Barns of Dubuque County
Originally published in the Fall 2002 issue of the Iowa Barn Foundation Magazine.
Written by Rachel Schemmel, Iowa Barn Foundation's Dubuque County representative, and Roman Welter, Iowa Barn Foundation board member who lives in nearby Jones County.
Dubuque County, located along the Mississippi River, was the site of early fur trading, lead mining, and the first pioneer settlements in Iowa. Land was inexpensive, but certainly higher than the .03 cents per acre that Thomas Jefferson paid Napolean for the land of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The total for this parcel of land from which 13 states, including Iowa, were carved was $15,000,000.
For over a century, especially from 1850 to 1950, a barn was an important building for the pioneer's and the farmer's lifestyle. In Dubuque County, many barns still exist in various states of repair and disrepair. However, many are no longer used for their original purpose and will not be replaced if destroyed. Only a few of these unique Dubuque County barns are described.
Delbert and Lucille Link are the fourth generation owners of this bank barn. Delbert's great grandfather, Jacob Breitbach, moved from Pennsylvania to Balltown in 1854. Shortly thereafter, he built the 36x72 foot barn with a stone foundation. Original logs used in the barn were hand hewn from trees growing in the area. The barn has cedar shingles and was never painted. There is a metal track and evidence that a stick fork had once been used to unload hay. To provide water for livestock, eaves were used to catch rain water or melting snow and direct it to the cistern. Later, this was replaced with a well and electricity to pump water into the barn. Directions: Farm is 14 miles northwest of Dubuque. Follow 52 north to Sageville. Turn right on Sherrill Road which becomes Balltown Road. In Balltown, turn left onto Horseshoe Road and follow it for a mile to 22671 Horseshoe Road.
When St. Joseph Church in Farley was completed in 1912, the original limestone church located southeast of St. Joseph Cemetery was raised. Fred Schemmel hauled the limestone blocks from the old church to his farm in a small green truck. The large blocks were used to build the barn's foundation. Because of the depth of the basement walls, the barn is warm in the winter and cattle did not die from exposure to cold. A separator house is located on the west side of the barn under the approach to the loft. It serves as a shelter during tornado threats. Fred and his wife, Emma, lived on the farm from 1926 to 1961 when Walter and Marlene Goedken moved onto the farm. Directions: Barn is at 9060 Wieferich Road, an eighth of a mile off Olde Farley Road and three miles southwest of Farley.
This barn was built in 1912 and has a stone foundation. It is unique in that where six inch wide vertical boards of the loft are fitted together, there are two inch-wide overlaying vertical boards of the same length. It is believed the barn was built in this manner to prevent rainwater or water from melting snow from entering the spaces between the boards which could cause deterioration. The barn, owned by Richard and Margaret Kolck since l956, has all of its original well-built doors and windows. Directions: The barn is located at 13399 Routh 52 North, Dubuque (Sageville).
Approaching the Field of Dreams movie site from the south on Lansing Road, Dyersville, one sees a large hillside barn to the east. The barn, owned by Donald and Becky Lansing, has been in the Lansing family for 97 years. Donald's grandparents, Joe and Katherine, purchased the farm in 1906. Donald bought the farm from his parents, Lavern and Bernice Lansing in l979. The barn was built in the late 1890's out of hand-hewn lumber with wooden pegs. The lower floor of the barn has 24 stanchions for dairy cattle, a separator house, and calf pen. Directions: The farm is 3.5 miles northeast of Dyersville.
Brothers LeRoy and Bernard Schemmel are third generation to live on this farm. Their grandfather, Anton Schemmel, homesteaded the land in 1867. Anton was born at New Wein (now New Vienna) in 1850 and was one of the first native Iowans of European descent to be born in the state. Anton's father, Heinrich, and three of Heinrich's brothers operated a woolen mill on the north fork of the Maquoketa River in New Vienna during the 1800's. After Anton's retirement from farming, his son and daughter-in-law, Ben and Rose Schemmel, operated the farm for 50 years. Anton built the horse barn in 1871 from lumber taken from the area. Some trees with only the bark and branches removed were used in building the barn. The cattle barn was built in l895 and features a haymower that facilitated the distribution of hay in the mow. Directions: Follow Highway 136 north from Worthington or south from Dyersville. At Rockville Road turn east and drive two miles to the Schemmel farm at 29998 Rockville Road.
The Stoffel barn is known as the barn without a loft. At the time the loftless barn was built in 1912, the McKeever Brothers owned the 500 acre parcel of land. They pastured the land. They bought cattle in the spring and sold them in the fall. Thus, the barn was built to house seven mules and 10 horses or cut ponies to help to control the cattle on the hilly land. It was used to store forage and had a granary for oats. Three generations of Stoffels have lived on the farm: Harry and Rose from 1939 to 1960; Francis and Patricia from 1960 to 1994; and Robert and Joyce from 1994 until the present. Directions: Approaching the Twelve-Mile House (Twelve Mile Housing) 12 miles west of Dubuque and 12 miles east of Cascade on Highway 151, one will see Stoffel Road on the east. Take this to 2668 Stoffel Road, Bernard.