Barn Preservation Society
to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns
FALL 2001, Vol 14, Issue 2
NEW YORK STATE AROUND 1680
(Continuing the series on the history of the
American Dutch Barn)
By Robert J. Andersen
The new nation had no choice but to build its wealth upon
exports. In the first 100 years it took tobacco and grain, in the
second 100 years it took cotton, and in the third 100 years it
took machinery to build the country.
SEE TABLE 1.
(1) ADAPTED FROM THE STATISTICAL HISTORY OF THE UNITED
STATES, BUR. OF CENSUS, SERIES Z 76-107.
(2) ADAPTED FROM THE RISE OF NEW YORK PORT, ALBION PAGE
(3) ADAPTED FROM THE STATISTICAL HISTORY... SERIES U CONTINUATION
In New York State the history books give no hint of the enormity
of the agricultural industry. In 1680 ninety-five percent of the
population lived on farms. With all those farm folk, there was
little room left in the economy for merchants, carpenters, tanners,
cobblers, coopers, smiths and politicians. These were strictly
domestic artisans, not players on the world stage like the wheat
Pasture was the most efficient source of nutrients for a livestock
ration, followed by roughage and grain. Pasture had the added feature
in that it was self-fed, thereby saving labor. The early Dutchmen
were no doubt disappointed that they could not carryon the accustomed
enterprise, dairying. It was not adapted and there were no markets.
Those shortcomings could not be overcome.
The New York farmer of Colonial times did not engage in livestock
farming beyond the subsistence level. Every family had its own
cows so there was no serious commerce in dairy products or beef.
It was also true that no means of refrigeration, which was so necessary
for milk, existed. Much later the cow came into its own when the
huge urban population of New York created an insatiable demand
for milk and milk products. This helped to overcome the shortcomings.
The lack of mechanical refrigeration also kept it a local industry
for many, many years. The author has hauled ice from his uncles
icehouse to cool the cans of milk (1932) and he has cooled his
own milk (1972) with bulk tank, instantaneous cooling. In 1932
even the milk train used hard ice to transport milk 150 miles to
the city. The colonists had no such facilities. They had to use
the highly perishable milk, quickly, before it would sour or manufacture
some less perishable product like butter or cheese. Those products,
to become viable, would require huge amounts of milk, which the
land at that time could not sustain. The cows of that period were
small and inefficient as milk producers and the available feed
was inadequate. Family cows were the norm and as such were not
a factor in the design of the barn. The shrewd Dutch businessman
required every cubic foot of space for highly profitable wheat.
The economic pressure was real in the lumber industry in colonial
times. The Dutch would alternate purchases of lumber between New
York and the Balkans depending on prices. New York was known for
its spar timber, much in demand for sailing ships. Lumber was a
second-class cargo though, because of its bulk. Given the capacity
of a vessel, there was much more value in a cargo of flour. Lumber
did not become a very serious product for New York State.
"The Lumber Industry" FOX.
Wheat was the most negotiable product because of its durability.
As the staff of life, it was always in demand. As the fur trade
diminished, the Dutch and English settlers of New York found their
fortune in wheat before any other product. A culture they could
perform like home in Europe.
The truth of this statement would be verified during the next
92 years. To begin with, Governor Andros reported to the King that
New York had exported 60,000 Bu. of wheat in the year 1678. (DOC
History of NY) This came to 7 Bu. for each of the 8564 rural residents.
In the next 92 years the exports of all the colonies reached these
See Table Two, Table Three, Table
During the colonial period the small grains required intensive
hand labor to produce. The time constraints made the harvest an
all hands operation that involved the whole family. As such, it
was the limiting factor in the amount of grain that could be grown.
The number of people was closely associated with the total number
of bushels produced. As the country increased in population so
did production. The culture of grain was little changed from that
of the pharaohs. Change in production could only come about with
more people, and more farms.
Please note that for all the colonies, the per capita production
of small grains, for export, was 1.5 Bu. in 1770. We have shown
that the figure was 7 Bu. in 1678 in New York State alone. At this
point we have no figures for New York in 1770. Since there was
no breakthrough in production technology, we are assuming that
any new farms in New York would continue the trend to wheat and
other grains at the same rate. If we apply the 7 Bu. to the 1770
population of New York we ,can postulate the New York production
for that year and what part of the whole can be attributed to the
See Table Five
It is estimated that, in 1770, 36% of all the small grains grown
in the colonies, for export, were grown in "American Dutch
From the TIMES Union, Albany, NY March
"The Port of Albany, which can still boast of having
the largest single-unit grain elevator on navigable waters,
is a major site for the export of American grain Last Month,
eight ships took on 219,630 tons and sailed down the Hudson."
While the State is no longer a significant producer of grain for
export, the above described activity of the port, which started
in the center of what was Rensselaerwyck in 1625, is a fitting
tribute to Kiliaen van Rensselaer who made a prophesy in 1640.
He wrote to William Kieft, Director of New Netherlands saying,
"I think that my farming people will, in proportion
man for man, grow more grain than any others and thus help
to make the country rich in grain so as in time to nourish
Brasil and bring home sugar in return for meal sent there:
then New Netherlands will flourish." (VRBM, p. 482)
importance of wheat was manifested in many civic seals of early
New York. This was a tribute to their source of wealth.
With the beginning of commerce in New York State the Hudson River
was the stage. The arena would be extended westward with the Erie
Canal. The Great Lakes and the Mississippi River would complete
the avenues by which the country became the greatest wheat exporter
in the entire world. It all started in American Dutch Barn Country.
At the end of the American Dutch Barn reign this countries yearly
grain export was distributed as follows:
See Table Six:
It was apparent where the countries grain industry was centered.
In 1860 New York's volume was almost equal to that of the rest
of the nation combined. This is the legacy left by those buildings
that did the job so well, our American Dutch Barns.
To gain an appreciation for all the grain that was grown in the
young colony we must consider the domestic use as well as the exports.
A great deal of grain was used for seed and sustenance. In fact,
most of the grain was used at home. It can truly be said that the
surplus went for export.
Bread was customarily made from wheat and could take many forms:
loaf, biscuit, pancake, and other, leavened or unleavened. It dated
back to the emergence of wheat 10,000 years ago and it has been
a major source of calories for the human race ever since. Wheat
always meant great wealth to those who had it, i.e. Egypt and United
States. We have allotted one pound of flour (Loaf) per head in
our accounting as per "Statistical History".
Beer was also ancient history. Statistical History and even Everyday
life in Babylonia 1000 BC, by Georges Conrenau, allot a gallon
a day. The amateur beer makers that I have spoken to allow 2 lbs.
of grain for each gallon produced.
See Table Seven:
SPIRITS, while a small part of the diet, some grain was required
to produce it. One bushel of grain (Rye, Barley, or Wheat) produced
one gallon direct from the still. With sugar added it yielded 6
gallons and when further diluted with water 8 gallons resulted
from a bushel of grain. (This data assumes a process similar to
that described in The Foxfire Book, Anchor Press AO-36, Page 340.)
Because of the prolific trade with the West Indies it was likely
that some rum was imported for domestic use. Brandy was also used.
The consumption of locally produced drink produced from grain is
arbitrarily set at 1.5 gal. per year per cap.
Present day per capita consumption of alcohol is 2.5.
See Table Eight:
1 Reported by the Governor
2 Bolting yield 75%
Final disposition of the 1678 crop must allow for the next years
seed. During the decade, population had increased 7.1 % yearly.
It was then prudent to save seed for a crop of 107.1 % or 197527
bu. for the next year. At an average yield of 10 bu. per acre this
would require 19753 acres and 39506 bu., using the standard
seeding rate of 2 bu. per acre.
The grand total became 184432 for disposition and 39506 for propagation,
or 223938 bu. in total. The supposition thus became that
each of the 8564 rural people had to produce 26 bu., which required
(In the next issue we will explore how this was
done, the logistics of producing the crop.)
NOTE: The figures in this article contain some conjecture, but
the comprehensive numbers are irrefutable. They have been gleaned
from 2 official sources. The Statistical History of the United
States, US Census and The Rise of the New York Port (Report
on Commerce and Navigation, Secretary of the Treasury 1860, pp
310-402) Albion, pp 400.
by Peter Sinclair
Peter Sinclair is a trustee of the Dutch Barn
Preservation Society and president of The Society for the Preservation
of Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture. He has written many
times for this newsletter.
A second edition of the New World Dutch Barn, by John Fitchen,
and edited by Greg Huber is now available from Syracuse University
Press. It is a mixed blessing, a well-reprinted copy of the original
1968 classic, long out of print, but filled with added and uncorrected
errors and tainted by what it avoids (*). Huber needs a different
editor and an architectural draughtsman who can give the reader
bents and sections of what he is writing about.
For all its imperfections the book does add new statistics, observations
on regional barn traditions and the dating of barns, a topic that
is almost always speculative. Huber takes a stab at categorizing
Dutch barns and comes up with five: the True Form, the True Hybrid,
the One-Aisle, the Double Decker and the Derivative (1840-80).
The True Form Dutch Barn has become known as the standard type
of early ground level 3-aisle barn with a central wooden threshing
floor, often a drive-through. It is the New World version of the
anchor beam barn separated from the house with a structure and
plan derived from 17th century Dutch and Northern German house/barns.
The True Hybrid Dutch barn is a Huber classification I am not
comfortable with. It contains a number of Dutch barn types. Many
of these, such as the side ramp barns, the rotated roof barns and
the U-barns are not necessarily alterations due to outside influence
as the term "hybrid" implies.
The One-Aisle Dutch barn is a recognized type but rather uncommon.
For the Double-Decker Dutch barn Huber presents a bad photograph
of the Van Wagner Dutch Barn (Uls-Mar-25) and no bent drawings.
I have been in the barn but did not measure it or know what to
classify it as. As only hilly land was available in the later settlement
of the Hudson Valley, 19th-century Dutch barns and houses often
make use of a bank to add a partial basement. These bank barns
often maintain modified true form timber frames but in contrast
to the True form barn they come in many individualized plans and
are among the most interesting and complex Dutch barns. I don't
like "Double-Decker Dutch" and would substitute "Dutch
I do not quite get a picture of the Derivative Dutch barn (1840-80).
Perhaps we could call it the Dutch/American Side Entrance barn.
Just like mature people, many late Dutch/American barns are individual
and hard to recognize. I have been using the term Dutch U-Barn
for any end-entrance aisle-barn with lowered anchorbeams in the
last two bents. It is a form common in Ulster County and the Mid-Hudson
Valley. Sometimes this form will have a side entrance as well,
in which case the lowered anchorbeam seems to become a swing beam.
I believe the two beams are related and serve somewhat the same
To point out the difficulty of categorizing Dutch barns I present
here some measured drawings
of a 6-Bay Dutch T-Barn in the town of Rochester, Ulster County,
New York. Perhaps the only one of its kind. I documented it in
1997 for a study of barns in the town (**).
The Markle 6-bay Dutch T-barn (1825-1835) (#478 in the Town of
Rochester registration of historic sites) is something like a groundlevel
3-bay single-aisle Dutch UBarn with side wings and a partially
rotated roof. It is a barn that is difficult to date because it
has a scribe rule frame yet the rafters are butted and nailed at
the peak, a practice I normally put with square-rule frames after
1840. One feature that seems to indicate a late scribe-rule frame
is the pride the carpenter took in showing off the marks of his
old-fashion traditional craft that was largely replaced with the
more efficient square rule system by 1820. These traditional scribe-rule
markings are the chiseled marriage marks, the two-foot scribed
line with a half circle and the scribed level lines all placed
on the very visible right side of the lowered anchorbeam in bent
3, section C. The marriage marks were used for matching timbers,
the 2-foot mark as a reference for cutting the mortise shoulder
and the level mark to correct a tenon from the warp of a timber.
They are generally not found on later square rule frames.
(*) One of the chief faults of Greg Huber's second edition of
Fitchen is his systematic avoidance of reference to anything associated
with the Dutch Barn Preservation Society, The Timber Framer's Guild
or Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture. His edition lacks a bibliography.
The reader, new to the subject, will assume from his notes that
the only writing available concerning the Dutch barn is by Greg
Huber in his several self published volumes.
(**) Report on Historic Barns and Timber Framing, Town of
Rochester; Ulster County, New York; by Peter Sinclair and
Susanne Sahler, Spillway Farm Press, 1997.
Dutch Barn Preservation Society
The Mabee Farm Historic Site
1080 Main St. (Rt. 5S)
Junction, NY 12150
Phone: (518) 887-5073
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