It’s always fun to see old barns get some love and attention. Even moreso when it’s a barn where you built hay forts as a kid and kept your horse.
In my case, that would be the Johnson barn, the big red barn on Center Road about a mile north of Mapleton. It’s on the crest of the hill on the right-hand side as you head north towards the Smokey Hollow intersection. In fact, its original name was Crescent Hill Fruit Farm, and through the years, it morphed into simply Johnson Farms.
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The other day, I saw some commotion at the barn when I was driving by, and the next morning, got a text from my sister-in-law Laura that the barn was being painted. Not only getting a fresh coat of paint, but also some much-needed window and foundation upgrades, as well as new metal siding on the east side, covering the wood siding that’s seen better days. It’s all painted barn red now, so you have to look close to notice that it’s metal instead of wood.
Here are some pics of the power-washing and painting…
Here are some pics of the foundation work, metal siding, an inside window, and the doors being painted with the white trim.
And here is a photo taken from “the lift” by Taylor Vanderbush, who’s doing a lot of the work on the barn. He asked if I’d like to go up and take my own photo. I thought about it but politely declined. I mean, after all, he’d already taken a great photo. 🙂
I’ve written a lot about this barn here on Old Mission Gazette, and I’m very grateful that my brother Dean continues to care for the barn through the years (it got a new barn door in 2018). I know Dad is looking down with happiness, too.
So many barns these days are neglected to the point of crumbling, generally after the farm is sold or the kids no longer want to continue the family farm legacy. And it’s not cheap to keep these old barns going strong. But Johnson Farms is still very much a working farm, and so this barn is an integral part of that business.
Along with spending much of my childhood in this barn, it was also the location of my very first business – selling cherries by the side of the road. I was probably seven or eight years old and built a stand made of lugs right next to the barn, selling cherries by the quart and lug. I wish I could remember how much I charged, but I’m thinking somewhere in the range of 25 cents a quart and four or five bucks for a lug.
The little shed on the right side of the barn is where I kept the cherries cool until I needed to replenish the stand. There was always a tractor parked there, usually my Dad’s Case DO or VAO. After my parents built the new house in Old Mission in 1960, you’d often find one of those prized tractors parked in our garage.
When I interviewed my dad, Walter Johnson, about the barn shortly before he passed away in 2002, he said the barn was most likely built around 1880 by Robert Edgecomb, the father-in-law of Dad’s mother, Stella Smith. Stella grew up in the hollow down from the barn, where the Cosgrove family lived all the time I was growing up. Stella married Frank Edgecomb, Robert’s son. When Frank died in WWI, she married Lester Johnson, and they went on to have my Dad and Uncle Guy. So Lester and Stella Johnson are my grandparents.
You can read more about the history of the barn and Edgecombs here. The photo below was taken sometime in the early 1900s. It’s a saltbox style barn, featuring a dramatic slant to the roof on one side, with a fieldstone foundation. As I understand it, the silo you see on the left of the photo was partially destroyed during a storm, and eventually taken down and moved inside the barn.
I’ve heard that the cupola blew off in a storm, as well, though Dean recalls that Dad may have taken it down at some point. The house on the right, which burned down in 1964, is what we’ve always called “The Old House.”
And here’s a picture from 1938, of Dad and Grandpa loading cherries. You can see that the cupola is still intact at this point. Just beyond the tractor is where I had my cherry stand.
Thank-you hardly seems sufficient, but a big thank-you to everyone over the past 140 years who built the barn, maintained the barn, and looked after it with care. I hope it remains standing for at least another 140 years.