The Tainter Gate

Tainter Gate animation

Cross Section: Supported on two rockers, the Tainter Gate was convex on the upstream side. The rush of water helped open and close the gates.

Jeremiah Burnham Tainter was 26 when he came to Menomonie to work in the Knapp--Stout mills in 1862. He was thirteen years younger than brother Andrew, who was already well established in town. He began work as a millwright, did some surveying for the company, and has been described as a very talented engineer and draftsman.

Tainter had a talent for designing water control devices to be used on the Red Cedar River and tributaries within the company's territory. In 1886 the company needed a water control device that would almost instantly release enough water from the mill pond to allow the ponderous "Red River strings" of lumber to float down to Dunnville and the larger Chippewa River.

Tainter redesigned a basic but clumsy water control gate first developed in the east. Installed in the dam at Menomonie that year, it proved to be an efficient device that was relatively easy to manipulate when opened, a bank of six gates provided an almost instant rush of water sufficient to send the long river strings on their way to market.

Today, more than 100 years later, the Tainter Gate is used in water control dams and locks throughout the world. There are 321 Tainter gates on the dams and locks of the upper Mississippi River Basin from Minneapolis to St. Louis. Tainter's gate succeeded because he cleverly designed it so that the rush of water helped both to open and to close the gates with a minimum of manpower.

There are 195 Tainter Gates in the Columbia River Basin on 26 dams, including the Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams. The gates are in use in Holland, Switzerland, Italy, and many other countries.

Jeremiah Burnham Tainter died in 1920 at the age of 84.

    Where the Wild Rice Grows
    Edited by Larry Lynch and John Russell
    Published by the Menomonie Sesquicentennial Committee

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Dunn County Historical Society
PO Box 437, Menomonie, WI   USA  54751