Riemenschneider legacy

This early barn, built around 1905 by August Riemenschneider, was a wonderful home for his draft horses and driving horses, then later for cattle. Located in Marshall County in the northeast corner of State Center, it is just several hundred feet north of the rail line running east and west. August was a livestock buyer, and the train that sped by daily stopped to pick up cattle to ship to Chicago. (1931 photo courtesy of Craig and Mary Pfantz)

August and Josephine Riemenschneider also built a lovely Victorian house in 1904, not visible here. After the Riemenschneiders died, the farm changed hands several times before great-grandson Craig Pfantz and his wife Mary purchased the farm in 1994. The barn was in poor condition, thus the restoration process was long and expensive. It is now in pristine condition and is used for storage. (2012 photo below)  A longer story about this barn can be found on page 113 of Iowa Barns yesterday and today.

A famous traveling horse

Farcour, a famous Belgian draft horse, lives on in the memories in Boone county and in his home where he was buried in 1921. He was a San Francisco World’s Fair champion and is remembered as a service stud with many famous progeny. See Iowa Barns yesterday and today, page 83 for more history of Farcour.

His great-grandson, Brooklyn Supreme, who weighed 3,200 pounds, achieved fame by being the world’s largest horse at one time. Below are two postcards of Brooklyn Supreme. The photo on the left was taken next to railroad tracks, with chutes in the background where livestock was loaded to be shipped by rail. His enormous size would mean that traveling by rail was the only option.

The postcard on the right, based on the photo on the left, was typical of postcards in the 40s and 50s, printed with an attractive scene and flowers to attract­­ buyers. C.G. Good, who owned both horses, hired Ralph Fogleman, in the white suit, to travel with Brooklyn Supreme around the country, charging spectators 10 cents for viewing this giant who died in 1948 at age 20.

Former life forgotten

A barn’s lifetime of existence isn’t long enough. If it had a diary it would relate stories on a daily basis. Did the cows provide enough milk for the family? Did the sow have her piglets today? Did the cats find a new home in the hay? How many mice did they eat this week? How many pigeons claimed it as a home this month? Who are the other critters that live here? 

This barn signed off on the cattle, pigs, birds, mice, cats, and more, many years before this photo was taken in 1979. It was awaiting a death sentence before disappearing in the fog. The house was gone as well as the other buildings on the site, and this barn was destined to disappear, to be replaced by a field of corn.

Barns have a finite lifetime; some have more years, some less. Within a few months after these photos were taken, this barn in Union County along Highway 34, west of the Kent corner, disappeared. It exists now only in photos taken long ago. 

Allerton’s historic barn

A round barn, train, and an early era home are pictured on this mural at Allerton, a small town in Wayne County platted in 1870. The train service that began in March 1871, ended in 1970, although a Union Pacific line passes through the town today.

George Fennell’s 50-ft diameter board and batten round barn, pictured in the mural, was built in 1912 by Ed Nelson and was a dairy barn for eight cows. It features a spider-web design, enabling the loft to be free of support beams. It was painted white by the original owner, even though the cost of painting a barn white in early times far exceeded the cost of painting it red. 

Over the years it had several owners and was the home for various livestock before the 93-acre farm was purchased by a local group intent on preserving the barn. In 1991 it became the International Center for Rural Culture and Art, Inc. On this site are the barn, as well as an 1897 Queen Anne house, 1887 church, and 1869 school. The house, church, and school were moved to the site and restored. It is a great addition to Wayne County, now used by the community for various events. Check their website for open hours in the summer.

A barn giant

What a barn! Four stories, two wings, numerous windows, and a brick silo. The location is in Wapello County at 9225/9227 74th St., Ottumwa, suddenly visible on a hilltop after driving along a winding forested road.

When Keeley Paris bought this 200-acre farm, he acquired an incredible barn, once a masterpiece but almost in ruins. The history of the barn is sketchy, but was built in the mid to late 1800s.

Above is a photo before he began the extensive restoration work on this former dairy barn. On the right side on the lower level were milking stanchions, with hay storage above. On the left side on the lower level were stalls for the cattle, with the upper level left open.

Adaptations have no doubt been made through the years. The photo below shows the back side with a hay door, since there is no hay door on the front side. The door below the hay door has probably been revised at some period because this would have been the feed entrance, not possible today with the current configuration of the door and window.

A study to analyze this barn and discover amazing aspects during its lifetime was a big project. The brick silo is most unusual, since silos of this type are usually clay tile, not brick. It appears that some of the bricks have been recycled from other uses. Also, the tiny pebbles of gravel in the concrete make it even more unusual.

Restoring the structure was truly a labor of love. Paris received a sizable grant from the Iowa Barn Foundation to help with this huge restoration project. The previous owner raised peacocks, and Paris is now raising goats that have plenty of room to roam. He no doubt has bigger plans in mind in the future for this most unusual and amazing barn. Time will tell. (2023 photos)

Winter Greetings

Winter has barely arrived, considering there have been below-average snowfall and above normal temperatures. This pig family is headed somewhere, maybe to warmer places or maybe just home in a nearby barn, as pictured on this early greeting card. Have a Happy New Year and enjoy whatever winter brings to your neighborhood.

Hogs are a big business in Iowa. In September 2023 there were 24.4 million hogs and pigs, about 2½ times as many as in Minnesota, the No. 2 state. Some of these pigs are “show pigs”, such as those raised on this farm in Mills County, utilizing an early 20th century barn designed by the Gordon-Van Tine Company based in Davenport. Raised under strict sanitary conditions, “show pigs” are sold in other states or bought on-site for 4-H projects, county and state fair entries, or other youth projects, when they weigh about 40 pounds.

The Motor Dream

The Motor Dream story involves a Mill, Stable, Inn, Smokehouse, Cooperage, and a Bridge.

Motor was platted in 1867 with a Mill as the focal point. In early days of settlement settlers dreamed big and this dream involved three elements: the Turkey River, a limestone area, and available timber.

The Stable originally was intended to house horses and wagons of guests staying in the Inn nearby. The gambrel roof was added when it became a dairy barn about 1940. It was used as a dairy barn until 1983, when the site was acquired by the Clayton County Conservation Board. The Stable is being remodeled into a community gathering space.

The Inn (above) once provided rooms and meals to farmers who waited for their grain to be milled. It also served as a home for several farm families and now is being renovated as a Welcome Center with rooms for rent.

The six-story Mill was where farmers in the area brought their grain to be milled, powered by turbines turned by water from the Turkey River, which ran through the Mill on the basement level.

Only a hundred feet from the Mill was the Cooperage (above) where barrels were made that were used to store and ship the flour and cornmeal produced in the Mill. The barrels were made of staves of white oak from the nearby forest.

The Smokehouse, the last building constructed, was used to cure meat. It also may have served as an icehouse.

In 1899 a steel Bridge was constructed over the Turkey River that replaced the original wood-sided bridge built in 1868. This Bridge was necessary for farmers to bring their grain across the river to the Mill. One span was washed out during the flood of 1991, and it was totally destroyed in the flood of 2008. A replica, built in 2012, made the historic site again complete.

The town of Motor never materialized and the Motor Mill only operated for a few years. However, its history and its buildings live on and merit a prominent place in the history of Clayton County. The Motor Mill Historic Site is located at 23002 Grain Road, Elkader. www.motormill.org

The Motor Mill Historic Site is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is preserved and protected by the Clayton County Conservation Board and Motor Mill Foundation at 29862 Osborne Road, Elkader 52043. (2023 photos) 

(Thanks to Larry and Margaret Stone for updates.)