Saturday, March 12, 2011

Round Barns in Marshall County


Round Barns in Marshall County
Marshall County is part of a group of four counties where the heaviest presence of round barns are/were located in the state and nation. This group also includes Kosciusko, Miami and Fulton Counties-Fulton County is considered the “round barn capital”. The Ramsay-Fox round barn in West Township is the last surviving true-circular barn in Marshall County. A twelve-sided barn also remains at the Clarence and Nellie Quivey Farm on South Olive Trail, Green Township (pictured above). Compiled from two sources it appears that Marshall County at one time had three twelve-sided barns and six true-circular barns (five true-circular barns are recorded in A Round Indiana , the sixth was gleaned from a 1986 list at the Marshall County Historical Society). The following is a list of the barns from these two sources:

1. John Leland, Sr. Twelve-Sided Barn, Lawson Leland, builder. 1913-1914. Muckshaw Road, Green Twp.
Removed between 1986 and 1992

2. Lawson Lester Leland Twelve-Sided Barn, Lawson Leland, builder. 1912. W. 16th Road, Green Twp.
Collapsed in 2001

3. Clarence & Nellie Quivey Twelve-Sided Barn, Lawson Leland, builder. 1913-1914. S. Olive Trail, Green Twp.
Remains standing and is in good condition. The owners, descendents of Clarence Quivey, are adamant that Quivey constructed this barn, not Leland. It seems highly unlikely unless Leland advised and directed its construction since it matches perfectly his other two barns.

4. Round barn on 12th Road, West Township (from 1986 list at Marshall County Historical Society)
Removed between 1986 and 1992

5. Ramsay-Fox True-Circular Barn, Sarah Ramsay Burch, original owner; George W. Ramsay, builder. Ca. 1910
West Twp. The barn is in good condition.

6. Edward Heyde True-Circular Barn, Philip Lauderman, suspected builder. Ca. 1910. E. 3rd Road, North Twp.
Demolished by owner in 2004. The barn had withstood a tornado prior to the 1960s; a massive log was positioned into place where the roof had partial damage and dipped inward on its northwest side

7. Frank Aker Sr. True-Circular Barn, Philip Lauderman, builder. 1911. Plymouth-Goshen Trail, German Twp.
The barn was dismantled and reconstructed at Amish Acres, Elkhart County, IN in 1992

8. True-circular barn, construction date unknown, German Twp.
Razed, date unknown

9. Bryan Williams True-Circular Barn, Bryan Williams, builder. 1912. Location is unknown
Razed, date unknown. It may be possible that #9 and #4 are the same barn.

Round and polygonal barns were often the inventions of their builders and frequently the farmer/owner was the inventor. Such was the case with several of the Marshall County examples. Lawson Leland is credited with creating the three twelve-sided bank barns in Green Township for family farms between about 1912 and 1914. Leland taught himself carpentry from a book. His barns were constructed around a silo, their foundations were concrete, and their beam structure was created from hewn native trees and pegged in mortise and tenon construction. Barn #2 above was featured in “A Twelve Sided Barn” Farmer’s Guide, May 30, 1914. Philip Lauderman likely borrowed his ideas for the true-circular barns he created from Benton Steele since his barns closely resemble those in Steele’s pattern books. The Bryan Williams round barn also appeared in the Farmer’s Guide on August 23, 1913. Williams wrote about the 50’ diameter barn he constructed in 1912 in the publication.

Little is known about the carpentry experience of the man who constructed the Ramsay-Fox Barn. Evidence from Sarah Burch’s will indicates that she was the owner of the farm at the time of the Ramsay-Fox barn’s construction in about 1911 and that she paid George W. Ramsay, her nephew, to construct the barn. While A Round Indiana states that George W. Ramsay fell into financial despair because of the construction of the barn, and lost the farm due to this , it is not consistent with the Abstract of Title on the property. The financial allocation from Sarah Burch’s will ($900.00) to George W. Ramsay for the construction of the barn at her farm also seems consistent with the expense of round barn construction during this time. George W. Ramsay likely ordered prints and a supply list from one of the popular farm journals of that time and constructed the barn himself. It is also plausible, given the period of time the farmhouse was constructed, that Sarah Burch requested the farmhouse also be created from available mail-order plans.

The Ramsay-Fox Round Barn is a true-circular barn created as a bank barn with an embanked central driveway entrance to the main floor and ground level access to the cattle area in the basement. Central driveways are found in about 45% of Indiana’s round barns. The barn also has horizontal siding, found on only 25% of Hoosier round barns. Ramsay constructed the barn around a central silo which has since been removed to just below the main level floor. The basement walls are concrete and show lines where wood was used to form the concrete; the portion of the silo remaining is also concrete. To equip the barn for livestock, the building has a circular hay track attached to the roof on the main level; a concrete floor sloped and stepped away from the center (lower toward the outside walls) for easy cleaning, and feeding troughs in the lower level. At 60’ in diameter, the barn also was larger than many 40’ and 50’ models being constructed, but was consistent with the diameter of both the Heyde and Aker barns constructed in Marshall County. The barn's roof is a gambrel two pitch roof with a wider than typical cupola. The cupola has a very low-sloped roof that appears nearly flat.

Unfortunately the trend of losing round barns in Indiana is consistent with their losses in Marshall County. The 1986-88 round barn survey shows three true-circular barns and three twelve-sided barns extant. By 1992 those numbers were reduced to two true-circular barns and two twelve-sided barns. At the time of this writing, the Ramsay-Fox Barn stands as the last true-circular barn and the Quivey Barn stands as the last polygonal barn extant in the county. This represents a loss of two-thirds of these structures in the last 25 years.

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