Barn Raising in 1843

(Betty Cass in the Madison State Journal)

Vroman barn LRNinety-four years ago this summer, in 1843 (no one remembers the exact day or month) the most tremendous barn-raising ever seen in Dane county before or since was held on the Vroman farm near Fitchburg, eight miles from Madison, Joseph Vroman, who had come west from New York in 1840, built a log cabin for his family, and started to farm, had prospered, and the new barn, the largest in southern Wisconsin, was the outward and visible sign of his prosperity.

He and his helpers had worked for months, making ready for the “raising.” They had felled and hewn giant oak trees for the supporting beams, two of which were 36 feet long and 15 inches square. The solid oak planks were ready for the flooring and the wooden pegs which were to hold it together were stacked in neat piles waiting the mallet which would drive them home.

When the time came for the “raising” the neighbors from over the entire county gathered, George Stoner, after whom the nearby station was later named, was a small boy at the time and only stood by and watched, but in later years he remembered that some folks had come from fifty miles away for the long-looked-for Vroman “barn raising.

At any rate, two or three hundred people gathered. Entire families came… and stayed, some of them for two and three days. There was a mammoth picnic on the day of the actual raising, and barbecues, and, probably, (though no one is living who remembers) the traditional dance when the floor was laid and the roof on.

The main supporting beams of the structure, the two 36-foot ones, fastened together about six feet apart and supported by short cross-beams, took seventy-five men to lift and put in place. The hay mow, when completed, held sixty tons of hay, and the other end of the barn had a floor with quarter-inch cracks between the boards for shelling corn and threshing grain. The ears of corn were laid on the floor, an ox driven around and around on it, and the grains of corn fell through the cracks onto a solid floor beneath, The grain was also laid on the floor, was beaten with a flail, and the grain fell through the cracks, A few years ago this floor, displaced by modern methods, was replaced with an ordinary one.

Eventually Joseph Vroman passed on to join his ancestors and Hiram Vroman, his son, born on the farm, took his place. Today Hiram Vroman, 90 years old, sits peacefully in the twilight of his life in the home his father built, in the only home he has ever known, while his sons, Arthur and Elmer, the third generation of Vromans to till those acres, run the farm.

And all of these years the old barn, all solid oak except the siding boards, with its hand-cut 1843 in the topmost foot of the gable, has housed the Vroman livestock and hoarded the Vroman harvest—but now “It has outlived its usefulness,” Elmer Vroman says, “and Wednesday the carpenters will come to take it down,”

Some of the splendid oaken beams, with the marks of those axes of ninety-four years ago, will be used in the new buildings which are to take its place. Some of them will be sold . . . probably to antique collectors.

Wausau Daily Record-Herald, Wausau, Wisconsin June 24, 1937, p 12