The traditional country barn stands as an iconic figure of yesteryear. If you were “raised in a barn” like I was, you’ll remember how dust filters through rafters and dances in the sunlight, the soothing rhythms of rain as it pitter-patters on a tin roof during a summer shower, and the sweet, permeating smell of new hay. If not, you may be able to imagine.
As time slips by, a vast majority of those, now, old barns in the valley have fallen into disrepair and quietly crumbled to the ground; slipping away with the people of their time. However, lucky for us, there are a few choice specimens and existing landmark buildings left around the valley. Join me on a tour as we visit a few exemplar classics.
Let’s start north of town at Old McDonald’s Farm…I’m not kidding! It’s the real deal!
In May of 1859 a Mormon pioneer party arrived north of where Heber would be established at a natural spring. They named the spring London in honor of their home country. Prior to World War II, Storm McDonald was a car salesman in Heber.
During the war he was unable to get inventory, and determined there was more money to be made in dairy cows than cars. He sold his automobile business and built a big red barn at the mouth of London Spring and began milking. McDonald had one of the largest dairies in the valley. He skimmed his cream and sent it by train to Cherry Hill Dairy in Provo. Today, the barn is being restored by artist, Guy Wann and his wife Jane. The couple has invested over $100,000 jacking the barn up and reinforcing it, securing and shoring up portions for modern use. Guy rummages at yard sales finding antiques to add to the property. The barn is now home to four barn kittens, a small herd of goats, and Guy’s art studio. Just to the side of the barn is the original ‘Caretaker’s Cottage’ now an Airbnb. You can watch the happenings on the farm at their YouTube channel, Life on our Mini Farm.
Old McDonald’s Farm: Contact Guy & Jane Wann 805-220-8181
guywann.com | 2500 N Highway 40 Heber City
Kohler’s Dairy Barn
For almost 100 years, generations of the Kohler family have continued to work their family’s dairy farm. Russel Kohler’s great-great grandfather made cheese in Switzerland; his great-grandfather worked in the original Midway Creamery; and now, Russel works the dairy that has been in the family since 1929. In 2011, the family built a new creamery and began using their farm’s milk to handcraft and age artisan cheese. We are all very blessed to still have this working dairy in the valley. Stop by the barn for a tour, and enjoy some delicious, rich and creamy milk, a slice or two of their award winning chesses, and some yummy ice cream.
Get the details at hebervalleyartisancheese.com
435-654-0291 | 920 River Road, Midway
This large red and white barn was originally built in 1875 by Swiss Immigrant (and my common relative), Andreas Burgener, using mortise and tenon style construction – no nails are used in the build. Seven generations later it has been lovingly restored, by his posterity and current owner, Rick Tatton. Rick has gone to great lengths to maintain and renovate the property; staying true to the fundamental craftsmanship. Tatton named the barn after his grandfather Conrad Boss. This quaint, yet pristine property now includes much more than just the original barn. It’s the whole shebang! The barnyard is complete with a henhouse, outdoor stone kitchen, smokehouse, outhouse, garage, cellar, granary, spring, and home. The original Burgener family lived in the top of the granary until construction of the house was completed. Rick and Connie Tatton’s preservation and attention to detail shows in everything they have done. In 1995, the barn was recognized nationally by the Barn Again! Program. It has received multiple Civic Beautification awards and is designated as a State of Utah Century Farm. The Tattons enjoy sharing their story with those interested and are always up for offering a little hometown hospitality.
CB Barn: Rick & Connie Tatton
435-654-2416 | 102 W 100 N, Midway
The Tate Barn stands proud on the west side of the valley. The one story hay barn, built by English immigrant, Francis Tate, at the turn of the 20th century is built on local pot rock, and was used on the Tate’s cattle and horse ranch. Ironically, the Southern Pacific Railroad, Ogden-Lucin Cutoff Trestle was also constructed in the same year – 1902-1904 to be exact. The trestle bridge spanned the Great Salt Lake. In 1961 Wasatch State Park acquired the Tate Barn, and unfortunately, in 1996 the barn collapsed due to heavy snow loads. In preparation for the 2002 Olympic Games, and to offer a symbol of the American West to the Soldier Hollow venue, the barn was restored using the wood from the Ogden-Lucin Cutoff trestle. Today, the reconstructed barn is used for storage by the state park.
Fun Fact: There is a geocache near the Tate Barn!
Check it out at geocaching.com and happy hunting!
Tate Barn: midwaycityut.org/visit
For more info visit the Midway Visitor Center | 1281 Warm Springs Road Midway
Rustling Aspen Farm Barn
The old Probst Dairy Barn was built in 1948 as a hay and dairy barn. Back in its glory days, hay would be stacked to the very top. There are large iron grapple hooks hanging from the rafters that were used to move the hay to the top floor and wooden slat ladders creep up the walls. The old dairy cow stanchions are still in the traditional milk parlor, where cows are milked, on the north end of the barn. A stanchion is a contraption used to hold cattle in place as they’re milked. It runs the length of the parlor and catches each cow’s neck to hold them steady and allow them to feed as they’re milked. Afterwards, they return either outdoors or to a loafing area. Current owners, Rodger and Sue Pyper purchased the old barn and surrounding barnyard in 1983 from Joe Probst. Today, the Pypers use the barn to store hay for their horses, produce organic compost materials, and to hang garlic as it cures for their son and farmer, Chris. Chris’s organic vegetable and flower farm, Rustling Aspen Farm, is currently housed on the property. Behind the barn are three greenhouses and land used for production of organic vegetables and flowers. Chris is the founder of the Midway Farmers Market. Stop by on a Saturday June through October from 10-2 and grab some veggies and a bouquet grown in the company of this majestic old barn.
Rustling Aspen Farm:
rustlingaspenfarm.com | 65 N 300 W, Midway, UT
Bollschweiler Cellar and Granary
84 year old Midway resident, Martin Bollschweiler was raised on this property. His mother, Norma Martin, moved with her parents and siblings to the little farmstead in 1929 when her family sold their original farm to the Kohlers (where Kohler Dairy is now). Originally, there was a large milk barn and hay shed behind the old granary. The cellar was built using local pot rock, it is cool and musty, the perfect place to store bottled fruit and root vegetables. There are small, aged doors in the top of the granary and chutes for the grain to flow through the top portion of the build. Martin tells stories of his mother in an old rock building out behind the granary and the house where she did her wash and hung it to dry in the country air. That crisp wash would bring a little sunshine to the home. His father, Henry Bollschweiler, hauled milk to the surrounding areas. As the years passed, Martin’s brother Reed and sister Rosann moved away, but Martin kept the old home and ran a small engine repair from the old garage and cellar. I caught up with Martin just days before he left for Spring Gardens Senior Living Community in Heber. If you’d like more tales of Midway and Heber Valley go by and visit him. He’d sure appreciate the company, and you’ll be blessed with learning about a little piece of our history.
Bollschweiler Cellar and Granary: On the corner of 300 W Main Street, Midway
Batty Barn at the Old Fort Wallsburg and Spring Creek
Joe and Marcia Young took me around the old dairy barn tucked back off the road on the old Batty Family Dairy. Young grew up on the property and lives there today. Joe was able to take a cabin from the old fort built in 1865 and restore it on his current property adjoining the barnyard. Looking closely at both the barn and the fort cabin you can see the joints carefully carved to interlock the red pine logs. Red Pine was used specifically to prevent rot. Over 150 years later it has proved to be a wise choice.
Batty Barn at the Old Fort Wallsburg and Spring Creek:
175 S Center Street Wallsburg
Murdock Homestead Barns
Smack dab in the middle of town sits the 1869 homestead of James Stacy Murdock. His great-granddaughter, Joyce Bailey, now holds down the fort. Stop by and admire the two beautiful hay barns, the loafing sheds, two granaries, a handful of sheds, a chicken coop, and a pot-rock root cellar. The big board barn on the south started out two blocks away on a neighboring farm. In the time of Joyce’s father, the family pulled it with teams of horses, rolling over logs, and brought it to the homestead. Joyce remorsefully tells of a little blacksmith shop that once sat on the property. She donated it to the 2002 Olympics, and it now sits in Midway. She’d love to have the original billows return home. The property is smattered with pot rock hauled from Midway and sandstone from James Stacy Murdock’s quarry.
Murdock Homestead: 250 N 500 E Heber City
Calvin Giles Barn
The Calvin and Amber Giles family lived on the east side of Heber, but their dairy was on the west side of town. Cal and his boys would get up early to milk each morning. George Giles, Cal’s cousin, was a policeman in town and would regularly come by at 5:00 am to haul all of them to milk in the morning. If the car wouldn’t start, they’d have to hoof it across town. The boys consistently missed their first period. Things clearly weren’t working. Calvin and Amber determined something had to be done. In 1950, after the banker called Cal’s neighbors to verify his strong work ethic, he was granted a $50,000 loan to build his big hay barn, a milk barn, and his house where the cows were. Their son, Lew, worked for the Forest Service and was able to secure timber to build their barn.
Calvin, now 98, reminisces about a time when there were no grocery stores, and families had to produce their own food. “There were barns on every corner of Heber Valley. Every family had 7-8 cows, 2-3 pigs, 3-4 sheep, and a dozen or two chickens, and that is how everyone survived. Big gardens were a necessity, and food was bottled and canned. They were thrifty people.” Calvin milked 40 cows, and butter was 2¢ a pound! Now that butter is $5 a pound, the cows are all gone, and Calvin’s granddaughter and her husband own the barns and are making plans to restore the big hay barn.
While visiting each of these historic barns, I had the privilege of meeting some extraordinary people who were happy to share their stories. I invite you to take time out of your busy schedules and go for a ride around town. Imagine a simpler time, talk to the ‘old timers,’ and get to know them and their stories. If we are to value our future, we must treasure our Heber Valley’s past.