Historical round barn still stands after 106 years

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In 1914 the late Louis Friedlein designed and built the impressive 72-foot circumference round barn that sets in the valley along Highway 52 just outside of Millville. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

There are several advantages to building a round barn. Most of these unique outbuildings were built on dairy farms between 1890-1920. The circular design was advantageous for small plots of land and considered more economical to build because less material was required. Round barns were built for dairying and were considered not as useful for other types of agriculture. The cow's wedge shape could be perfectly arranged around a central feeding trough. The heads were toward the silo that ran up through the center of the barn, and the back side faced the larger circumference of the barn. By the 1920s the popularity of round barns ended. Finding a carpenter who understood geometry was a challenge, and the onset of prefabricated barns at the end of World War I sealed their fate.  

High-Low Stock Farm, 

Louis Friedlein Prop. 1914

The late Louis Friedlein, Larry Friedlein's grandfather built the impressive 72-foot circumference round barn that sits in the valley along Highway 52 just outside of Millville. "High-Low Stock Farm, Louis Friedlein Prop. 1914" is proudly penned on the wall. Larry, who has been farming for most of his life, pointed out the signage, "That has been there for as long as I can remember. My grandfather passed away when I was one year old."  He continued, "I went to trade school for a couple of weeks after I graduated, but I felt the school misrepresented itself and decided it wasn't for me. My parents discouraged me from becoming a farmer. They had seen a lot of tough times throughout the years and wanted me to have a better life."

Larry and his late wife, Marlys, were married 56 years. They have three children, Jeff, Julie and Jody. "I started farming in the fall of 1960. This land has been in the family since 1914 when the barn was built," he commented. 

Larry's grandfather designed the barn and hired a carpenter to build it. "It was unique in its day. There are not a lot of round barns in the county. The ceiling of the barn is made of one-by-four inch boards laminated together to form the arch. He built it because he wanted to utilize the land as efficiently as possible. It was easier to feed the livestock because the feed was in the center. The drawback was you had to carry the milk farther," he explained. 

Jeff Friedlein, Louis' great-grandson, further noted, "Great-grandpa was a self-proclaimed engineer – a real entrepreneur in his day. He designed a pressurized water system utilizing the hillside above the barn. It was a milk bottle-shaped cistern with a windmill that sat on top. It had the potential to pump an estimated 2,500 gallons of water to the livestock. Unfortunately he died before he had an opportunity to use it." 

Chicken house

Farming practices were different many years ago. "We were dairy farmers when I was young. Everybody back in them days had cows, horses, pigs and chickens,"

he recalled. "I remember there was an old chicken house that stood against the hillside. When I was a young boy; I had a dog. That dog would follow me, and I would follow the dog. One day the dog walked right up on the roof of the chicken house and I followed him. My dad was not too happy to find me standing on that roof. I thought it was okay because the dog did it," Larry chuckled. 

Turkey River Junction

Larry recalled a time when the railroad tracks went past the barn. He said, "The railroad ran right below the barn on the opposite side of highway 52. It would stop at the barn to load livestock. There was also a water tank for filling the steam engine at that location. There was a turntable at Turkey River Junction where the train would stop and turn the cars around."

Sturdy structure

The round barn's sturdy design has withstood the test of time. Its location against the north hillside protected it from high winds. and the southern exposure made it comfortable for the livestock in the winter. "The basic structure is in good shape. We had to replace a couple of posts downstairs and jack-up the floor joists in a few spots. The main expense is shingling. It takes a lot of shingles. The first set of shingles lasted a long, long time. The sidewalls are still original and only painted twice. We also closed up a few windows in the roof because they were leaking a little," Larry noted. 

"The silo doors were ladders in themselves and they ran all the way up to the cupola. We would bring the corn silage in on a flat wagon and feed it into the silage cutter. Then it would feed into the blower and throw it directly into the silo," he said. 

The original silo has been removed and the remaining pieces are stacked neatly for future use. "I have used some of that wood for other projects," he mentioned. 

Larry pointed to a large fork hanging from the domed ceiling. "Originally we stored loose hay in here. The big fork would come down from the ceiling on two pulleys and pick up the loose hay and toss it into the haymow. Now we store hay in bales," he commented. A small section off to the side in the interior of the barn was set aside to house oats. 

"I call farming a terminal disease. It gets in your blood. We have been very lucky throughout the years," he said with gratitude.

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