A cornhusker story

A three-story barn! This unusual 1890 barn was designed for hay, horses, and cattle, one on each level. Stanchions for six dairy cattle were on the ground level, along with a space for resting and loafing. Stalls for carriages and 16 horses were on the second level, with an entrance ramp on the north side (not visible) and an exit on the east. The third level was for hay, with a hay door on the east side.

Detlef David Guttau was an 1870 German immigrant, Pottawattamie County pioneer, barn builder, and California landowner. After Detlef and his wife Louise retired from farming and settled in California, their son Hugo and his wife Clara moved to this farm, followed by their son Deflef and his wife Ethel.

A memorable event was picking corn in 1946. Detlef hired six men, “cornhuskers” from Nebraska, who picked 40-bushel wagonloads, one each morning and one each afternoon. The six 26-inch-wide wagons were each pulled by two horses. He chose this method of picking corn because he thought there was too much loss with a mechanical picker he had previously used. However, the next year he bought a new one-row corn picker and retired the cornhusker idea. The name was penned as a Nebraska name, “cornhuskers.” Sound familiar?

The fourth Guttau family to live on this farm includes Gary, his wife Dee, and son Chad. The barn was in use for cattle until 2012 and it is now a home for their cats. Saving this large, aging barn required considerable effort. It was re-shingled on the south side in 1955 and the north side in the 1980s. The limestone foundation was replaced by concrete blocks in the 1980s and major structural repairs were made in the early 2000s. It was re-painted in 2019. Originally it had a large cupola.

It became a Century Farm in 1977 and will be a Heritage Farm (150 years) in 2027. The location is in Pottawattamie County at 31082 Dogwood Rd, Treynor. (2022 photo)

Judge Lewis, Winterset Pioneer

It was 1864 when Judge William Henry Lewis and his wife Emma arrived in Madison County. In the late 1860s he built a home, a summer kitchen, and a barn on their farm west of town, and named it Fairmount Nursery. Hundreds of varieties of trees and flowers were planted, as well as hundreds of apple trees, promoting the apple industry.

The board and batten barn was originally white, as seen in the 1871 photo below. Lewis, wearing a white shirt, is standing in the open door. (He is barely visible, resembling merely a white dot.) Not much is written about the barn but there was space for carriages as well as horses and goats. Horses and goats still live there today.

Lewis is considered to be a founding father of Winterset, as well as its mayor, county surveyor and county judge. He also erected many buildings in town, and was the superintendent when the current courthouse was being built, after the original one burned in 1875. He died in 1928 at the age of 88.

The Lewis house, pictured below, built 1867-69, is a bed and breakfast owned by Mark and Kayla Hawkins, located at 1145 West Summit. (2022 photo) 

American Cream Draft horse

Iowa has its own draft horse history. The American Cream Draft horse was developed in the early 20th century in central Iowa and is the only breed of draft horse to originate in the United States. It has a cream-colored coat, pink skin, amber eyes, and white mane and tail.

The sale of a mare named Old Granny in 1911 in Story County marked the beginning of this unique breed. The buyer kept the foals to continue her bloodline.

The American Cream was registered as genetically separate from other draft horse breeds in 1944 and recognized by the Iowa Department of Agriculture in 1950. Draft horse numbers declined when tractors replaced horses, but with renewed interest in this breed the registry was re-activated in 1972.

It is estimated that there are about 400 in existence today. Some may be found in tourist areas pulling carriages and wagons, including Colonial Williamsburg, VA, with a few being used in farming. The horses pictured are owned by Tony Stalzer, who lives in Zearing. (2022 photo)

A tour of Munterville

Munterville. Where is it? Located about six miles north of Blakesburg, it is not on most Iowa maps. A big red barn, an immigrant memorial, a Lutheran Church, and a few houses are all that remain today.

 Southeast Iowa was a key area for Swedish immigration, including this village. In 1847 settlers arrived in Wapello County and established Bergholm. It was changed to Munterville in 1870 when the post office was established in recognition of Magnus Munter, a prominent community leader. The post office closed in 1905. 

The Swedish Immigrant Memorial in the lawn of Munterville Lutheran Church, adjacent to the church cemetery, commemorates the settlement by Swedish immigrants. It depicts a family dressed in pioneer clothing, rather than Swedish clothing. Three flagpoles surround it: a U.S. flag, an Iowa flag, and a Swedish flag, as well as a brass plaque listing donors and memorials of former residents.

About ½ mile east of the monument is a barn, erected by an early settler, whose name is unknown today. The red barn is in excellent condition and stands out in the countryside. It was the site of the Alex Johnson Dairy that sold raw milk from the1920s-1940s. Shown is a milk bottle cap from this dairy.

The Lutheran church was an integral part of the community but unfortunately closed several years ago due to declining membership. It will be kept in good repair for years to come, fortunately, by money set aside by members and descendants. Adjacent is a large, well-kept cemetery where many immigrants and probably the builder of the barn are buried. (September 2022 photos)

The original horsepower

­­­­­Horses were power in pioneer Iowa. They kept the family farm going and the family in business. Many farmers had spares in case of need and horse-trading stories were common. The 1850 Iowa census listed over 38,000 horses, most being in the eastern and southern counties. By 1860 they numbered 175,000. In the early 1900s the number exceeded 1.5 million. Horses with enough strength to break the prairie sod, haul away logs for cabin-building, and move huge boulders resulted in importing and breeding draft horses for farm use.

Below is an ad for a Riverside Farm sale in Cass County, printed in the February 22, 1911 Breeder’s Gazette. Peter Hopley made numerous trips to Europe to buy draft horses, and the winners in international competitions were brought to America to be sold, most in foal (pregnant). Imagine the amount of feed and hay it would take for a long ocean voyage, followed by a long journey by train to Iowa. See Iowa Barns yesterday and today, page 33, for the Hopley barns and story.

William Fields and his brother in Cedar Falls, Black Hawk County, also were renowned horsemen, but their late 1880s ad was for coach horses, not just “ordinary” workhorses. See page 35 of Iowa Barns yesterday and today. A coach was classified as a four-wheeled passenger-carrying vehicle drawn by two or more horses.

Many pioneers would not have been able to buy these expensive horses, but there were many local sales where farmers could buy horses at reasonable prices. Draft horses are still bought and sold today. Check out the fall Waverly Midwest Horse Sale, October 5-7, 2022, in Waverly, Iowa. The list can be seen online.

Chickens by the barnful

Summer and chickens are featured in this Metropolitan Life Insurance Company advertising card given to potential customers over a century ago. Hopefully, customers would have been interested in both life insurance and chickens.

What about chickens and this barn? Originally intended for livestock, it became a home for chickens some years ago at Greg and Janet Holcomb’s farm at the edge of Martelle. See more of this barn story on page 208 in Iowa Barns yesterday and today. (May 2022 

Ninety hens and 125 pullets were occupying the barn in August when we stopped by. Janet had dozens of eggs to sell and we helped the cause by buying a dozen.

One of the areas for the hens is pictured here. Inside, nesting boxes are provided with egg compartments, tilted so eggs roll down, keeping the eggs clean. Janet notes that there are hens that want to sit in the nesting boxes, so they try to retrieve the just laid egg by rolling it upwards to the nesting box. Some of them manage this feat. Then they begin incubating the egg like a good hen should. Determined hens they are, but not smart enough to know the eggs are not fertilized. (August 2022 photo)

The pullets live next door to the hens, separated by a fence. The pullets are  colorful, curious, and lively. They are teenage hens and will start laying eggs at  four to six months. Then there will be MORE eggs to deal with. (August 2022 photo)

A barn lover’s paradise

The Cupola Inn near Nora Springs, featured in Iowa Barns yesterday and today, is celebrating its 25th year as a bed and breakfast.

Two years ago owners Dale and Judy Mills wondered what to do with the many barn calendars they had saved. Dale decided to install them in a former shed, calling it a Barn EyeMax exhibit. See the entrance plaza below. A structural model barn, built by a friend, was given to them to exhibit.

Installed on the outside of an adjacent building is the Barnyard Art Gallery.

The entire exhibit is a barn lover’s paradise. Breakfast is served in a small round limestone barn constructed by the Mills family. (2022 photos)

The barn at Brooks

The best barn in Adams County in 1953, according to an ad for the sale of the property, was this one at the north edge of Brooks. It is still the finest barn, at least in Brooks. (2021 photo)

James and Mary Miles Flowers Dawson moved to this farm in 1870. Their sons, who were carpenters, built their large three-story home in 1903 and this barn in 1913. They also rode the train to Omaha daily for some years to work at Brandeis department store. 

The barn is original except for the four large windows installed many years ago for additional light. The long row of small windows on one end and two sets of double sliding doors, each with multiple windows, are unusual features. The loft is gigantic. The barn was in use until the late 1940s, but is now the current owners’ workshop.

The town of Brooks has had four names in its history. First it was Canaan City, then Brookville, then Simpson, named after Methodist Bishop Simpson when Brooks Seminary was established. At that time, the south section of town was still called Brookville, which was confusing, so in 1871 it became Brooks, its fourth and final name. The population is 40 today.

 The barn and home are remnants of the town’s history. The local public school, east of the barn, closed in 1968. The seminary, north of the barn, had a brief existence in 1859 before moving to Simpson College in Indianola.

Corn planting history

The blog on June 26 featured the Dobbin round barn at State Center. This barn has the original round metal rack used for drying ears of corn.

The ears were attached to the rack by a clip fastened to a spike pushed into each ear. With almost 600 kernels on each ear and hundreds of ears on the rack, it would have held enough seed for the yearly planting. Really? Many farms in earlier days were small, 80 to 160 acres, with a rotation of corn, oats, alfalfa or red clover, and grassland pasture. Thus, not that many acres were dedicated just to corn each year.


How was all that corn shelled? Several contacts regarding this subject believed the ears were shelled by hand, rather than by a hand-cranked corn sheller, which would have broken some of the kernels.


A horse-drawn planter placed two or three kernels in each hill, with the hills spaced 38 inches apart in the row. The rows were also 38 inches wide. Today, single seeds are planted just six to eight inches apart, with 30-inch wide rows. Quite a difference! Notice how close each stalk is to its neighbor in the field pictured below. (2021 photo)