Windmills were once an integral part of life in Chatham. There were about eleven wind-powered grist mills located in the town from the early 1700s through the 1800s, with six to nine in operation during any one time period.
There were also dozens of smaller windmills that pumped sea water to the salt works located along the town’s shores.
The Chatham Windmill, also known as the Col. Benjamin Godfrey Mill, was one of the last of the town’s grist mills to be built. Today only two of these historic mills exist in Chatham and only the Godfrey Mill is open to the public.
Built in 1796 by Colonel Benjamin Godfrey, the Chatham Windmill operated continuously for 100 years. Chatham Windmill had many owners and events during its existence, which are detailed in the subsequent list.
It stands 30 feet and is fully operational, with the top two floors used for grinding corn and wheat. The first floor has a corncob grinder.
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Below are some highlights of the history of the Godfrey Mill:
1797 – Built by Colonel Benjamin Godfrey on Mill Hill off Atwood
Street (now Stage Harbor Road)
1819 – Christopher “Uncle Tap” Taylor inherited the mill
1869 – Sold to Oliver Eldridge
1884 – Sold to Zenas Nickerson for $400, later owned by his son,
George Nickerson II
1898 – Ceased commercial operation
1907 – Northwest gale destroyed the arms and outer mill shaft
1908 – Sold to Nelson Floyd for $575
1913 – Sold to Charles Hardy who restored the mill but operated
it for exhibition only
1924 – An April gale wrecked the trundle top and one arm
1927 – Lightning strike caused considerable damage
1932 – A 60-mph gale blew down the mill’s large fan
1939 – Sold to Stuart Crocker
1954 – Donated to the town of Chatham by Mr. and Mrs. Crocker
with the condition that the mill be moved off the Crocker
1955 – Moved to present location on Rink Hill in Chase Park, off
1956 – Reopened to the public after being renovated
1978 – Placed on the National Register of Historic Places
1985 – Operated seasonally for summer visitors
1989 – Rehabilitated by the town of Chatham
1990s – Periodically operated for historical presentations
2012 – Historic restoration completed for Chatham’s