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Schroeder Barn was a wedding gift

Family lived in barn for eight years

Staff writer

Gates will open at noon Friday for the annual Country Threshing Days on the campus of Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum in Goessel.

Activities will continue through Sunday, culminating in a 2 p.m. guided tour of the historic Schroeder Barn.

Museum director Fern Bartel posted a history of the barn on the museum’s website.

Schroeder Barn was built in 1902 by Jacob J. Schroeder as a wedding gift to his son Jacob H. Schroeder and his bride, Susie Janzen.

The couple lived in two rooms at the end of the barn for eight years. Their four oldest children were born there, delivered by Jacob’s mother, Margaret Schroeder.

The extended Schroeder family gave the barn a facelift earlier this year, including new paint and the replacement of rotted siding.

Visitors will tour the barn, learn about its history, and have an opportunity to share their own barn stories.

In 1910, the Schroeders moved a house onto the farmstead, and the living quarters in the barn were converted to grain bins.

The farmstead on which the barn stood was located about five miles northwest of Goessel and remained in the family until the mid-1950s.

The barn was moved to Goessel in 1988 and renovated. The restored living quarters displays period furniture, as well as sections of the original walls.

Bartel said when siding was replaced, workers discovered that straw had been packed between the studs to provide insulation for the living quarters.

The barn features horse stalls, an oats bin, and an equipment room on the ground floor and a hayloft on the second floor.

The living quarters had a hardwood floor. The walls appeared to be covered with wallpaper. The barn had a dirt floor, but planks sawn from local ash and hackberry trees were added.

One of the distinctive features of the barn is a cupola, a small, square-shaped structure on top of the roof. Its primary purpose was to provide ventilation. The cupola was one of few in the Goessel area that survived a historic 1906 tornado. 

Although the Schroeder Barn was not a typical house and barn combination, it was common for people to build housebarns prior to the 1890s. They built a barn first, and then lived in the barn while building a house.

The concept of living in housebarns can be traced back to life in Prussia and Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries and before that, to the Netherlands, the ancestral country of origin for most Mennonites in the Goessel community. So the thought of people living under the same roof as livestock was not considered strange in 1902.

The Schroeders clearly considered that living in this barn was a temporary arrangement.

Seven other buildings will be open for viewing, including two pioneer houses, two early schoolhouses, the Wheat Palace with farm implements and a wheat bell, and the main museum.

Weekend activities include a 9:30 a.m. parade Saturday, and field demonstrations like threshing, corn binding, corn shelling, ensilage chopping, and plowing each day. Prairie tractors and steam engines will be started up.

Meals will be served at the Wheat Hall. Breakfast will be 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Friday, 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. Saturday, and 7 to 9 a.m. Sunday. Lunch will be 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Supper will be 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, and 4:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

After Sunday’s barn open house, a supper will be served from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

More facts and figures

Susie Janzen’s parents paid $200 toward the barn. The timber cost two cents a board foot.

Jacob J. Schroeder owned the land and built the barn on a new farmstead in the middle of the section. This was thought to be a deterrent to thievery.

After a house was moved onto the property, the barn was moved to be near the house. A lean-to was added to the north end to house machinery and dairy cows.

The children had a pony named Pat that was hitched to a buggy to take them to Pleasant Valley School 1½ miles away. The pony was kept in a barn at school and fed oats at noon and again at home after school.

The children put blankets over their heads when it was cold. Pat knew the way home.

Jacob J. hired wheat harvest workers. He picked them up at the train station in Canton. They slept in the barn. They charged $1 to $3 an hour.

When hay was piled high in the barn, the children played in the cupola and sometimes took pigeons to their mother, who cooked them.

The barn was no longer used after 1957.

Last modified July 31, 2019

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