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)