Froelich Tractor Museum

Froelich, an unincorporated village in Clayton County, was named after German immigrant Henry Froelich, who arrived in 1847. Within a short time there was a blacksmith shop, sawmill, stockyards, and even a depot.

This is also where John Froelich (1849-1933), Henry’s son, invented a one-cylinder engine that signaled the beginning of the history of tractors. This amazing invention will be featured in the next blog. He received 14 known patents in his lifetime, which include the one-cylinder gasoline propelled engine, a water-cooling radiator for internal combustion engines, a mechanical corn picker, a dishwashing machine, and more. He was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 1991. 

The site of the Froelich Museum barn, visible from Highway 18, can’t be missed. The barn, built long after Henry died, has exhibits in the loft, and is available for rent for celebratory occasions. 

Behind the restored general store (see photo below) is the museum where a model of the engine John Froelich invented is on display, as well as an 1866 country school, passenger depot, freight depot, and warehouse.

The Froelich Fall Festival (Fall-der-All) wlll be held Sept. 23-24, 2023. 

Check the website for more information. (2023 photos)

Old barn/new focus

Pioneers made their way across Iowa, beginning in the 1830s. The lines on this map approximate the patterns of land acquisition during settlement as families moved from southeast to northwest between 1833 and 1870.

Pockets of settlement occurred in every part of the state. Norwegians arrived in the Decorah area and surrounding counties in the early 1830s. Immigrants from the Netherlands settled in Pella around 1846. German immigrants settled in many areas around 1850, and in northwest Marshall County brothers and sisters of several related families immigrated from Ireland between 1848 and 1850.

Barns were a necessity for these early pioneers, and their creativity and ingenuity was evident in their buildings. The Gehlen barn was constructed in 1839 by immigrants from Luxembourg who settled near St. Donatus. This Jackson County barn, believed to be the earliest one in Iowa, is located on Highway 52, minutes from both Dubuque and Bellevue.

Now the barn’s focus has changed. It hosts parties, family reunions, concerts, craft fairs, barn tours, and more, as well as a brewery. It is a great example of the continued use of a barn (2012 photo). See more of the Gehlen barn story in Iowa Barns yesterday and today, page 55.

(Map published by the Malcolm Price Laboratory School, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa, 2003)

Big rocks for barns

The Nosbisch barn in Chickasaw County near New Hampton, honored as a Century Farm in 2010, has a barn with an amazing history. In 2022, it was also honored by Wallaces Farmer as “Iowa’s Most Beautiful Barn”.

How was it built? In 1926, a stonecutter spent an entire year cutting and placing hundreds of granite stones of varying colors to construct the eight-foot high foundation.

Pictured below shows the huge glacier-deposited stones in one small area of the foundation. The large light-grey granite boulder on the left measures 3 feet x 1 foot. Imagine cutting and fitting hundreds of these heavy stones in place. In Blog #77 (June 4) is a barn in adjacent Floyd County that also has glacial erratic stones in the foundation.

After the foundation was finished, the loft was built. The loft entrance was an earthen ramp, making it a bank barn. Three openings were made in the loft floor so that the hay and straw could be dropped down to the basement level. There was room for 60 loads of loose hay, and straw from 40 acres of oats, but over 50 years ago, large and small bales became the norm.

Inside the basement of the barn there was space for 14 draft horses and stanchions for 28 cows, as well as concrete feeders and room for milk handling and feed storage. This level has been altered to make it suitable for the beef cattle they raise today. 

Randy and Morgan Nosbisch are the fourth generation of their family on this farm; their sons are the fifth generation.