The 14th Annual Ohio Barn Conference will be held in Athens County Friday, April 26th and Saturday, April 27th, 2013. The barn tour will visit selected farmsteads established on the unglaciated plateau of Ohio. Most of the barns in this region of the state are the work of Yankee settlers and their descendants from New England and the southerners migrating from Virginia. You will see the New England three-bay barns with a side entry and some southern barns with the gable end entry as you come into the Hocking River watershed.
The region was first settled by migrants from Massachusetts who came down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh and established Marietta. The same folks who created Ohio’s first organized settlement in Marietta headed up the Muskingum Valley and over into the valley of the great Hockhocking River and soon founded the first educational institution west of the Alleghenies, the American Western University, soon changed to Ohio University. They brought their cultural baggage with them and that included the three bay English barn. Some are ground barns and many are built into a bank with a basement for livestock.
The other migrants entering this region came up the Muskingum, The Hockhocking, the Scioto and the Little Miami rivers from Virginia and the Carolinas. Virginia was just across the Ohio River as West Virginia wasn’t established until the Civil War. Among the cultural artifacts these Virginians brought with them was the southern barn, typically a ground barn with the entry at the gable end. Some have a hayhood over the doorway.
The Pennsylvania bank barn is relatively unknown in this section of the Ohio landscape. If you see one, it’s an outlier. However, the 1850 Census indicates that a substantial number of migrants from Middle Atlantic states, such as Pennsylvania and Maryland, were living in Athens, Meigs, and Washington counties at the time. Research continues to be done on settlement of Ohio such as that being done by Dr. Timothy Anderson of Ohio University. Settlers from Pennsylvania, Maryland and other Middle Atlantic states were the most abundant migrants in Athens, Washington, Meigs, Gallia and Lawrence counties. The apparent absence of the Pennsylvania German bank barn with a forebay in this region is somewhat curious. The barnbuilders predominant in the region may simply not have been from Pennsylvania.
The Barn Conference is scheduled to be held in the Auditorium of the old Athens Asylum. While many of these old institutions have been demolished in the past few decades around Ohio and the rest of the nation most of this old complex of buildings is still standing, albeit in disrepair. It is badly in need of attention but still standing. Nearby is one of the institution’s old agricultural buildings which has been converted into the Dairy Barn Cultural Arts Center.
By: Tom O’Grady
Images by: Tom O’Grady