North Branch Stock Farm

It was 1900 and Charles Clay Jackson, his brother Haver and their beef cattle went by train to the first International Livestock Show in Chicago. Shown here is their bank barn that had all the amenities these prize beef cattle needed, as well as a gigantic lot for feeding and loafing until taken to market.

The Jackson brothers also had another barn, constructed in 1911, not near the family home, but about one-fourth mile to the south in the middle of a field (See photo below). Why was it built so far from the home? Nobody really knows but maybe two barns on this farm would be too many smells.

This remarkable clay tile barn was used for draft horses, cattle and sheep. They could spend their lives outside in good weather and get their feed from the openings in the barn wall at ground level. The spring-fed water tank, visible on the right, provided water all year round and is still available to any animal that finds it.

The unique design of this barn was recognized as innovative and brought recognition and prestige to the Jacksons. It was built into a hill with accessibility on two levels. Wagons filled with grain were driven through the pasture to the upper level bin entrances (the square white doors) visible in the above photo.

The most remarkable feature of this barn is inside. From the loft floor to the roof is the wall for the grain bins behind it. It is like looking up at a cathedral but meant for hay.

G. Devere Jackson, son of Charles Clay Jackson, inherited the farm, and later was sold to Dale and Irene Mills. Their son John inherited it and has retired from farming, but meticulously maintains this entire Madison County farmstead. He is to be commended. It is truly one of a kind. What a treasure it is. (2021 photos)

Unique Lofts

Two Iowa barns stand out using construction techniques designed for storage of hay in the loft.

In the Housewert barn in Madison County, built in 1880, spaced beams form a floor in one part of the south side for the hay. Soybean stalks between some beams and loose hay between others were “jammed in place” so hay could be piled on top. Here is a view of the beams from below.

Inside the barn, a hayfork was used to lift loose hay and drop it on top of the loft floor shown above. Getting the hay to the livestock involved a lot of work, pitching the hay over a retaining wall, then sending it down a chute to the basement level.

There was also a four-foot wall on the north one-third where more hay was stored from floor to roof. The middle third was space needed for access to the grain bins on the south side.

Bruce and Mary Koboldt, owners, have no idea of the age of the soybean stems or the hay, but they possibly date to the barn’s beginning. That’s over 140 years ago! Note that two “ancient” soybean stems are arched above the title of this blog.

The Jon and Doris Nibbelink barn in Mahaska County, built in the early 1860s, had a similar hay storage area with tree branches placed over the beams, arranged to provide a “floor” of sorts for loose hay (2015 photo below). According to the Nibbelinks, some hay has probably been there since the barn was built. See pages 26-27 of Iowa Barns yesterday and today for more history of this barn. 

The Nibbelink Century Farm barn is on the left. The Housewert barn on the right will be a Heritage Farm in 2030 (150 years in the same family.) These barns are Iowa treasures to be honored and saved as an important facet of our heritage.