Following its razing last week, not much remains of the familiar old limestone barn along 190th Road west of Marion. But in its day, it was the place for area dances and other happy gatherings, according to Rex Siebert, who lives one mile west.
The new owner, Al Prior of Emporia, said he didn’t want to see the barn and house razed, but both were beyond repair. He said he is planning to rebuild at that location.
As for the barn, the limestone walls were all that stood for many years, Prior said, after a fire destroyed the roof, rafters and other supporting beams. Because of safety issues, he decided it was time to cave in the rest of the structure.
Other than a few details, Prior said he didn’t know much of the barn’s history, but suggested Siebert could fill in some of the blanks.
“The first owner I knew as a boy was George Penland,” Siebert said. “Then his son, Roy, (and Ruby) lived there.”
The limestone to build the barn came from a sugar mill on the Cottonwood River on the west side of Marion, he said.
“As a kid, I remember my folks going to barn dances,” he said. “I was maybe 5 or 6 years old and there were probably 10 or 15 families that would be square dancing.”
The last of the Penland family members he remembers was Harry, who was two years younger.
“We did run around together,” Siebert said. “One of the Penlands had a log cabin and owned land close to the dam on the east side of the reservoir.”
As for the barn’s design, Siebert said there were box stalls for horses on the east and west sides.
“On the east side, the box stalls were partitioned off for teams (of horses),” he said.
On the north wall were stalls for milk cows, he said, because in those days there were no stores close by.
The floors were cement throughout most of the barn, but Siebert said he was “pretty sure” the floor on the side with the horse stalls was dirt.
“On the east side of the barn, where the horses stood, was concrete with a wood floor on top of that,” he said. The barn also had a hipped roof with two sides sloping downward to the walls.
“Part of the roof, maybe about half, was not quite so steep,” he said, “but the other half was very steep.”
Block and tackle
Siebert said he believes the barn was built using a block-and-tackle system, which required two or more pulleys with a rope between them to lift the limestone blocks.
“The blocks were put on a platform and were pulled up using a gin-pole,” he said, which was a rigid pole with a pulley on the end. “They would have probably used a team of horses (to pull the blocks up). It was quite an engineering feat.”
The fire signaled the barn’s demise. After the accident, Siebert said, no steps were taken to rebuild the barn from its weakened state.
“The natural rock wouldn’t have held by itself,” he said.
Siebert thinks a boy was welding in the barn. When he woke up the next morning, the barn was ablaze.
Siebert said the barn evokes a lot of happy memories.
“It was a beautiful barn,” he said, “and in those days we knew all our neighbors. Not another barn was ever built like that one. I was just sick after it was burnt.”