Each time I read a Home Power article about hydropower or peruse the advertisements for microhydro turbines, I think of Lester Pelton, the guy who invented the Pelton wheel, and a key figure in the renewable energy industry. This might seem somewhat unusual to most readers, but the reason is that I grew up in Vermilion, Ohio, the town nearest to Lester Pelton’s birthplace.
Lester was born in 1829, eight years before the village of Vermilion was incorporated. Lester stayed in the area until 1850, at which time he took off for the California gold rush with some friends and relatives.
While living in Comptonville, California, he invented the now-famous Pelton water wheel. He patented the wheel and lived in California until his death in 1908. His remains were brought back to Ohio for burial in Maple Grove Cemetery, several miles south of Vermilion. This is the same cemetery my parents are buried in, so when I stop by their grave I usually stop by Lester’s family plot, too!
Rich Tarrant, a friend of mine who lives in Vermilion, publishes a weekly online local history blog, Vermilion Views (vermilionohio.org) that has a section called “Lester’s Wheel Across the World.” Being a local town historian, Rich has done quite a bit of research into Lester Pelton’s life.
Vermilion Views’ “Lester’s Wheel Across the World,” includes a great synopsis of Lester Pelton’s life. There are pictures of his childhood home and the one-room schoolhouse where he received his formal education, sketches used to obtain the Pelton wheel patent, and much more. I hope this will be of interest to some readers.
Richard Koontz • Sherwood, Oregon