History buffs date buildings during Friends of Ohio Barns gathering
GALION — On Oct. 21, Galion’s Rus-Men Farms hosted the annual fall picnic for the non-profit organization Friends of Ohio Barns.
Established in 2000, Friends of Ohio Barns was founded with the idea of educating barn owners on the history of the buildings on their property and to connect them with resources that will help to preserve the structures as authentic as possible when needed.
Previous Friends of Ohio Barns president Rick Beck said: “We want to preserve the history around us.”
With 250 active members, the group travels Ohio regularly to not only educate owners, but to enjoy and explore the barns themselves.
Mendy Sellman first heard of Friends of Ohio Barns at an event hosted by the Galion Historical Society last year. She kept in contact with the group and that eventually led to inviting them to their farm on Iberia Road, west of Galion.
At the picnic, there were 36 members in attendance from Findlay, Jeromesville, Granville, Lexington, Marysville and Lancaster. The group enjoyed grilled meats provided by Rus-Men Farms before breaking to tour and examine the barns on the properties owned by Mendy and her husband Russ.
The land that Rus-Men Farms is located on, as well as other land they own in the area, was purchased by Mendy’s ancestors, the Pletcher Family, who were from Europe, in the early 1800s when they moved further west from the Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Having grown up and helped to farm the land with her grandfather, Gene Crim, Sellman had been educated for years about the history of her ancestors and the buildings on their land that has been passed down from generation to generation.
Knowing this, Sellman was anxious to learn further history or information the structures themselves might offer.
The first barn the group looked at was approximated to have been built between 1880-90s. Based upon the structure of the building and the areas that had been adapted for animals or crops over the years, Rick Beck felt the barn had always been a “working barn” because it has been so well maintained.
“These barns were built to last centuries,” said current Friends of Ohio Barns President Pam Gray.
The biggest discovery of the day was a visit to the property owned by Galion’s James Goudy on Beck Road. After a few gentlemen in the group walked through to examine the building, it was determined that the barn was likely built around1830. The swinging doors to the barn still hang in the original hand forged hinges.
“In North Central Ohio, this is the oldest barn I’ve seen,” Rick Beck said.
Even further, the group determined the structure to be a Sweitzer barn, a common style for German settlers to have used when they relocated to the United States. But that type of structure an unusual find these days. Most generally this design is referred to today as a “bank barn.”
At the conclusion of each barn visit, Friends of Ohio Barns presented a plaque for each location to display marking the visit by their group.
“Hearing the history of these buildings is emotional for me,” said Mendy Sellman. “I’m 50 years old and never lived anywhere but on this land.”
Friends of Ohio Barns are planning for their Spring Barn Tour for 2018. For that event, they annually take two buses and tour 6-7 barns per day over a two day period.
The group is also looking to meet somewhere in Morrow County in 2019.
“Ohio has a large variety of barns,” Rick Beck. “There is almost always something different in each one.”