Editor’s note. We would like to feature more barns that are still being used. Contact Jan Corey Arnett at [email protected].
A lilting song carries the line, “It’s a small world after all; it’s a small, small world.” That certainly must be true because what are the chances of someone from a tiny town in Massachusetts buying rugged northern Michigan land in the late 1800s, and then, more than a century later, that same land coming into the ownership of someone whose parents once lived in that same Massachusetts community?
That is what Sharon Wyman, owner of Pleasant View Ranch, 7755 Maple Lane Road, Posen, learned after she and her late husband, Tom, purchased their rural Michigan property in 1983.
The original 80-acre portion of the ranch was settled in the late 1800s by James Gardner who built a barn there between 1899 and 1911.
“We discovered that the 80 acres adjacent to Gardner’s land was settled by Louise Blough, who came here from Somerville, Mass.,” Sharon explains. “My father was born in Sault Ste. Marie, but when he and my mother married, their first home was in Somerville. This is a special connection for me.”
The Blough property soon became part of Gardner’s homestead, bringing the total acreage to 160. It remained in the Gardner family for a short time but was held for several years by a bank before being sold twice more.
“The barn has always been a hardworking structure, and it has always housed livestock,” Sharon says. “Since we have had ownership, many champion Herefords have either been born or cared for in this barn that we love. Our Herefords have competed in national expositions.”
The Pleasant View Ranch barn reflects its heritage in its hand-hewn timbers and rough-sawn vertical siding. It cleanly fits the stereotypical image of a red, gambrel-roofed barn at 36 feet by 53 feet in size and about 40 feet to its peak. It is just the kind of barn used in advertising to promote wholesome food or hard-working trucks.
The haymow has two built-in pegged ladders in the center bay and ladders on both the north and south walls. This allows easy access to the haymows and, typical of the day, a wagon could be pulled by horses onto the main floor to be emptied using overhead forks and a pulley system.
“Our barn has a fieldstone foundation that is 2 feet thick,” Sharon says. “Our livestock stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer.” Supportive beams in the basement are roughly 49 inches in circumference. Three basement bays provide mangers on either side for feeding with the center bay as a walkway.
Many barns record history in the names, dates and markings related to crop production scratched into woodwork. One of the doors in the Pleasant View Ranch barn bears the name “Leo Zawaski” and the date Jan. 5, 1911. Given that this part of Michigan was settled by many Polish immigrants, it is likely Zawaski was one of those immigrants who came to American in search of new opportunities.
Modest changes, such as a door designed for pigs being enlarged to accommodate the Herefords, and other adjustments, were made by the Wymans. On Christmas Day 1995, Tom mounted a weathervane to the barn’s roof, a gift from Sharon’s parents that is a special treasure.
Little did anyone realize that Tom would pass away unexpectedly in June 2011, leaving Sharon in limbo. Should she sell? Should she stay? Follow through on their plans, or leave it all behind?
Good friends and good advice led to her choosing to stay and undertake repairs to the barn that were planned. The wiring has been redone, lighting has been upgraded, a new steel roof has been installed, and all eight custom-sized barn windows have been replaced. Mow boards damaged by a leaky roof years ago have been replaced, and the barn has been repainted.
The Hereford herd at Pleasant View Ranch numbers 12, and each animal has a name and a personality. Sharon is assisted in the care and keeping of the herd, and the ranch by her sons, Brian and Russell.
“I love working with Herefords, and I love my barn,” Sharon says with certainty. “This barn is a gem and a part of Michigan’s important heritage.”
Corey Arnett writes from Battle Creek.