Barns of Mackinac County, Michigan
135 Barns plus a few "extras"

R.V. ("Dick") Dietrich
Professor emeritus C.M.U.


The preparation of an album about old barns in Mackinac county was suggested by Robert Bruce Brown, my son-in-law. It was subsequently promoted by Rick and Kurt Dietrich and Krista Brown, my wife's(d) and my “kids,” who have a much higher opinion of my photography than I do. Bob's suggestion and our kids' promoting it were, I feel sure, based on their knowing that I was just about to finish a project and needed another one "to keep me out of mischief."

It was a great suggestion because I have been interested in farm buildings, especially barns, as long as I can remember: Each Sunday, during the late 1920s, while my parents were visiting my Uncle Clarence and Aunt Rena at their farm, just north of LaFargeville, Jefferson County, New York, I spent much of my time finding things to do in their barn or granary. Later, during similar visits in the early 1930s, the agenda changed, as I helped my cousins with chores such as putting hay above the trap doors in the haymow, which were then opened to lower the hay into the cattle "parlor," and mixing mash with the cattle's "extra" food and water that was put in the "cups" in front of their stanchions. And, a few years later, in order to "get into shape" while waiting for my WW-II assignment in the Air Corps, I worked during the hay season at a farm near Hammond, St. Lawrence County, New York. During that time, I milked 20 cows, by hand(!), each morning and night, "mowed away" 256 loads of hay in the two barns on that farm, took care of "odd jobs," and ended up in the best physical shape I ever have enjoyed.

Those experiences, along with my father's, forever it seemed, directing my attention to old barns as we took frequent trips around northern New York; my inherent desire to observe and get information about all sorts of things; and the already mentioned prompting by our "kids" led me to undertake the project that resulted in the compilation of this album. And, I hasten to add, working on it has been, at different times, fascinating, frustrating, and fulfilling. -- Each of these "f"s stemmed to Frances (with a capital F), my wife of more than 60 years (now deceased), and her great interest in history. My fascination was with the diverse physical characteristics of the barns and their histories -- who built them, when and how they were built, their subsequent uses, . . . Most of the frustrations were related to my inability to get any information about some of the structures, getting conflicting information about others, and, because of my age the feeling that I had to "cut corners" in order to possibly complete the project to the point that it would be of at least some value. The fulfillments came when some of the frustrations were resolved, and especially when people within the county who were knowledgeable and willing to take their time to give me information about several of the included barns. All this said, Frances' love of history and her nearly 70 years of influence served to motivate me throughout the time spent on this project.

The barns of Mackinac County, Michigan were chosen because this is the county where I am now living most of the time. In addition, considering the relatively few barns within the county and my age, it seemed possible at the onset that it would be a project that I might be able to complete. The presence of only a relatively few farm barns within the county relates to the fact that much of county is not arable: Large areas are covered by lakes; sizeable areas are swamp or marshland; sand or gravel are the mantle ("soil") of thousands of acres; [and] much of the county is woodland or forest. Indeed, more than 50 per cent of the county is either national or state forest lands. Approximate percentages of the areas that are designated as National Forest or State Forest lands within the townships, based on "eyeball" estimates of the areas so designated on maps (Land... n.d.), are as follows: Bois Blanc - 50 per cent; Brevort - 85 per cent; Clark -19 per cent, Garfield - 31 per cent, Hendricks - 92 per cent, Hudson - 85 per cent, Marquette - 38 per cent, Moran - 58 per cent, Newton - 42 per cent, Portage - 28 per cent and St. Ignace - 79 per cent.

Unfortunately, several of the barns that were once in this county no longer exist. Indeed, many of those that remain are currently becoming structures of the past. This made it important to me to record, at least photographically, the barns that are now left, whatever their condition. The photographs and brief captions will, I hope, provide worthwhile information, from which historians can at least get an understanding of such things as the desires, skills, and farming methods of the people who built and used these barns. It is sad, in my opinion, that such a study was not made several years ago. I consoled myself by thinking "Better late [now] than never!" -- That thought along with the interest expressed and the help given by several people within the county also served to motivate me while working on the project.

Each of my "kids" helped in several ways as I photographed the barns, sought information about them, and was preparing this album: Each of them gave me suggestions and discussed diverse aspects of my photographs and the information I collected. Kurt and Krista also drove for me on some of my trips to find and photograph the structures and contact people who gave me information to include in the captions. Bob Brown, my son-in-law, helped me with contacts and supplied valuable information about the area, its people, etc. that only one who has lived in this area virtually all of his life could do. Buck Sharrow took me by horse-drawn carriage (carriage and horses courtesy of Mike Young of Frankenmuth, Michigan) to see the many horse stables on Mackinac Island and supplied basic information about each of them.

Charlie Brown, an attorney in St. Ignace, drove me to view and photograph three of the barns in and near St. Ignace and supplied data about them. Prentiss M. ("Moey") Brown, Jr., also an attorney in St. Ignace, served as a valuable source of historical information about the area in and around St. Ignace. Mary Hill, and others at the Historical Museum of the Les Cheneaux Historical Association in Cedarville and Linnea Ault and others of the Engadine Hisotircal Society Museum in Engadine gave me information and also the names of people from whom I could get additional information about the barns in their areas.

David Ginsburg, Research Librarian Emeritus, Central Michigan University aided me by making searches for literature dealing with barns, especially those in Michigan, that contains information that might otherwise have escaped my early barn-related observations within the county. He also checked the References given at the end of this album to make sure that each is in a form that will facilitate readers that may want also to review those publications. Gina Kemp, Director, and Barbara Zimmerman, Assistant Director, of the St. Ignace Public Library, obtained several publications via interlibrary loan. Gina also supplied one important, rather rare booklet from her personal library. Vera Wiltse, 4-H Youth Agent, Michigan State University Extension (ret.), was ever ready and willing to give professional advice.

Kurt and Rick read and critiqued the complete report. Linnea Ault similarly checked the Garfield Township captions, this Preface and Introduction.

The following people supplied information about one or more the the barns included: Donald Ault, Linda Belonga, Gary Bigelow, Judy Bishop, Ed Brockman, Barbara Brown, Elmer & Ruth Brown, Frank Butkovich, Carilon Hopperstead Carr, Curtis Cheesman, Dan & Amy Christensen, Betty Clark, Chuck Collip, Nancy & Joe Cornwell, Peter Crystal, Debra Dailey, Frank Daily, Raymond & Ruth Derusha, Amelia Duberville, Carol Duncan, Andy Dunikowski, Bob Edwards, Verna Engel, Vern Erskine, Alice Feigel, Dee Fenske, Ervin Flatt, Wayne Flatt, Ethel Freeman, Fred Freeman, Nancy Fulton, Roger & Tamara Gady, George & Irene Gage, Gerry Glenn, Violet ("Marie") Gorman, Dale Greenwald, Jack Gribbell, James & Faye Gribbell, Clinton & Barbara Groover, Chandler Hadley, Herbert Hahn, Julia Halonen, Carol Hamel, Michelle Hanson, Gary Heckman, Gayle Herron, Anthony Hines, Jeffery Hoag, Robert Holland, Dick Huskey, Rosemary Irwin, Conrad Izzard, Roger Kempf, William Ketola, Mark Kinjorski, Mike & Rae Klobucher, Teri Kniss, Martin Kopinski, Caryn Kovar, Wayne & Georgianna Kuebler, Alan & Charles Lamoreaux, Clarlyn Ledy, Judy Legault, Sharon Legault, Marian Lesatz, Bob Lindley, Louise Lowetz, Kirt Mahar, Charlie and Louis Markstrom, John Matchinski, Jessica Maze, Kathy McCabe, Jennifer McGraw, Jonathan Miller, Leighton Miller, Levi Miller, Richard Miller, Tate Miller, Wendell Miller, Russel Morris, Kathy Mullholland, Russ Nelson, Tim Nelson, Mike Newton, Kellie Nightlinger, Charles & Kathy Nye, James & Cully Ocko, Ed Olson, Gunnar Olson, Bill Orr, John Ozanich, Herman Patzer, Ray & Carol Patterson, Wes Peckta, Richard Pershinske, Jon Plomer, Peter Polisse, Peter & Sallee Poole, Freda Price, Karen Reed, Bambi Robinson, Ervin Rose, Jim Rourke, Betty Sadler, Sue Salter, Herb Sawyer, Esther Schaum, Edward Schmitt, Violet Schroeder, Elsie Sellers, Martin Sherlund, Rudy Sherlund, Harold Shoemaker, Edward Simon,Sharon Smith, Wayne Steiner, Harry Stephenson, Fred & Marilyn Strickland, Chriss Stutzman, Gladys Tamlyn, Mary Kay Tamlyn, Susan Thomas, Jerry & Kim Thompson, Charlie Vallier, Mark Vonderwerth, Jim Vosper, William Wagner, Craig Weatherby, Jake Weiss, Rick Weiss, Paul Williams, Angela & Jeff Wollos, Ken & Debbie Zellar, Melissa Zellar, and Todd Zellar.

I gratefully thank each of the listed people for her/his contributions.

R.V. ("Dick") Dietrich

24 November 2011


With exceptions, ... See last paragraph of this introduction.

Barns within Mackinac County, Michigan in 2011 are shown in photographs in this album. The photographs show the general features and conditions of these barns at this time. That is to say, these photographs comprise an historical document; this is emphasized by the fact that three barns in Marquette Township alone have undergone noteworthy changes within this year one has burned down; one has been torn down; one has had its exterior rejuvenated. The captions for the photographs give the barns’ locations and provide brief information about them. Most of that information was supplied by people within the area – i.e., most of the history provided in the captions is oral history.

Almost all of the included barns were built fifty or more years ago. A few of them date back to the1800s. Nearly all of these barns were the largest and some of them the oldest buildings on the farms where they were built. Hand-hewn timber and rough-sawn lumber, both from trees in nearby woods are characteristic. With a few exceptions, these barns were used to store the feed, especially hay, for the dairy cows that were milked within them and housed there during cold winters. In addition, several of the barns also included areas for young cattle, the resident bull, stalls for workhorses, and areas where farm machinery was stored when it was not in use. One particularly noteworthy fact about the barns of this county is that many of them were never painted.

Each of the photographs shows the general condition of the barns, which ranges from good to bad in 2011. Many of these photographs are “drive-by” shots that were taken from or near highways and county roads. Nearly all of those shown are cropped to show the features of the barns better than the complete photographs do. The original photos are included on CDs that will be available at one or more of the following locations: Engadine Historical Museum, Les Cheneaux Historical Museum at Cedarville, St. Ignace Public Library, and the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant. Some of these original photographs have, in my opinion, more aesthetic appeal than the cropped versions. In any case, no attempt has been made to have all of the main photographs or even the individual photographs of composites at the same scale. Trees, artifacts, etc. that are included in the photographs serve to give a general idea of the sizes. Composites, which show certain features relating to a few of the barns, are included beneath a few of the main photographs.

The first line of the captions consists of: 1) Two or three letters, which indicate the township or "city" within the county where the structure is located; the "Sketch map..." in the Appendix serves as the key. 2) An identification number, which correlates with the one on the list in the appendix; [and] 3) the location according to Section, Township and Range on the U.S. Public Land Survey Grid (see Mozola, 1989). Most captions also include information about such things as the dates of construction, original owners, and past and present uses. This information is, for the most part, based on statements and recollections of people with whom I talked, either directly or by telephone -- i.e., it is "oral history." Unfortunately, only a few people are still living who know directly much about the history of most of these barns and other buildings. This accounts for the unevenness of both the amount and the context of the captions. Additional pertinent information can, I feel sure, be found about nearly all of the structures with more “spade work.” Certainly such information, or at least clues, could be found by studying old maps, sale documents, estate plans, newspapers, and such documents that I did NOT search. Perhaps someone will undertake this research. Although I do not vouch for the correctness of the statements given, I do take responsibility for recording them; whatever their verity, perhaps they will help lead to additional data gathering about these structures and the history of the areas involved. A few of the captions include information that is probably best described as indicating certain nostalgic experiences I had while working on this project; I hope these do not detract from the other information.

It seems likely that additional barns occur within the county – buildings that did not look like barns to me AND barns not readily visible from the public roads and highways. This seems especially likely because my coverage of some of the county was during the summer when the trees and brush were covered with leaves and thus obscured my view. Also, I did not go into drives through wooded areas that were roped off or were marked “No Trespassing” or by some similar caution to would-be uninvited encroachers. -- Indeed, after this paragraph was written, my attention was directed to the presence of the old barn, Ga61; the two photographs that are included for that barn were taken by and credited to the lady who owns and told me about the barn.

The "extras" include photos of a homesteader’s log house, the bare foundation of a former barn, barns that no longer exist, a few relatively recently built barns, and even a small barn-like garage with some especially interesting features. These are included in this album because of my predilections. Their captions will, I hope, indicate why each is included.

Lastly, it seems only prudent to add that exceptions to some of the above statements are present. Two examples are the first photograph in the collection, which shows a barn in Bois Blanc Township that has not existed for several years and the building shown as the Hudson Township representative is not a barn and it was built in 1997. Each exception, however, is indicated by information given in its caption.