This piece is more about history than the outdoors, but I think many of you will find it very interesting.
When William McKinley was elected President of the United States in 1896, the farmers in the area knew good times were coming. My great, great grandfather had saved $800 and decided to build a new barn. He hired a master carpenter and 13 assistants to do the job and gave them room and board.
By mid-April the workers headed up our hill with 6-foot crosscut saws in hand to cut mighty oaks, tall, straight ash and towering chestnuts for the frame of the barn. Other workers used axes and adzes to hue the heavy timbers that would support the three-story, 40-by-60 foot structure.
Harvesting the large timbers from our forest enabled the use of a renewable resource, but in just a few short decades the chestnut trees that dominated our woodlots were wiped into near extinction by a blight that was brought in from China or Japan. A few years after constructing the barn, a double-layer silo was built from the dying chestnut trees.
Other workers drove teams of horses and dump wagons back and forth, down the two-track, dirt road to a gravel bank in West Oneonta along the Otego Creek. They'd shovel in several hundred pounds of gravel into the wagons and returned the three miles to mix the many yards of concrete for the floor by hand. Rocks were drawn in by others from the sides of the fields and hillsides. They were carefully laid up for the foundation and the bridge way that would provide an easy, third-floor entrance to the barn.
Skilled craftsmen cut mortise and tenon joints on the huge timbers and held them together with wooden pegs. Horses drew the entire sides of the post and beam construction up at one time where they were be joined together, creating the framework of the barn.
A lead pipe was buried in the ground all the way up the hill, nearly three-quarters of a mile to run cold water from a large laid-up spring to keep the milk cold. When I was a boy, the pipe still ran water and kept the watering trough full for the cows just behind the barn.
The barn held 34 Jersey cows and by selling milk and butter, there was enough revenue to adequately support at least two generations of Brockways.
The project was completed by the first of September and the barn still stands today.
It is quite remarkable that with $800 to start the project, it was completed with money left over.
Today the barn is just used for storage. Thirty-four cow farms are a thing of the past. Now our old barn is just a bit of history. I was told this story many times over the years and have passed it down to my children and grandchildren. Here's hoping it will be remembered for generations to come.
A fishing derby hosted by the Dave Brandt Chapter of Trout Unlimited will be held from noon-2 p.m. Sunday at the skating pond in Oneonta's Neahwa Park. This is a free event and no license is required. Worms will be provided. Bring your own fishing equipment if you have it, but a few loaners will be available. Age-group prizes will be awarded, along with awards for the biggest fish and the most caught and released.
Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.