Hiram Parr's Barn

By dhowell - Posted on 08 December 2013

Fourscore and seven years ago, Hiram and Louisa (Cash) Parr brought me forth to serve part of their needs for the 200 acre farm purchased a few years before. It was an L-shaped farm wrapped around a bend of the Raisin River and extending from E. Austin Road up to Parr Rd to Hogan Road and then east to the township line. Two of the fields were east of the houses along Parr Road in the village.

Hiram Parr, c. 1935

Hiram planted a row of catalpa trees from the village line along Parr Road to Hogan Road. I have enjoyed a spectacular scene of their white flowers each spring for nearly all my years.

I was built as a cow and horse barn. However, when I was brand new and still clean in 1909, the farm workshop next to the granary was spruced up and used as a bedroom by the three Parr boys (Walter, Clayton, and Lowell) during the summer while their new house was under construction.

Feed and grain for the horses and cattle was stored upstairs on the grade floor. In the basement there were four horse stalls and a box stall, a row of stanchions for nine cows and an open basement area for feeder cattle. Under the ramp to my main floor was a large cement tank to store water for the animals. The windmill up at the house could be set running with the water valve switched to fill this tank. Often the windmill ran for a whole day at a time to fill the tank. Water was piped from the main tank to the smaller one built for the horses and cows. A float valve in the tank (similar to what is in a toilet tank today) let in more water as needed. Eventually, another pipe was laid to the 1926 barn where lower tanks were filled in the same way to water the sheep. But, I wasn't a sheep barn and had nothing to do with them.

Underneath the peak of my roof they hung an iron track. It was equipped with a hay car used to unload bulk hay from the wagons and to pull it into the hay mow. One-third of a load of hay was unloaded on each pull and did my rafters and joints creek from the strain. Each sling or double set of harpoon forks lifted about as much hay as is in a large round bale today.
This work could be dangerous. Once when Hiram was driving the horses on the hay rope, he made the mistake of standing in the bite (loop) of the rope as he was bringing the team back to the barn. The hay car safety equipment misfired somehow and the hay plunged back to onto the wagon, jerking the rope back with it. Hiram's feet were caught by the loop of the rope and he plunged backwards to the ground. He suffered a broken shoulder blade and damage to the nerves in his arm from which he never recovered. No wonder he always cautioned his boys and grandsons, "Never stand in the bite of the rope". But that problem arose from store bought equipment attached to me and had nothing to do with my dependability.

Howard Clark was the carpenter-builder for my project. Most of the materials came from the woods on the farm. Clarkie went into the woods the season before I was built to pick out the kinds and sizes of trees needed. Trees were felled, logs cut at the sawmill sawed into beams, plates, rafters, and roof boards. When these came back to the site, they were cut, bored, and fitted to make mortise and tenon joints to hold my frame together.

The siding, cedar shingles, nails and spikes, windows and door hinges and hangers were bought from a hardware store along with that infamous hay car. I was painted red and trimmed with white. Red lead came as powder in wooden kegs. This was mixed with turpentine and linseed oil with lampblack to create the right shade of red. White lead was used to make paint for the trim. When all was completed you could read the following as you stood in from of me: H. Parr 1907.

One of the reasons that I have stood so long has to do with the two-foot stone walls used for my foundation. William Urh Sr. and his sons Fred (Mildred and John's father) and young Bill (Earl and Mae's father) were hired as stone masons. They cut and set the field stones gathered from the farm to form the walls. Uhrs were good masons and later were hired to do the beautiful stone work on the foundations and front porch of the new house. The concrete foundations used for the new barn in 1926 failed years ago and that barn was razed because of it.

I served Hiram until he died in 1940. Son Lowell then bought the farm and I served him until the 70's when he retired to town. We knew that when the state decided to route M-52 through the farm, many changes were to come. And, they did. Farming ceased as I had known it, some of the fields made the right-of-way for the new road and others were stripped to furnish gravel to build causeways. The rest was sold to speculators.

Then the part of the farm where I stood was made an industrial park. I could see the handwriting on the wall. Fortunately I wasn't to be removed by burning is the case with so many barns. Don Limpert was selected to take me down and he uses old barns as recycled material for modern projects. He made me stand naked for several weeks after he removed my siding to be used for barnwood themes somewhere. In mid-May I had to say good-bye when he cut apart part of my frame and gently pulled what was left of me into the old barnyard. No doubt he will disassemble me and, who knows? One of my beams or posts may end up in your home as a fireplace mantel or be used to patch some other barn's rotting frame. I may no longer be a barn, but parts of me will be around Manchester for another four score and ten years, I hope.

By Howard Parr, grandson of Hiram and Louise, along with his brothers and sister: Leslie Parr, Floyd Parr, and Hazel Parr Walker.

(from The Manchester Chronicle, June, 1994)