Amish community comes together for barn raising near Westby

Amish community comes together for barn raising near Westby

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Amish barn raising

The Amish community came together for a barn raising at the Jacob and Ida Schrock residence on Cty. P, east of Westby, on Wednesday, Aug. 29.

The Amish community comes together for a variety of reasons, but none of them provide such a picture perfect opportunity like an old-fashioned barn raising.

By the end of the day on Wednesday, Aug. 29, Jacob and Ida Schrock and their eight children had a new barn at their residence on Cty. P, east of Westby.

Once Schrock made the decision to move forward with the barn raising he contacted a community foreman, Dan Yoder, who set the process in motion. Schrock selected a blueprint of the barn design he preferred from only a handful of blueprints available to members of the Amish community. The blueprints for Amish barns are drawn on a piece of plywood, with slight variations to the barn design etched in pencil on each side. The master plywood blueprint is durable and used numerous times for many years to keep the barns consistent with each other. Although small changes in the design are allowed, the heart of the structures always remains intact.

Yoder and Schrock then made internal contacts within the community to ensure availability of workers and to alleviate conflicting dates prior to the date of the barn raising being set.

Schrock then had to have the foundation work completed; including digging the footers, pouring the cement foundation and laying the cement blocks. The cement for the foundation was mixed, poured and finished by the Amish to save money on the overall project. The foundation of the 36 foot wide by 76 foot long structure was poured earlier in the week, while the entire construction process from beginning to end took only 2-3 weeks to complete.

Inside the barn is a milk house, stanchions for 10 cows, room for the horses and a 12-foot lean to addition on the south side of the barn will be used for feed storage and general use.

Schrock had to pre-order his lumber and steel, which were both bought from businesses outside of the community. At one time the Amish cut their own lumber for a barn raising, but have since incorporated mass produced lumber to save time for large projects like building a barn.

Menno Hershberger, (Ida Schrock's father), said precut lumber has good quality, is easy to work with and the price is reasonable when bought in large quantities.

Menno Hershberger had his barn raised in 1974. It was the first barn in the community to have red steel siding and a galvanized grey steel roof. Before that time Amish barns were constructed with wood siding and a metal roof, but most have since followed the red and grey prototype of the Hershberger barn.

Several barn raisings are held annually and many are within a buggy ride of each other. Listed below are several barn raisings held within the past five years near Westby.

• Chester Hershberger, (Ida Schrock's brother), who lives right next door to the Schrock family on Cty. P built a barn in 2008;

• Leslie Kast, Anderson Road, lost his barn in a wind storm in 2008 and had it rebuilt by the community the same year;

• Joe Schrock, (Jacob's brother), built a barn on Clinton Ridge in 2009;

• John Henry Miller, Anderson Road, put up a new barn in 2010;

• Sam and Lillie Mast, East Salem Ridge Road, had their barn raising July 6, 2012;

• Jacob and Ida Schrock’s barn, Cty. P, went up on Aug. 29, 2012; and

• Johnny Jr. and Emma Herschberger, Knapp Valley Road; held their barn raising on Aug. 31, 2012.

One by one buggies began rolling in to the Schrock residence at dawn in preparation for the day ahead. The barn raising began at 6 a.m. and by 4 p.m. the structure had all four walls, the roof and siding completed and many of the laborers had already headed home. An estimated 150-200 people participated in the actual barn raising, along with two dozen women who stayed busy preparing food for the full course noon meal. Dozens of children scurried nearby the construction site learning the tricks of the trade by watching the process unfold in front of them and knowing they will someday soon be a part of it, not sideline bystanders.

Jacob Schrock was the go-to man for the day. He kept the process flowing and relied on the community foremen to oversee the project. The young bucks in the community manned the highest points on the barn and the elders in the community helped with lighter projects on the ground, or watched the process from a lawn chair nearby. Men aged 16-60, most speaking to each other in their Amish language (Pennsylvanian Deutsch), did the heavy labor jobs. The only pay they received for a hard day of work was not measured in dollars or cents, but with a hearty meal and the pride they took in knowing they had helped out a family in their community.

"It's rewarding to see the community come together and the best part is that I will have a barn at the end of the day. Everything went like clockwork and I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product," Jacob Schrock said.

Ida Schrock said the noon meal consisted of baked chicken, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, potato salad, beans and desserts including pies, cakes and ice cream. The Schrocks raised the chickens used for the meal and grew their own potatoes, while other members of the community provided a dish to pass to help offset the cost for the family hosting the event.

"We use as much of our own food as possible," Ida Schrock said.

The women baked 100 pounds of chicken in a wood fire stove they borrowed for the day from a family member. Preparing for the meal is a huge task and Ida sought out plenty of advice from other community members who had undertook such a project previously. They cut and peeled pot-after-pot of potatoes to cook for mashing, baked five gallons of beans had 14 pails of potato salad ready to serve, plus 17 pies, four cakes and multiple gallons of ice cream for dessert.

A large tent was set up in the yard and tables were arranged cafeteria style, using glass plates, stainless steel silverware, glass water tumblers and ceramic coffee mugs. The Schrock families, like others in the community, take advantage of area rummage sales and thrift stores to buy enough serving ware, including plates and silverware, to host large events like a barn raising. They also rely on family to supply the rest so they don’t come up short of eating utensils.

"Everything tastes better on real plates and using real silverware," Ida Schrock said.

After dinner, the men took a small break, while the women combine forces to wash dishes by hand. Before the day is done the laborers will have a snack and the Schrocks will provided plenty of beverages including coffee, water, juice and plenty of soft drinks.

At 1 p.m. the men headed back to the barn to finish the job at hand. They surrounded the building like a swarm of bees and finished the project like they were constructing a hive for the queen bee to live.

Neighbors Lars Bergan, Dean Jensen and John LeDue stopped by to watch the amazing process unfold.

Bergan was impressed with the speed at which the crew worked and how they timed everything to allow for beaks as needed.

“A barn raising is such a well oiled machine to watch,” Bergan said.

LeDue reveled at the cooperation within the community and how we could all take a lesson or two from the Amish.

"Many hands make light work," John LeDue said.

Jensen said the work ethic of the community is self perpetuating and that the youth learn from watching the process time and time again.

"By the time they are 21-years-old they will have helped build at least 10 barns. Hands-on labor is how they learn. They don’t complain about working, they just do it," Jensen said.

John Henry Miller, whose barn was raised in 2010, was busy hauling steel siding. He took time to comment that when everyone cooperates things get done quickly.

“Helping out your neighbors is a reward in itself, besides the good eats of course,” Miller said as he got a whiff of the chicken cooking nearby.

The Schrocks were extremely grateful for the community assistance they received at their barn raising. Jacob Schrock was asked how long before he would be requesting assistance to construct a new house for his wife and eight children, to which he quickly changed the subject and saying barn first, house later and one raising at a time.


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