg Co. Pumps, Pipe and Fitting
(at least one of these dated Sept 18 1880)
As early as 1880, the Kregel Wind Mill Mfg Company sold arms tails g standard for $5.
(sold to Chas E Putman in Red Cloud, Nebraska)
In 1880 George Kregel is living with Louis and his parents. The census record have both George and Louis' occupation as Wind Mill Mfg. Henry is a farmer.
The last was
Geo. F. Kregel ELI Wind Mills Round Stock Tanks and Daisy Rod Breakers
(this was dated Dec. 8 1892)
In conclusion, I found 16 documented Kregel Wind Mills were built. The first 4 between March 1879 and April 1879. (Louis' patent)
The first one was Charles Roselius who paid in $100 worth of Brick.--10 ft wheel, iron pump, 25 ft tower.--Completed March 22, 1879.
In the 1880 census he was in Nebraska City with wife Mary and son William, occupation was brick maker, by 1885 his son was living in Syracuse, Nebraska , and he was a brick layer. Records show Charles died before 1900, in Nebraska City.
Next was D.M. Williams for $85
I found Thomas D. McWilliams as a farmer in 1870 living in Otoe County. He also died in Nebraska City in 1825.
Then William Kropp for $80.
William and his son William farmed in the Nebraska City area in 1880 also. He died in 1911 and son died in 1947 both in Nebraska City.
Last was Henry (hard to read -- looks like Hornfinranin).--He had a 10 ft wheel put up with a 20 ft tower. Dated April 1 1879
In one of the record books I found
"Nebraska City August 19 1879 Louis and George Kregel have this day entered into a co partner life under the style and firm of Kregel Manufacturing Company in prosecution of General manufacturing business to invest in equal amounts and participate alike in gains and losses. They both put in $1347.
There were 11 documented mills after those 4, built between Aug 1879 and Jan 1880 under Kregel Wind Mill MFG Co., Nebraska City.
plus 3 more that I did not get a copy of.
The next documented Mill that I found was sold under the next letter head (Kregel Wind Mill M'fg Co. 1880)
There were 4 of these. Geo Vanderhoof in Syracuse, Dietrich Schmidt, Orville Thompson, Nemaha County, Ne, and one which the name was left off.
The last two are shown in photo
Then there were 2 more, in July 1880.
One for William Haumpton in Dewitt in Saline Co, and one for David Wilkist.
From the records, my understanding is that in 1881 Nebraska City Mgf Company opened their books and was incorperated on July 30 1881 and on Oct 7 1881 bought Kregel Mfg Co machinery and goods.
George and Louis had stock in this Company and George was on the board and working for them.
Not sure if this was just "renamed" to be incorperated and bigger, or actually "bought out", the Kregel's and another manufacturing company.
Either way, George helped grow the business and bought it and the building in 1887.
By 1881 Louis was in St Louis, Missouri and married Laura Longman in Oct 1882 in St Louis.
He oldest daughter was born in St Louis in 1883.
The 1885 census shows him back in nebraska.
In 1888 he is living in St Louis again as his second daughter is born then. This time he stayed there for the rest of his life.
He went on to patent and create coffins.
He died in 1903.
In the 1885 census, it shows George as a bookkeeper for the company.
Louis is back staying in Nebraska City and is shown as a machinist.
Jan 7 1885
George married Clara Petring in Nebraska City
I found land records.
Nebraska City Manufacturing Company first bought the land. 1405 Central Ave, Nebraska City
In 1887 George bought it.
The Nebraska City Manufacturing Company is also associated with the property around 1888.
(This document/article is on page 35 in a book titled "Nebraska City, 1888". The book is in the library at NSHS)
This article from the Nebraska City newspaper may not have the correct name (or it might). But it shows there was another patent for windmills from the Kregel's, maybe this is the ELI.
By Dec 1892 Mills were being sold under Geo. F Kregel letterhead. (ELI windmills) Steel Mills
In 1905 George received a patent for his Bee Hives. I did not look for sales for these.
In 1893 Nebraska City manufaturing Company" ceases to exist but George continues to produce windmills and pumps at the address. (he purchased this land earlier). 1893 Newspaper ads call it "A Plow Factory".
George Kregel's windmill regulator was patent on Feb 12 1894
Also in 1894, Louis Kregel was in St Louis patenting shoes and coffin lids and handles and an embalming needle.
As this article states, injuries in the factory happened.
In 1903 the Mill moved across the street to its current location. Address 1416 Central Ave, Nebraska City.
Lot 8 block 15 in original town of Nebraska City.
Owned and ran by George Kregel. And later by his son Arthur and daughter Ella.
Louis Kregel dies in St Louis, Missouri on June 13 1903.
George Kregel's Windmill-Pitmen was patent on Apr 8 1913.
The Gazetteer in 1913 states the firms name is officially listed as the Kregel Wind Mill Company. -- A later issue also adds "Eli windmills".
Arthor Kregel began working for his dad in 1916.
After his father passed away, he took over the business until his own death.
In March of 1931 Clara Kregel passed away.
In the 1940's the factory stopped building windmills and turned to well mainenance and pump repair.
Death of George Kregel
28 Sep 1946
George and Clara's daughter Ella dies in 1971.
She was the book keeper for the factory (along with the book keeper for her brother's garage and also worked in the county clerk's office a while)
Dan Swanson of the Nebraska City News-Press interviewed Arthur Kregel in July of 1988.
In its heyday, Kregel said, the factory made about 25 windmills per year.
Death of Arthur Kregel
Nov. 8, 1991
The National Register of Historical Places listed the factory in April of 1993.
2013 Kregel Windmill Factory Museum opened their doors for tours.