Friday, August 24, 2012

Barn Building, 1911 Style

By Delores Miller
When the Lembke family came from Germany in 1883 they settled on a 120 acre farm in Section 21 of the Township of Dupont.  $350. mortgage payable to Horton Cottrell. Located on what is now known as Long Lake Road.  In their German homeland, they were peasants working for rich absentee landowners. Emigrant tickets were provided by relatives already in America.  In Germany  houses and barns were built together.  The cow herds provided heat for the adjoining house.
Neighbors in Dupont  were Pockat, Kussman, Schmidt, Knaack, Arndt,  Maas, Bork, Krueger, Durkey families  and others.  This was the Lake Michael School District.  Were longtime members of Trinity West Dupont Lutheran Church.  Many family members rest in the adjoining cemetery awaiting kingdom come.  Milk cans were hauled by horse and buggy or sleigh to the Green Valley Cheese Factory, just down the road a bit.
In Dupont  when they came,  there were no buildings.  Only a wild land of forests, trees had to be cut and land cleared.  Along with working the ground, rocks and boulders surfaced with the spring frost, to be hauled off the fields in a contraption called a 'stone boat'.  Hilly land useful for sledding in the snowy Wisconsin winters.
Because trees were plentiful, the logs were used to build primitive houses and barns.  These lasted for 20 years. 
By 1911, one hundred years ago,  Wilhelm (Bill) Lembke 1869-1953, his wife Hannah (nee Schade) 1871-1919,  had six  young children Arthur 1896-1942, Charles 1894-1893, Martha Piotraschke 1897-1928, Esther Genskow 1903-1983, Hilda Wangelin 1904-1981, and Clara Pranke 1900-1921.   Hannah died of dropsy, Art was killed in an automobile accident, leaving seven young children,  Martha died of gall bladder surgery complications, leaving 3 young children, and Clara died in childbirth.  How sad for Bill Lembke to lose half his family, yet he remained upbeat and happy.    Wilhelm Lembke died one October night in 1953 after husking corn all day.  He was 84.
In 1911  Bill and Hannah had been married for nineteen years and  they  felt it time to build a wood frame and stone wall barn.  A century ago.
Picking a location for the barn was important, west of the house to provide a wind break.  A rise of the ground for drainage.  Surrounding pasture land and room for crops, hay, corn, oats, wheat.  Building barb wire fences. Most barns were timber framed, post and beam forming  strong structures to withstand storms and heavy loads of animal feed.  100 years later it is still upright  to withstand the storms of life and other calamities.
The Lembke children were assigned to gathering these rocks.   Types of rocks were granite, a course grain, light color,  basalt, the heavy black dense rock, and quartzite or sandstone.  Stone mason crews  (who were paid a dollar a day) were hired to build a ten foot high  rock wall, two feet deep,  two and a half feet in the ground and seven and a half feet exposed.  The barn  measured about  36x80 feet with windows and doors on three sides.  Meaning there was about 272 feet total  of stone walls.  If each stone measures about a foot square it would take over four thousand stones to build the walls two rocks deep.   (Carl Much calculations.)  Weighing about 30 pounds apiece this comes to many tons of rocks.     Two or three doors, plus 14 or so windows would reduce the square footage. The Good Lord in his wisdom provided these rocks to Wisconsin farmers to build stone walls for their barns.  Mixed with mortar, sand, gravel and water to bind the rocks together.  Stones had to be split so a flat surface was on the outside  making a smooth wall.  Neat.  Stone masons were proud of their work, arranging the rocks by color, red, black, brown and gray.   It took six to eight weeks to build a stone wall. No one builds barns like this anymore.  Only in our memories the lore and legends of barn building.  No one lives there anymore.
The Good Lord also provided trees, to be hacked down, cut into lumber for the barn.  Tamarack, elm, hemlock.   Wood and lumber had to be dried at least a year, as green wood split, warped and shrank. Another crew of carpenters, specialty barn builders came to frame the barn.  A huge beam was placed on top of the stone wall, notches for floor joists, 24 inches apart, next floor boards. and the skeleton and roof beams, Neighbors wandered  in  to provide bull work on an exchange basis.  Women cooked huge meals for the hungry hard-working men and boys.  They too, in the early years of the twentieth century built their own barns.  With their own many rocks and trees.  The Good Lord blessed early farmers with stones, rocks and boulders and each spring a new crop sprung up with the frost.  And even now in 2011, the rocks are shoved to the surface each spring by the frost.
Beams, rigid rafters, a supporting structure of post and beam,  oak wood pegged.  All hand tools, no electricity no hydraulic lifts or other labor saving innovations..    Oak pegs held timbers together.  Drilled with a hand devise.   Pike poles used to push, lift and pull the skeleton of new barn.  Only the skilled carpenter climbers were allowed to work on the upper parts of the barn.  Square nails were used to connect the   one inch rough boards  to the frame work.    Two versions of roofs were available, and it was the skill and inclination of the barn builder to choose. The gable and gambrel or hip.   The Lembke barn was the gable type. Steep roofs in Wisconsin were necessary to shed snow and rain water.  Eave troughs were attached to the overhanging roof, to ease water away from the foundation.
Red cedar shingles were used to cover the roof.  Also provided by the Good Lord from the swamp.  Some were machine sawed with a primitive gasoline engine, others were hand sliced with an axe called an adz or froe.  Labor intensive.  But a good cedar shingle roof would last for thirty years.   This was replaced at one point by a crimped tin roof, which rusted.   Ventilators pulled moisture from the barn to the outside.  While most farmers eventually painted their bars red or white, the Lembke barn was left to weather the elements into a neutral grey.
More rocks and boulders were gathered to make a ramp or hill into the upstairs of the barn, so wagon loads of feed could be hauled right into the barn.  Bundles of oats and wheat were stored on the barn floor for thrashing.  Chutes and stairs connected to the bottom floor.  Straw stack outside over rough boards provided cover for pigs and young cattle.
This era of advancement in dairy farming would greatly increase efficiency and production.  Bill Lembke knew this and it was why he built his big dairy barn.  Stalls and stanchions for twenty cows, a bull pen, calf pens, horse stalls.  A gutter for manure collection.    A metal track attached to the ceiling and a carrier bucket could haul manure outside into a pile or in a spreader to haul on the fields. 
Upstairs in the barn, another steel track was attached to the peak of the roof.  This labor saving device was  invented and made possible the storage of large quantities of hay.  Hay was cut, either with a scythe or an early McCormick mower pulled by horses, forked on a wagon, or a loader, hauled to the barn.  Huge pronged forks clumped a bunch of hay, ropes pulled, with the aid of a horse, up and into the barn.  A mechanism  tripped and the hay whooshed into a pile in a particular mow.  No matter which conveniences were invented, dairy farming in those early years were still labor intensive.  Damp or wet hay, would cause heat, and combustion and fires resulted.  Bill Lembke was careful and never had that problem.  The barn was immune from lightning strikes or tornadoes.
Probably a barn dance was held to celebrate the new barn.  Daughters weddings were held at the farm.  Photographs survive from those happy occasions.
Another storage structure for feed, was a silo.   The Lembkes first had a glazed  clay tile brown silo built which had a hollow space in the middle so the corn silage did not freeze. A concrete silo was added  and in later years these were replaced by a  Madison Stave Silo.  Corn was chopped and blown into this silo to be used for cattle feed.
Even though a lake was a short distance away, a well was dug, and a windmill built on top, providing water for the barn and house.  A very labor saving device.    Other outbuildings were a piggery, coop for the chickens, ducks and geese. corn cribs, granary, outhouse,  woodshed, smoke house, carriage or car shed.
Around this time, too, it became apparent that a wood frame house needed to replace the two-story log house.  Rocks were again gathered for a basement, two story frame house with a pressed metal siding and cedar shingles.  This home held many happy memories.  Age and deterioration took its toll, and was dismantled and now the site of grain storage bins.
Two lakes to the west of the farm were called Lembke and Long Lakes.  Good fishing, winter and summer.  In 1956 Chas. and Clara Lembke deeded to Waupaca  County a parcel of land for Public Access along the shore of Lembke Lake.  The family enjoyed fishing and brought home many meals for the table.
The Lembkes and their  heirs, the Piotraschke  family farmed this land for 117 years until 2000 when it was sold to Kevin and Lori Watchman.  One hundred years ago this barn was built and still standing strong. 
A testament to hope, this 1911 barn of my Great Uncle Bill Lembke who held me on his lap and called me his little 'girlie'.
Information and opinions furnished by June Erdmann and Barb Sawall, great granddaughters of Bill and Hannah Lembke, and Russell Miller, Historian.
copyright 2011, Delores and Russell Miller

1 comment:

  1. The work these early ancestors did was a testiment to their German ethic...They never shied away for honest labor... My maternal grandmother too came from Germany and I can relate to this group of people.