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HVVA Newsletters

From the JOURNAL

Tuesday, May 1, 2001 with Alvin Shaffer to Fort Plain, Montgomery County on the Mohawk River to see the disassembly of a Dutch barn built in about 1780-1790 by the Dunckel family and bought recently by Paul Spencer to re-erect at his home in Ancramdale, Columbia County, about 100 miles to the southeast. It is a barn with many of the characteristics of the northern Dutch barn. It is a massive structure with anchorbeams that measure up to 25-inches deep. All the major timbers are of pine and finished smooth with a broad axe. A finish we might expect on the exposed beams of a house in the Hudson Valley but seldom on a barn. The column height above the anchorbeams (verdepingh) is perhaps the tallest known. The finish and craftsmanship of the frame shows the special pride of the Mohawk valley timber framers.

Click here to read Paul Spencer's account of moving the barn.

In about 1870 the side walls were raised two feet and the rafters re-cut for the new lower pitch of the roof. Jack Sobon, who did a set of measured drawings of the barn frame, thinks that this alteration was not to gain more loft space, as is usually the case in raising a roof, but to correct damage done in a wind storm that lifted the roof and broke the rafters at their peak. (*) The new roof line used a shorter rafter and allowed the salvage of the original ones.

Joe Yoder directs a crew of five young workers, including his 14 year old son Andy. They have removed the roof, the siding, the side walls, the threshing floor and have sorted the parts into piles. They did this over the past two weeks with help from Michael Barberi of Germantown, Columbia County, the carpenter who will be reconstructing the frame. They use no scaffolding or hard hats. They have a number of gentle methods for removing trunels, and when all fails, they have a two man method, with a Milwaukee Sawsall and a small portable generator, to cut a pin and free a joint without damage to the timber. Joe Yoder comes from a small Amish farming community in Palatine Bridge, Fulton County, north across the river. They came to the Mohawk Valley about 20 years ago from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Joe has a sawmill and does local frame construction but will not take a job more than 15 miles from his home as he commutes by buggy. Michael says you learn their dialect pretty fast when you work with them.

The crane arrived early in the morning. Its noise and the diesel exhaust kept everyone at a safe distance. The tall columns and massive anchorbeams of the five bents were illuminated by a clear sky. At their base the sill structure, the bed of beams that supported the two-inch planks of the threshing floor, was open for inspection, a rare treat that revealed some interesting evidence.

In Ulster County the floor planks were fastened to the sills with square wood trunels but here in the Mohawk Valley they fit the end of the planks into grooves on a center sill that runs the length of the building and the other end fits a rabbet on the column sills. The level of refinement and pride in the Mohawk Valley barn reflects its Palatine German nature. The more simple and practical nature of the Ulster County Dutch barn expresses a separate regional character.

Dunckel/Spencer 4 bay Dutch Barn, Fort Plain, Montgomery County, NY drawing by Jack Sobon

There was evidence in the center sill and the corresponding anchorbeam soffit of the use of a vertical pole and a "groundhog" to thresh grain. This devise was pulled in a circle around the pole by a team of horses. (**) A strengthened area of sill in one corner suggested the use of an apple press or other heavy device there.

In removing the siding it was found that there was more water damage to some of the timbers than previously thought. As the crane lowered the first bent, one of its columns broke. The structure twisted and hung limp from the cable, dropping parts onto the ground. The next three bent came down with no problem. They were taken apart and loaded onto a waiting trailer.

It was a nice gathering that viewed the event. John Wigan was there who moved a Dutch barn in the early 1970s to his place in Cobleskill. He is just down the road from the "East of Sharon" Dutch barn (Fitchen 33) that was moved to the open air museum at Bethpage on Long Island. Richard Heney, a veteran writer for several journals, including Country Folks and Quarry News, was there for a story and Bud and Gigi Miner have been coming every day for a week from their home in Herkimer County to carefully document details for their NWDB 2000 survey of Mohawk and Schoharie County Dutch barns they are compiling.

There was also a man with a video camera. Paul Spencer is working on a small documentary film of the project and would welcome on-camera interviews with any Dutch barn scholars/enthusiasts who are willing to give them. Call him at: (518) 324-2616.

Colleen Lyker, the historian for the town of Root, Montgomery County, had come to go later with a small group to see a barn on the Stowitts farm in her town, a farm in an area that is being sold for development. The barn is in a state of collapse with half the roof gone. Paul Spencer has bought it and plans to disassemble and use some of the parts in the restoration of the Dunckel barn. This barn is on an interesting farm with a family history of a daughter being executed for murder and buried somewhere on the land. You can bet that she stops back occasionally to haunt the place. The family graveyard has about a dozen to twenty difficult to read stones. It is overgrown with sumac. Between it and the barn is the fascinating limestone foundation of an 18th century mill. It is a site that should be documented and the mill looked at by people with more expertise.

The roofs of early Dutch barns were sometimes later raised and rotated to accommodate new farm needs but the Stowitts barn was built originally with a rotated roof and side entrance wagon doors. It has a full basement and has an early to mid 19th-century square rule frame.

Rotated roofs were more often an alteration to a Dutch barn and are found frequently in New Jersey.(***) They are less common in the Mid-Hudson Valley. It is a way of using the Dutch H-bent frame as the core of a new building form. By adding queen post frames joined with purlins they raise and rotate the roof and-create a side entrance barn with more storage. These rotated roof barns are a unique Dutch-American barn type.

There are several features in the frame of the Stowitts barn that distinguish it as an unusual timber frame. Among these, the anchorbeams of the three internal H-bents have double tenons and double braces. (****)

The Dunckel Dutch barn has extremely tall columns so that the use of two raising holes in each column is understandable. The only raising holes I could find in the Stowitts barn were in the columns of the external bents and these holes were rotated from their normal direction. This rotation of raising holes was also found in an Otsego County barn that was moved to Claverack, Columbia County (*****). It suggests that in the end bents of these barns the anchorbeam and door posts were raised first as a frame and the columns raised from the sides and joined to the beam.

(*) HVVA Newsletter Oct. 1999, Vol. 1 No.5, page 3, _/Mckay (Uls-Sha-6) Material Culture. Spring 1999, Vol. 31 No.1, Ninety-Degree Roof Rotations in New Jersey Dutch Barns. by Greg Huber
(**) The Golden Age of Homespun, by Jared Van Wagenen, Jr., Hill and Wang, NY, 1953, page 141.
(***) Barn. The Art of a Working Building, by Elric Endersby, Alexander Greenwood and David Larkin, Houghton Mifflen Co., 1992
(****) HVVA Newsletter, July 2000, Volume 2 Number 3, page 3. The Nitsco barn in South Westerloo, Albany County, NY.
(*****) HVVA Newsletter, July 1999, Volume 1 Number 4, page 6, _/Chapen (Col-Cla-1)

Saturday, May 15 about 25 people attended a tour of the DeWitt/Brittain house (Uls-Mar-24) and had lunch at a nearby restaurant. It was organized by the Ulster County Historical Society. Darryl Brittain, the present owner, has done extensive research into the records of Marbletown that have changed some of the previous understanding of the area. His two-year restoration of the stone house and archaeology of the site revealed a number of things about its construction and the habits of its inhabitants. The center-hall house was built in 1791 and the stone kitchen wing in the 1808. He believes the stone walls were set on a clay foundation that was mined a few miles away on Tongore road.

The Old Kings Highway, Route 209, once past close to the front door of the DeWitt house. It has since been re-routed and is now more that 200-feet away. The 7-mile stone marker on the lawn of the house helps explain something of the Christian Daniel Claus journal published in the previous issue of the Newsletter (Vol. 3 No.3). When Christian traveled this road in 1750 the DeWitt house was not here but a 7-mile-stone was, perhaps the one still standing. The road was then marked each mile by such a stone and this accounts for Christian's ability to describe the population density by the mile as he approached Kingston.

The DeWitt and Newkerk initials found carved in the fireplace lintel behind the mantle, confirmed Darryl's research as to its builder. The "ADW" letters are of Andrie DeWitt and resemble those illustrated in John Fitchen's book New World Dutch Barn pages 138 and 176.

Darryl is working on a book that will trace the families and ownership of land in Marbletown. He is presently working on the statistics and conditions of slavery.

Saturday, May 26 about 8 people attended the HVVA meeting and tour of sites in Saugerties, Ulster County. It began at the Trumpbaur farm (Uls-Sau-25) in "Asbury", a later Methodist name, but a place some still call "Trumpbour's Comers". Bill Trumpbaur and his wife Eliner with help from their son Clay are restoring their 18th century stone house as a museum. It will be furnished with family and regional material, spinning wheels, textiles and furniture. Nicholas Trumpbaur came with the 1710 Palatine German immigration. Most of these poor families moved on to Pennsylvania and the Schoharie Valley but the Trumpbaur family stayed on in what would become the town of Saugerties on the border of what was then Albany County. Nicholas somehow acquired 700 acres of hilly land. He was a surveyor and it was the sale of a small parcel to Godfied Wolven, the Surveyor General, in 1733 that is the first record of ownership. Nicholas is buried at a spot near the Hudson River in a small burying ground, now part of the Lehigh Portland Cement Plant. Family lore says that before he died Nicholas built each of his five daughters a stone house and the present Trumpbaur house is thought to be one of them. The original one room stone house began as a classic early to mid 18 century Hudson Valley stone house with four bays and a jambless fireplace. The addition with cellar kitchen was built perhaps a generation later.

We next visited the Smith Mill site (UIs-Sau-27). The 1811 stone. house of Zachariah Smith who married a Trumpbaur daughter. still stands near the ruins of the grist mill. There is also an early frame house and a 3-bay square-rule Dutch barn with a later rotated roof at this site on the Cauterskill. like the Trumpbaur farm and the Snyder farm we would visit later, all three sites remain with the families that pioneered them.

We next visited the Reightmeyer/Richer farm (Uls-Sau-7) in Katsbaan to examine the frame of a pre-Revolutionary barn with lap-dovetail joining of braces and cup-form marriage marks. This barn began as a 2 bay Dutch barn 28 by 40 foot wide. Soon after a one bay addition was made. An "1884 IWR" inscription on a door frame may be a carpenter's mark dating the removal of the side aisles and the change made to the roof line (*).

The last site visited was the Ken Snyder farm (Uls-Sau-5) to see his Dutch barn and talk with Ken. This farm used horses until 15-years ago and at present has a herd of 6 milking cows. Ken grows and grinds feed grains, hand milks his cows and churns butter. Ken and his barns are a rich source for learning about local historic farming practices. Ken shared with us a family recipe that Bill Trumpbaur recalled for relisches. After butchering, wash and sew the tripe into a pouch. Fill it with scrap meat. Sew the pouch shut and boil it in water until a straw can easily puncture it. Put this into a crock, fill it with vinegar, add salt and pepper to taste. Some like to dilute the vinegar. This relisches will last the winter and can be eaten cold or hot.

According to Snyder family lore, Martin Snyder, a descendant of 1710 Palatine Germans, came to this hilly farm in the late 18th-century. The first house was a log cabin across what is now a highway. It was built at a spring. The present stone house was built in about 1820 and the Dutch barn about 10 or 20 years later evidently re-using the anchorbeams and other timbers of the original barn built further up the hill. These Anchorbeams had lap-dovetail braces. The present frame is square-rule.

We first examined the four part wooden hinged wagon doors with a removable center pole and wooden latches. The doors swing into the barn, a feature that was typical on local Dutch barns in the area but few have survived. Bill Trumpbour mentioned how his great grandfather had been struck dead by a 10 foot middlemarcher falling on his head. This "removable center pole" that holds the four part wagon doors shut is found on barns in western Holland also where they are often marked with a Saint Andrews cross (X), a mark found on Iron door latches and bolts. The local name of the removable center pole has also been collected as middlemanchen, little man in the middle.

We next examined the horse stall. It is 10 feet wide with no room for box stalls. The Snyders separated their horses with a partition hung on rope attached to a mow pole above and by horizontal poles that rested on the feed manger and could be raised and fit into a hole in the back wall. Horse stalls in Dutch barns are normally 10 feet wide and this method of stabling horses was probably once typical on farms in this area. One reason that the Snyders continued to use this method was, as Ken's grandfather told him, because when a horse died in the stall it was much easier to get the body out of the barn.

In the Snyder's horse stall there is a hay manger above the feed manger. Dutch barns often have evidence of hay mangers in a series of notches, occasionally holes, on the longitudinal struts. These were for the manger stakes. None of these mangers have survived from what I know but Richard Babcock has done several interpretations of them in restored Dutch Barns. They are the best idea we have of them at present. The Snyder manger is of a slightly different design, more like the one that survived in the Deertz Dutch, barn (Fitchen plate 40, page 168). It works in conjunction with a flap door that could be closed, Ken said, against dust, when grain was being processed on the threshing floor.

Today hay is usually,spread on the floor of the horse's stall. It is thought that having a hay manger above the horse's head is bad for the animal because of the dust. Ken said that when they put hay in theirs they always took care to shake the dust out of the hay onto the threshing floor with a pitch fork before putting it in the manger.

Ken keeps his cows in a modern addition to the Dutch barn with many features mandated by law. It has a cement floor and typical American hinged stanchions to hold the animals, but the original cow stall in the Dutch bam still has the chains which fit around a cow's neck and evidence of vertical stakes to which they were attached. On a recent trip to The Netherlands this was the only method we saw used on small farms.

(*) Dutch Barn Preservation Society Newsletter. Spring 1996, Vol. 9 No.1, Six Dutch-American Barns of Saugerties, Ulster County, NY, by Peter Sinclair.

Sunday, May 27 visited the Anchorage Farm to see a barn complex with a circa 1880 English barn with vertical queen posts and a sawn frame. Also some horse-drawn farm equipment. Registered it Brink/Kingsford/Marton/Shafer (Uls-Sau-30). This farm on the Sawyer Kill is mentioned in Brink's history of Saugerties and may be the site of the original 17th-century saw mill.

From the Editor:

Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture (HVVA) has made a request to Lewis Kirshner, Treasurer of Ulster County, to purchase two small lots on the Catskill Mountain Railroad Line in Stony Hollow in the Town of Kingston. They are owned by Ulster County and surrounded by 20 to 30 acres of State land. Our intention is to restore the 2-room mid-19th century frame house (Uls-TK-1), dedicate it to the memory of Harry and Marie Siemsen and use it as public museum site to interpret local history. (*) We hope to hear about it soon.

Our provisional charter from the NY State Department of Education is in effect but we are still waiting for the State and Federal tax-free status papers so that we can do a not-for-profit mailing and save some money.

There have been several requests for back issues of the newsletter so I have prepared an index of sites and subjects by volume and number and plan to have soft cover bound copies available in a few weeks.

There have also been a number of inquiries about the $2 million NY State barn repair grant program. (**). There have been no announcements yet but according to the Dutch Barn Preservation Society (DBPS) that according to the NYS Barn Coalition, the State received 5,000 applications and will award about 110 grants. That comes to just over $9,000 each. $25,000 had been the maximum amount for an application but would have allowed only 40 grants. There may be further funding for the program and people might re apply but the editor suggests that the 5,000 historic bam owners not hold their breath nor hesitate, but repair now those roof leaks, tear down the vines that crawl up the siding, cut down the trees whose limbs hang over the roof and trim back the brush that invites the little bugs in.

Some good news in the grant department, the Dutch Bam Preservation Society's Annual barn repair grant of $500 has been given to the Oliver/Erusard Dutch barn (Uls-Mar-__), HVVA's temporary headquarters (***). By re-cycling its state grant application to the DBPS program for an itemized $21,373 HVVA has convinced them that the Oliver barn is a worthy preservation project. We hopes to add something to this money and begin the two most urgent repairs, 1.) removal of a large black walnut tree that will soon bring rust to the shiny metal roof and broken rafters when the limbs fall off and, 2.) dig out the horse stalls and push back the stones of the foundation wall on the north side.

The next official HVVA meeting and barn tour will be on Saturday, July 14, in Holland Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey. See details on the back page. (****)

Carla Cielo has organized the Holland Township Barn Tour and has submitted the following:

Despite the implications of its name, "Holland Township" was settled primarily by Quakers immigrating from the east and the south and by Pennsylvania German tenant farmers immigrating from the west. Holland succeeded from Alexandria Township in 1874. Its 22.7 square miles includes the hamlets of "Amsterdam", "Holland" and "Spring Mills". Of the 85 barns remaining today, there are no classic American "Dutch" barns. with H-bents and side aisles.

A township wide barn survey, aimed to plot early settlement patterns, to record the evolution of farming practices and the development of timber frame construction techniques, is currently underway. After surveying the first 50 barns, a new barn type, formerly unknown to the author, may have been identified. This barn type, based on the form of the 3-bay English ground-level barn, has bents most like "Dutch" H-bents. Eight similar barns have since been located. Are these a Dutch interpretation of an English barn? Did itinerant Dutch barn builders built these to conform to an English floor plan?

On this tour of Holland, 6 barns will be visited representing the following barn types: 1. Transitional Switzer, 2. Standard Pennsylvania forebay - frame, 3. Standard Pennsylvania forebay - stone, 4. English three-bay and the last will be a surprise.

Many Standard Pennsylvania Forebay barns surround the hamlet of Holland and within the hamlet of Amsterdam is a transitional Switzer barn. Were these hamlet names given by the English to mock these areas of German concentration?

It sounds like a good bam tour and we of HVVA hope to meet with some fellow barn enthusiasts from these strange lands to the south.

(*) HVVA Newsletter January 2001, Vol. 3 No.1.
I have begun work on the Siemsen house with a local carpenter/mason, Richard Comeford. We have made good progress in the past two weeks and discovered some interesting things about it history. Labor costs of $350 have reduced HVVA s working account to $458. We welcome any contributions at this time to aid in the restoration of the Siemsen house in Stony Hollow.
(**) HVVA Newsletters Sept. & Oct. 2000, VoL 2 No.5 & 6
(***) HVVA Newsletters May 1999, VoL 1 No.2 & 3
(****) Sally Light,from the Town of Austerlitz, Columbia County, NY, likes to point out that townships in New Jersey differ from the towns of New York State in that towns elect their supervisors while the supervisors of townships are selected by the elected officials.

Peter Sinclair, Editor

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