Posted by: Bridgett Hernandez

  • 11/09/2020

160-year-old barn finds new home

HUNTERTOWN – A 160-year-old barn in northwest Allen County is finding a new home in DeKalb County, where it will stand as a tribute to the area’s agricultural heritage.

ACRES Land Trust acquired the barn as part of a bequest from the late Dr. Frederick Mackel. The land is part of the 34-acre Mackel Nature Preserve in the Cedar Creek Corridor.

“When ACRES acquires land, we often acquire associated structures as well (homes, barns, churches, schools, etc.),” said Jason Kissel, executive director of ACRES. “Sometimes ACRES has a need for the structure and we maintain it, but ultimately our mission is protecting the land, not buildings. When we don’t have a use for the structure, we search for other organizations whose mission it is to acquire or protect these structures. We typically offer the asset at no charge to help further the mission of the receiving organization.”

In the case of the barn at the Mackel property, ACRES spent two years trying to find it a proper home, contacting local and state historical groups, barn societies and partner nonprofits.

“Finally, through the help of several ACRES members, we found the barn a home with the DeKalb County Horsemen’s Association. We’re thrilled the barn will be reutilized to support their mission,” Kissel said.

The DeKalb County Horsemen’s Association provides interactive education on the history, use and care of draft animals through seminars, public exhibitions and support of 4-H programs. The nonprofit also operates the Draft Animal Museum south of Auburn, which displays hundreds of antique pieces of horse farming history.

Mark Carunchia, the group’s secretary/treasurer, said they had been looking to build a barn and had considered other old barns or building a new barn that looks old. He said that when they “looked at the history of the Mackel barn and how it fits into the area,” they knew it would support their mission of preserving agricultural history.

The barn was built around the 1860s during a time when farmers were reliant on draft animals for powering farm implements and pulling wagons.

“They were the tractors of the time,” Carunchia said.

It’s not clear how the barn has been used over the years, but farmers in the mid-1800s would have kept one or two pairs of draft animals like horses or mules in addition to hay, straw, grain, tools and farm implements in a barn very similar to the Mackel barn, he said.

Barnwood Masters began dismantling the barn Oct. 26. Owner Tim Bradley said it’s remarkable how strong the barn’s wooden beams are after all these years. He said it’s likely that the timber was sourced on site from the original, old-growth forest and processed at a nearby water-powered lumber mill such as Stoners Mill (also known as Shyrock Mill), which once sat a short distance from the Mackel barn on Cedar Creek. The lumber mill operated continuously for 76 years between 1834 and 1910.

Carunchia said the DeKalb County Horsemen’s Association hopes to reassemble the barn in the next two years. He said the timeline will largely depend on fundraising efforts for the project. In the meantime, the pieces will be kept in storage. The nonprofit is considering several potential uses for the “new” old barn, including space for antique farming equipment from the mid-1800s, horse stalls, a small classroom, events and storage.

ACRES Land Trust
To date, ACRES Land Trust, Indiana’s oldest and largest local land trust, protects 7,230 acres of natural and working land on 117 properties in the tristate area, forever.  1,800 ACRES members make it possible to keep these vital places safe and offer fifty trail systems, open dawn to dusk daily. Learn more about ACRES on its website at acreslandtrust.org.

DeKalb County Horsemen’s Association
The DeKalb County Horsemen’s Association was incorporated as a nonprofit charitable organization in 1940. The group provides interactive education on the history, use and care of draft animals through seminars, public exhibitions and support of 4-H programs. The Draft Animal Museum, located at 5873 CR 427 in Auburn, Ind., is open by appointment and select hours. Learn more about the DeKalb County Horsemen’s Association on its website at dekalbhorsemen.com.