The “Barn Raising”

Feature Story September 2006
The “Barn Raising”
(By Arthur W. Heim grandson of Jacob G. Heim and father of Alan Heim who lives on the Jacob G. Heim farmstead today in 2006.)
   In 1883 they decided to build the barn on this place.  The main carpenter was a Mr. Hoffman from Barada.  The native oak for the framework of the barn came from a sawmill along the Missouri River somewhere in his neighborhood.  He would bring a wagon load of timbers over on Monday and stay all week, cutting and fitting them, boarding at Grandpa’s and would drive home Saturday night for another load to bring over the following Monday.  When the timbers were all ready they had a “barn raising.”  All the neighbors came in to help.  They put together a whole side of the framework of the barn, and one group raised the side and held it while another group raised another side.  Then the sides were joined together by their proper mortises, and so the barn was “raised.”

   Grandpa had made long poles fitted with iron tips for this job, and it must have taken a large crew of men to raise the framework of large timbers.  I have a number of these irons they used.  It took a good carpenter to cut out all the mortises beforehand, so each pin would fit perfectly when it was time to drive it.  My father said every timber went right into place, and there is no evidence anywhere in the framework that they had to correct a mistake.  

The foundation was made from large limestone blocks.  They were quarried about a mile south of here, about straight east of Dawson on the John Parriott place.  They were hauled overland and nicely squared, and are built high enough to make a full basement about eight feet high.  My father cut the date of the raising in one of these blocks … May 29, 1883.  That is a story in itself.

  He was at work on it, in fact had almost finished the second “8” when one of the masons came along and waned to show him how to do it.  This “expert” took the mallet and chisel, and proceeded to almost ruin the 8.  As father told it, he said, “Now I have spoiled it for you.”  Father cut the 8 a little deeper and fixed it so the inscription is not spoiled, but it is plain to see how it was almost spoiled.

This historical account of the “Barn Raising” and many other stories of the Pennsylvania Colony in Nebraska can be read in the “Folklore” book for sale in the “for sale” link on this web site.   The book is of true stories and experiences of the group of Pennsylvanians who settled near Dawson, Nebraska in the seventies and eighties.