The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

Share

Including my children, five generations of the Reese family have worked and played in the old barn on my parent’s property — that is a lot of pitch forking and hay fort building.

When faced with a decision about the future of this incredible, historic structure, my parents made the decision in 2010 to hire a gifted Amish crew to give it a major makeover for future generations of Reeses to continue to work and play beneath the ancient rafters of this grand old barn. Based on the saw marks on the beams, the style and the roofing material, it has been estimated that the barn was built between 1870 and 1880. Think about how Ohio agriculture has changed since then!

My parents are the third generation of the Reese family to own the farm. My great-grandfather, Pearl Jay Reese, and his wife, Jessie Mae, purchased the farm in 1918. Here is more about the barn from the Hancock Historical Society.

For three generations, the 1,200 square foot barn housed a dairy operation. The barn is a typical, three-bay, English ground barn, and the size and design are reminiscent of a New England style. While some of the material is hand hewn, the smaller braces (scantlings) are circular sawn. The barn builders probably made use of some of the last old-growth material available in the area that could span the whole length of the barn as one piece of lumber. Both the plates and purlins are one piece (“one stick”). The orientation of the bracing in the barn is unique.

The whitewash on the walls from the old milking parlor on the east side of the barn is still visible, and there is evidence that the milking parlor replaced an earlier grainery.

The Reese barn is one of seven that was featured on the third annual Hancock Historical Museum Historic Barn Tour on Sept. 12. The tours have proven to be a great way for non-farmers to connect with agriculture, but also a great way for modern farmers to re-connect with their agricultural heritage.

This year’s tour featured the oldest set of barns overall, though the area may have actually been settled later than parts of the county on previous tours. In several cases, the younger barns from earlier tours were the second barns built on the farms.

Retired Hancock County Extension educator Gary Wilson was instrumental in getting the tour started and was surprised about how much he has learned about his community and heritage in the process.

“This has been a look at the farm heritage here. I have learned a lot about these barns. I discovered I have one 8-inch by 8-inch beam in my barn that is 70 feet long. A neighbor has one that is 80 feet long,” Wilson said. “The Hancock Historical Museum has professionals on staff who know how to look into the records and property deeds and each barn owner on the tour gets a rundown of the history of their barns. Those things are really interesting. Many of these farm families go back several generations and these tours bring back family to see the barns. It is like a family reunion.”

Wilson has learned much about his own family history in recent years, in part through the barn tour.

“We have my great grandmother’s farm records from 1895 to 1928 — if they bought a pair of boots they wrote it down. They fit everything they bought for a year on a half piece of paper. They bought hardly anything,” he said. “Some years they grossed less than $400, but yet they built a house and a barn. I have the bill of sale for when they built the barn in 1905 — it cost $1,465. That was the only year they had more expenses than they had income. You couldn’t just go to Ag Credit and get an operating loan in those days. They just used what they had.”

Because of the value of the tour for local farming, the area’s agricultural community has been very supportive of the tour in terms of sponsorships. Sponsors for the event include the Hancock County Farm Bureau, Ag Credit, Findlay Implement, Legacy Cooperative, Advanced Drainage Systems, Inc., and Archbold Equipment Co. Other sponsors are Citizens National Bank, Reineke Family Dealerships, and Findlay-Hancock County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Ultimately, the inherent appeal of the barns attracts the initial attention for tour goers, but it is what can be learned about the people who built the amazing structures and their descendants that really resonates with those on the tour. Those dynamic craftsmen from yesteryear left their legacy in the timbers and the ingenuity that has defied the elements and laws of nature for generations.

“Everybody can trace themselves back to the farm. When you go back, that barn was the centerpiece of the farm. It was the first place you went and the last place you left every day. Those days have changed, but many people are still using them on the farm and some people have kept them up,” Wilson said. “They built things to last back then and they didn’t use nails and screws and bolts. They didn’t have engineers with graduate degree or blueprints. They didn’t have rulers — just something similar to a framing square. They cut out sticks of certain lengths for measuring. It was just common sense based on knowledge that had been passed down from their fathers. It is fascinating to think about how these barns were built.”

Today that craftsmanship provides glimpses into a lifestyle that is hard for us to imagine. Some say those were the good old days, though a look at the harsh realities that had to be endured back then may encourage you to think otherwise. Either way, the ghosts of our forefathers inhabiting Ohio’s rural barns offer something people are looking for — insight into a way of life that is tough to fathom, but fascinating to contemplate.

Matt Reese is the editor for Ohio’s Country Journal. For more from Reese, visit ocj.com or contact him at mreese@ocj.com.

 

Universal Income

What do you think of presidential candidate Andrew Yang's proposal for a universal basic income of $1,000 per month for every adult?
32550042 [{"id":"323","title":"It will help millions of people who are increasingly losing their jobs to automation.","votes":"1","pct":8.33,"type":"x","order":"1","resources":[]},{"id":"324","title":"No, if the proposal is paid for by tax payers.","votes":"10","pct":83.33,"type":"x","order":"2","resources":[]},{"id":"325","title":"Yes, if billionaires pay for it, as labor costs disappear due to automation.","votes":"1","pct":8.33,"type":"x","order":"3","resources":[]}] ["#194e84","#3b6b9c","#1f242a","#37414a","#60bb22","#f2babb"] sbar 160 160 /component/communitypolls/vote/118-universal-income No answer selected. Please try again. Thank you for your vote. Answers Votes ...