By MEL MCFARLAND
I ran across this story in an 1884 Colorado Springs newspaper, and I thought you might like to hear it, too. I traveled in Pennsylvania a few years back, and saw at least one barn being finished. Near Palmer Lake there are a couple of buildings that were brought here and remodeled from old barns.
There was a new barn raised in one weekend at the Harry Redford Ranch. Neighbors turned out to assist in the putting up of one of the best barns in the county. About 15 to 20 people joined in, some coming from several miles away. At the end of the day’s work they all held a celebration which included dancing that kept up until the next morning’s sunrise! Refreshments were abundant and provided the gathering with a very enjoyable time. This part says there were a total of 60 or so guests, all together.
At the time there were a few area sawmills where lumber may have originated. The most probable source was Black Forest, then called “the Pinery,” but the lumber might have even come from the forests at the top of Ute Pass. The railroads in the area were used to haul large quantities of timber for heavy building projects. There were two that served the Pinery. On the west edge, the Denver and Rio Grande loaded timbers at several stations as far north as Sedalia. The Denver and New Orleans, which came through the middle of the forest was quite close to several of the sawmills. It would have taken several carloads just for framing one large barn.
Up in Ute Pass, the timbers had to be brought to Manitou by wagons prior to 1887. The trip took at least two days, just to go 15 or so miles due to the steep path. After 1887 there was a railroad passing through the area. Timber was cut from as far as South Park. Timbering was big business starting in 1871 when construction of Colorado Springs got into full swing and it remained “big business” into the 1930s. In the small town along the railroads, one of the biggest buildings in town, other than hotels, was the lumber yard.
A barn-raising was a significant event at the time. There are still a few surviving structures on the farms east of the mountains, but they are getting to be quite rare. On the farms, the barn soon followed a simple house. A basic house and barn were sometimes the same building. The sequence of construction and the choice of structure built was often dictated by our unpredictable weather. As the settlers learned about the area’s wind and snow patterns, buildings built in the spring were often different from those built in the fall. A new, larger house, was often not built until the barn was finished. As the neighbors helped raise the barn, some were probably returning the favor of helping built their own barn.
E.M. “Mel” McFarland is an artist, historian and railroad enthusiast. He is a Pikes Peak region native and has written a handful of books and guides highlighting the area’s rich history. Contact Mel at email@example.com.