Sunset At The Barn

Judy Seltenright

South Bend, United States

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Fulton County Round Barn Museum
Leedy/Partridge/Paxton Round Barn

This round barn was built by Bert Leedy in Richland Township on Old U.S. 31 just north of County Road 650 N. It was built in 1924, which made it the last round barn built in Fulton County The wooden part of the barn was built by the C. V. Kindig Construction Company. Bert had a regular rectangular barn that was struck by lightning and burned to the ground in September 1924. Winter was coming on and Bert needed a new barn and he needed it fast. He had livestock that needed shelter and he had cows to milk – and you don’t want to sit in a snow drift to milk cows by hand.

Bert’s brother, Ezra Leedy, had had a round barn built a few years before and we can imagine Ezra probably said, “Bert, you ought to build a round barn. I like my round barn.” We do know that round barns were advertised as faster, easier and cheaper to build – because they were! A regular barn at that time used post and beam construction with beams a foot thick and 40 feet long. It took a lot of men a lot of work to build one. The round barn was faster, easier and cheaper because it used lumber that was one inch thick and it used nails instead of pegs placed in holes to hold it together. To bend the lumber to make the circular beams, they could either soak the boards in a near-by creek or use green lumber. The big circular beams were made of nine layers of one-inch boards nailed together. They used scaffolding inside the barn to work on the roof and built it there in the air. That is how the new roof was put on the present Round Barn Museum. Something about the principal of the arch holds the circular beams in the air as the builders construct the roof framework. Then they put on a cedar shingle roof. The barn is 55 feet tall from the ground to the cupola’s top. Last of all, they painted it white.

About 40 neighbors came and helped Bert mix the concrete to make the floor and eight foot tall walls for the lower level of the barn. The barn is 60 feet in diameter, the concrete walls are 8 feet tall and the wooden sidewalls are 16 feet tall. The footer, walls and floor required a boxcar-load of cement. The wall was poured by the neighbors in three days, which was quite a feat in those days. The barn originally was used to house farm animals. The lower level has 9 horse stalls and 11 cow stalls, and also sheltered sheep, calves, steers, and pigs. At harvest time the hayloft of the barn was filled with 50 or 60 loads of hay and 10 to 12 loads of straw for bedding. There was a grain bin in the hayloft which held 230 bushels of oats for feed. A corn crib in the lower level held 90 bushels of ear corn.

This barn was owned by Harold Partridge 1972-75 and by Larry Paxton 1975-89. On Sept. 1, 1989, a tornado took the roof off, so Paxton donated the damaged barn to the Fulton County Historical Society. It was moved and restored beside the museum on New U.S. 31 with $40,000 lent by Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. The restored barn, costing a total of $65,000, was completed in 1991 and dedicated in June during the Round Barn Festival.

The barn is a museum now because it displays antique farm machinery and tools, horse-drawn equipment, a 1910 buggy, a sleigh, and a 1912 Lincoln truck. The barn has no heat but is open year around, weather permitting. The hayloft has circular pews donated by the Grace United Methodist Church, Rochester, which provides seating for about 200. School children fill the pews to hear the history of round barns during their tours of the museum and its buildings. The round barn has dances, music and other programs in the hayloft during festivals and special events.

Fulton County, Indiana Round Barn Capital of the World

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