Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 21, 2023

For the love of barns

The album, nearly four inches thick, is filled with photos of barns - red ones, white ones, ones made of stone, weathered ones. Scattered throughout are newspaper and magazine clippings, dimensions and descriptions, sketches, and letters from others with similar interests. Even the Bible is referenced.

Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn? - Job 39:12.

The album was created by my mother Edla (Mostrom) Freeland, who as a young woman was somewhat taken with Kansas barns. But that casual interest blossomed to more than idle fascination in the early 1990s. Peabody resident Marilyn Jones suggested to her fellow Marion County Historical Society members that they study barns in the area. Soon after, Mom would ask to take certain routes during excursions to nearby villages so she could inspect and photograph particular barns she had heard about.

For the March 1993 society meeting in our hometown of Burns, she organized a presentation - "Remember, Old Friends are Worth Keeping." It was about barns and quilts. Underneath the program's heading, she added, "This refers to old barns and quilts (plus human friends)." The dozen or so table centerpieces she made were scale models of nearby barns. In May, they were sold at auction to raise money for the local museum.

Mom's interest came to her naturally. She grew up on a farm in Morris County and as a youngster, she helped her Papa Nels Mostrom with chores. Putting up hay was one of those.

... One of my jobs was helping Dad drive the horse team to a certain spot in the barn yard with a rope connected to them from the huge hay fork. My Dad would fill the fork with hay he had brought in from the hay field. As I drove the horses, the hay fork would slowly ascend to the top peak of the barn, make a sharp turn into the loft to any spot my Dad would want it. Dad would trip the rope and the fork would dump the hay on the loft floor. ...

Mom met Dad, a farmer like her father, while she was teaching in Burns. The Freelands had two farms, both purchased in the early 1900s. My folks married in 1946 and moved into "The West Place." A couple of miles east, dad's parents Robert and Ethel lived on "The Home Place" on the northwest edge of Burns.

Mom helped Dad with chores, often in the weather-beaten barn.

... It held stanchions on the south side for at least five milk cows, a hallway to carry buckets of grain to their mangers, calf pens on the north side, a room for grain, and a haymow for hay. ... I milked the cows when my husband was late doing custom combining ...

Mom helped with farm duties, raised brother Dave, sister Gaila and me, and took correspondence courses at Emporia State Teachers College - now Emporia State University - so she could continue teaching. Somehow, she found the time to also take art classes.

Dad also drove a school bus. After he purchased a new one in 1962, he and Grandpa Mostrom converted the barn into a bus garage, which Mom said "kept the bus warm and ready for those cold, early-morning routes."

In 1968, after my grandparents' deaths, we all moved to The Home Place, although by that time, Dave was studying at the university. The farm's barn is presumed to have been built by A.H. Kauffman as his name is inscribed on a beam with the date "1886." It was used as a dairy barn, and later, my grandparents used it raising sheep.

The three of us kids eventually made homes away from the farm. Dave became an accountant in Salina, Gaila became a teacher in Bolivia, and I became a professor in Manhattan. But we returned to the farm often. Those visits almost always included a foray into the big red barn. The sunlight filtering through cracks in the wooden siding, spider webs hanging in the corners, and the smell of hay would take us back to our childhoods. Wooden trunks, old mattress springs, worn-out tires and wooden-handled tools - remnants of days gone by - were scattered here and there. Our own children frequently followed along on these adventures, attracted by the mystery yet somewhat repelled by the unfamiliarity and odors.

Mom wished we kids would have converted the barn into a house or antique shop. But none of us chose the farm life and our children didn't either. We sold the house, outbuildings - including the barn - and a few acres in 2021. Then in 2022, we sold the farm ground. So ended the Freeland Century farm.

Looking for a home for Mom's album, I showed it to archivists in Kansas State University's special collections department, hoping they might be interested. Knowing I was biased, I was prepared to be disappointed.

But rare books specialist Roger Adams said they would love to have it.

The album is of great interest for our Kansas Life & Culture Collection as it documents so many barns, ... The architecture of each barn cannot only give clues to its age, but perhaps what it was used for, the economic status of the farm�s owner(s), and in many cases the ethnicity of the farm�s owner(s) as each barn has a distinctive style.

Your mother�s album documents so many barns, many of which have been lost due to fire or being razed. She placed them in their geographic locations and researched the families who constructed them. Her photos and the documentation make the album an incredibly valuable resource to agriculture history and those who study the architecture and utilitarian nature of the barns themselves. The album is a perfect example of a resource that we would scan and make available to the public through our electronic resources.

Mom�s small project to help the local historical society became an enduring love for Kansas barns. And now her album will have a permanent home, where it can be shared with others.

Top (l-r): "A. H. Kauffman" on The Home Place barn beam; Rev. Abraham Huber Kauffman in old age; Mom with several of the miniatures she created. Bottom (l-r): The Kauffman/Home Place barn (1) as a model with Mom's book; (2) with Mom holding the Freeland family "Century Farm" sign and (3) in Mom's pencil drawing. A "Century Farm" is one in the same family for 100 years or more. (Kauffman photo from ancestry.com)

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