Ontario Barn Preservation

Barns Used to Have Communities Around them

Barns Used to Have Communities    Jon Radojkovic, Chesley

Here’s a nice standard 135 year-old timber frame barn where the 100 acres of land was taken out of the crown in 1868 for $50. For another $50 the pioneer bought the 100 acre farm backing on this one, which is the farm we now own. When we were looking to buy a farm in 1984 near Chesley, this 200 acre farm, with a story-and-a-half frame house, 40 by 60 foot barn, driving shed and out buildings, was selling for about $65,000. We hummed and hawed and opted to build our own house from the mostly tall hardwood bush in back 100 acres. A severance was accepted by council and the rest…well, young age and a lack of cynicism got us to where we are today–a timber frame home from our trees and a few scattered outbuildings, including my stackwall workshop.
The only regret I have is not having a heritage barn. But then my son and his girl friend, who purchased the original farm a few years ago, now own it so I get to use the barn as well.
Back in the late 1800’s, when the barn was built, it wasn’t just in the middle of nowhere, but had a community around it. A one room, originally a log and later brick school house, was constructed within eyesight of the farm. Just up the road in the hamlet of Peabody, was a blacksmith, a carriage shop, wheel maker and furniture craftsman. For brick houses there was Boem’s brickyard in Scone, about 5 miles away and for windows there was a planing mill in Desboro, about the same distance. As well, in Peabody was the all-important general store, and later gas station. Anderson’s saw mill, beginning operation in 1881, was just around the corner. It’s all gone now, except for the school, which still stands proudly today, with the new owners ringing the bell on special occasions.

This community was not an exception, all over rural Ontario in the 1800’s these little communities sprang up, and then 100 years later they have disappeared.

Farm help in 1900 was paid 75 cents per day and room and board was charged at 30 cents.
The barn is a typical timber frame of the area consisting of five bents with queen posts supporting the purlins. Most of the timbers are maple and white ash, which is what we built our house from, as we cut from the same bush.
But the size of the trees then! The purlins in the barn are one piece, 60 feet in length, and all the 40 foot horizontal girts, five of them, are one tree timbers as well.
The barn floors are from hemlock, as are some of my horizontal  girts in our house, and all the barn rafters, sawn from Anderson’s mill, are one piece and about 28 feet in length.  My son put up new barn board this past summer, and did some repair work inside and I imagine the barn will stand for another 100 years.

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