In an age when so many barns are crumbling and abandoned, it always cheers me to see beloved barns getting a fresh coat of paint or a new roof, especially when they’re my family’s barns.
Last winter, I posted a photo of my brother Dean Johnson’s barn getting a new roof. It was very exciting, because like every barn on the Old Mission Peninsula, that barn has a lot of history behind it.
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Dean bought the farm from Ruth Rude, who prior to that had worked the 40-acre fruit farm on the corner of Center Road and Kroupa Road with her husband Walter. They also raised Tennessee Walker horses, and many folks will remember their hired hand Asher, with his long white beard.
Read more about that barn’s history and new roof here.
This year, the barn on our “home farm” – about a mile north of Mapleton on Center Road, got a brand new door, thanks to Pete Dendrinos’ woodworking skills and Lori Gilbert’s painting skills, along with a major group effort. Both Pete and Lori have horses in the barn, and they take such good care of the beloved building I spent so much time in as a kid (including caring for my own horse, Copper). Any farm kid would say the same thing about their own childhood barn.
Building a new door and installing it was no small feat. My niece, Johnson Farms Manager Heatherlyn Johnson Reamer (Dean’s daughter), said it took seven people to hoist the doors up and get them on the track. She said Pete did an excellent job building them, and the project was very “detail oriented right down to how the back brackets come together,” said Heather.
Pete also built the new door a tad longer than the previous door, which cuts down on the sway factor, and he had to build it to “fit the barn,” because it’s so out of plumb at this point. The barn is, after all, more than 130 years old, having been built prior to 1880 by Robert Edgecomb, my grandma Stella Johnson’s first husband’s father. After her husband, Frank Edgecomb, died during WWI, she married Lester Johnson, my dad’s dad and my grandpa. Lester and Stella would go on to have two kids, my dad Walter Johnson and my Uncle Guy Johnson.
My dad and I walked through the barn before he passed, and I have a whole cassette tape of him talking about the various points and history of the barn. I will dig it out soon and get that transcribed.
Here’s a few more photos of the barn, including one of my dad and his dad, Lester Johnson, loading cherries in the barnyard in 1938. Note that Center Road was not yet paved and the cupola is no longer there, having been blown off the roof during a storm.
In this photo, circa early 1900s, you can see both the cupola and silo, both gone now. Again, Center Road was still a dirt road at this point, and you can also see the “old house” across the road, which burned down in 1964. My siblings – Dean, Carol and Ward – all spent part of their childhood in this house, but we moved to the new house in Old Mission in 1960, the year I was born.