It was quite a surprise to Henry and Alice Evert, 3881 E. Grand River Road, Williamston, when a family member told them he had seen a photograph of their barn in a book — on Page 161 of “The Ultimate Book of Historic Barns,” published in 2000.
And no wonder it was chosen by Robin Langley Sommer for the collection. It certainly fits the description of a well-kept “ultimate” barn.
Built about 1940, the rainbow-roofed barn is 45 feet wide by 125 feet long. Laminated roof-supports run the full length from peak to floor of the barn, which was built of solid-board framing brought in from Indiana for the 35-foot-high structure.
“This barn was built a few years before older barns on the property burned in 1948,” Henry Evert explains. “Electrical fire, I believe.”
The Everts bought the farm in 1966, moving there from Farmington. “We made the move on April 8, my birthday,” he says with a laugh. “We moved our equipment, the bulk tank and 25 cows. We were the largest operating dairy farm at the time in Farmington, but it’s all condos now. You don’t recognize anything anymore.”
A milk house was added to the big white barn in 1967, and the herd soon grew to 45. At the time, the barn was built by the previous owners, the Jason family; about 75% of it housed horses and the remainder cattle.
“They collected urine from pregnant mares,” says Evert, “for medical use.” One of the most common uses is in the making of Premarin, a hormone replacement therapy for women, the brand name keying from the words pregnant – mare – urine.
The Everts had cattle stanchions on one side of the barn and loafing stalls on the other, and retained two large box stalls in the center for use as maternity pens.
“We milked Holstein cattle until 1980, but my knees were getting bad so we sold the cows and went entirely to crop farming,” Evert says. After the cows were sold, the Everts had the barn vinyl-sided to eliminate the need for painting. A cement-stave silo at the southwest corner of the barn was removed after it began to weaken.
A small tornado chewed up the barn’s roof a couple of years ago. The old roofing was removed down to the wood sheathing beneath original cedar shake shingles. The sheathing was replaced, all old shingles were removed, and new roofing was put in place.
“We use the barn now for storage,” says Evert. “A barn is something that if you don’t take care of it, it will deteriorate, especially the roof. But if you do maintain it, it will last a lifetime or two or more. A good barn — the ones built years ago — are something you just don’t find easily. The key is to take care of the roof. Do that, and you’ve really got something special.”
Corey Arnett writes from Battle Creek.