June 13, 2020
The story about how the Mears family preserved their barns in Carroll County, Ind., sparked other people to share stories about their older barns. Keep sharing those stories!
Mike and Nancy Scherschel farm in Lawrence County, Ind. Seeing the picture of the Mears barn prompted them to send a picture of their barn and relate its history. Their farm has been in their family since 1903.
“Our barn was built around 1909, according to my grandmother. As you can see, it’s showing its age,” Mike Scherschel says. “The barn loft has a hay hoist that we used to put hay up into the loft. We parked the wagon at the end shown in the picture, and my dad would pull the hoist down and hook the forks into the bales. The hoist was powered by a five-horse electric motor rigged to a Model T Ford transmission.
“The motor and transmission were at the opposite end of the barn. After [Dad] had the bales attached to the hooks, he would pull a rope that engaged the transmission, and the bales were pulled up to the roof crown. The hoist then attached to a mechanism that rode along a track that went the length of the barn.
“I would be up in the barn stacking, and the hoist would pull the bale load along the track until it got to where I wanted it dropped. I’d holler, ‘Whoa!’ My dad would trip the hoist and drop the bales.
“I spent many a hot day in that loft in my younger years. The hay hoist is still in the barn but hasn’t been used in decades, but the motor and hoist would probably still be operational.
“The old barn isn’t used anymore except for storage of a couple of pieces of equipment. I do try to keep the roof painted to keep the rain out, but that’s about it. The barn has some structural problems that will eventually cause failure if not addressed [in the future.]”
The Scherschels’ barn isn’t the only one which could use some help if it’s to last into the future. Some people are keeping roofs intact, like the Scherschels. Others have also added metal siding to protect the exterior. Some have ventured into remodeling the inside of their barn, to varying extents, so it can still serve a useful purpose.
Repairing older barns, especially if it involves structural issues, costs money. If anyone knows of any sources available to promote preservation of older barns, please share so the Scherschels and others can investigate further. Otherwise, many owners of these older barns eventually face a decision: Is it worth investing in an older structure that has minimal current-use value simply to preserve a piece of history?
The Indiana Barn Foundation was organized a few years ago to raise awareness about the plight of older barns. It’s a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that accepts donations. The goal is to be able to provide grants for aiding in repairing historic barns. Currently, it makes two grants per year.
The state of Indiana offers a tax exemption for historic barns. To learn more about the Indiana Barn Foundation and find a copy of the tax exemption form, visit indianabarns.org. To share about your old barn, write to [email protected].
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