Barn Preservation Society
to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns
VOL 2, ISSUE 1
Deertz Barn By Harold Zoch
Editor's note: The following is an in depth article about a Schoharie
County Dutch barn taken down in spring and summer, 1988. During
the dismantling, the barn was extensively videotaped and studied
by the author. The Deertz Barn was located about three tenths of
a mile south of the Little Schoharie Creek near Middleburgh, NY.
Although documentary research has provided only scant historical
information on the site and the barn, maps from 1753/ 1759 and
1841 list the owners of the property and provide data about site
changes. The 1841 map indicates a barn on site which was apparently
the Deertz barn. This Dutch barn, also known as the Abraham Lawyer
Barn, was probably constructed while Judge Abraham Lawyer owned
the property. During this time he also built his house, still standing
nearby. The 1866 Schoharie County Atlas shows F. Stanton as owner
of the farm. F. Stanton is without doubt Freeman Stanton who came
to Middleburgh in 1818 and married Judge Abraham Lawyer's daughter,
Maria. In consequence, by 1866, the house on the property, although
built by Judge Lawyer, had been titled "Stanton Hall/" a
name still used for the building.
one account, (see The Quarterly Bulletin, Schoharie County
Historical Society, Vol. VI, Oct. 1942, p. 3), Abraham Lawyer
witnessed the burning of his first home on the site during the
Brant raid of October 17/ 1780. Some twenty-five years later,
Lawyer had gathered the building materials for a new, elegant
home, and "Stanton Hall" was then built. At some time
between the Brant raid and the 1841 map production, the Deertz
barn was erected. In the twentieth century, Stanton Hall and
the Deertz barn were sold to separate owners.
South gable of the Deertz Barn,
Middleburgh, NY. Photo, Raymond Smith.
Dating of the barn was confirmed by the analysis of nails used
in its construction. A significant number of nails in the structure
are partially machine made nails of the type first produced late
in the eighteenth century and common in the early nineteenth century.
Machine-made nails with hand-formed tops, at right,
and the earliest form of completely machine-made nails, left,
help date the Deertz barn. Source of data, Lee H. Nelson, Nail
Chronology, Technical Leaflet 48, National Park Service. Drawing
by Harold Zoch.
The Deertz barn was not only large but of quality workmanship.
The original section of the barn was sixty feet long and fifty
feet wide, and contained six bays. The barn, painted red, had sliding
wagon doors on the south gable end (60 degrees west of south).
A pentice above the wagon doors protected them from the elements
as it had the original doors, and there was originally an animal
door in each corner of the south gable. The west leaf of the original
large wagon door (now gone) was split, while the east leaf of the
wagon door was a one piece, full height section. Information about
the locations was gleaned from the remaining pintle holes. The
early wagon doors swung out over a plank threshold. Original animal
doors, later hidden by siding, opened out, swinging toward the
center of the barn.
The east side of the main barn had an added sliding door which
gave access to bay number 5. No doors were present on the west
side of the barn. Windows, modifications to the barn, were present
on three sides of the original structure. A loft door provided
entry to the easterly mow area above bay five where extra mow space
had been provided. The north
end had a large opening in the center aisle portion, matching the
south end wagon door space. This opening in the north end allowed
access to a three-bay late nineteenth century addition.
Original siding remained
on portions of the west side and on the north end of the original
barn within the later addition. Siding was twelve inches deep
and three quarters of an inch thick and lapped one and one half
inches. This original siding was not painted.
The north end of the main
barn had no apparent doors or other openings originally. Mortise
holes in the north gable sill and anchor beam attest to the location
of additional studs which were present in the original barn.
The presence of these studs, removed later for access to the
northerly addition, eliminates the possible presence of a large
door similar to the south gable end door.
In this large barn the center
floor was almost 30 feet wide and the side aisles 10 feet wide.
Bays one through five featured a manger on the east side at the
edge of the center threshing floor. The manger components were
still present in bay five but were removed for the rest of its
length. (See photo).
section of manger, Deertz Barn. Photo, Raymond Smith.
In bay six on the east side
was a granary enclosure with tight-fitting horizontal
boards and a door which opened to the center floor. Boards fastened
to this granary were nailed with the first type of completely
machine made nails. Mortises in the low transverse strut between
bays five and six indicate a probable wall between them. There
is indication of a former opening to the outside from the granary.
Bays one through five appear almost identical, but bay five is
about a foot shorter than the others. (See plan). Polishing of
the columns along the center floor suggests animals were secured
in the outer aisles of these bays on the westerly side. Two posts
went from the sill on the edge of the center floor to the horizontal
head height struts at bay six. The configuration was similar on
the east side of the floor and the posts probably framed doors.
A distinction of the barn is the double anchor beam at the end
of bay five. (See illustration). The bay six and north gable end
anchor beams matched the height of the lower of the bay five anchor
beam pair. The upper anchor beam of the pair matched the height
of the bay one through four and the south gable end anchor beams.
This effectively gave the hay mow area above bays five and six
approximately three feet extra in height.
Illustration of Transverse Sections
of the Deertz Barn.
There were no upper transverse struts over the side aisles. High
transverse ties were located, however, on both gabled ends and
at the barn center on columns between bays three and four. Sway
bracing went from the center floor columns down to the level of
the horizontal head height struts.
Threshing pole pivots appeared on the second anchor beam and
on the lower of the paired beams at the start of bay five. Both
had corresponding indentations in the center floor below them.
Neither hole in the floor showed wear, suggesting the pole did
not move. The holes retained a chiseled outline. Four wooden pin
remnants surrounded the hole below the bay five anchor beam, possibly
indicating a device pinned to the floor.
The roof rafters were tapered and were nailed to the wall plate
with foot long handwrought nails. Roof boards were wide and were
nailed to rafters with machine-made but hammered head nails. This
type of nail was used to secure siding and all other small attached
pieces in the main barn. The only other nails used were the smaller
completely machine-made nails with lopsided heads which were used
for fastening wall boards in bays five and six on the west side,
bay six (granary) on the east, and on the front of the manger.
The rafters were pinned to the purlin with wooden pins. A step
was not cut out of the rafter which would have allowed it to rest
on the purl in and better transfer the roof load to the purlin.
Pins in several rafters were sheared off and the rafters had slipped
approximately six inches toward the outer wall. This may have occurred
when the sill settled on the west side causing a pull on the rafters.
All of the original flooring remained in the center aisle area.
The flooring was approximately three inches thick and was grooved
on the long edges. Splines were let into the floorboards. Floor
boards were fastened to the floor support beams with wooden pins.
Additionally, the center sill had an angled cut to hold the floorboards.
When they were in place on the sill step, they were captured and
could not rise on the center joint (see illustration). This eliminated
the need to pin the floor boards to the center sill.
The addition to the north end of the main barn had doors on both
the east and west sides, providing an entrance for cows to a metal-stanchion
dairy area with concrete floor. Windows were also present on the
north and east sides of this addition. This addition had thus been
modified since its construction. Evidence of a door on the west
side, northwest corner, bay three of the addition was found. The
present doors might have been installed after modernization with
the addition of the concrete floor and stanchions. Nails used for
the addition were completely machine made. The initials and date "F.
K. 1888" were carved in an angled column which supported the
purlin on the west side. Barent V. Kniskern owned the property
after Freeman Stanton; perhaps F.K. was a Kniskern family member.
The main axis of the main barn and its extension was 60 degrees
east of south. A compass heading to nearby Stanton Hall from the
center of the southerly end of the barn was 30 degrees east of
The major members of the original barn were hand hewn. This included
the bents, purlins, plates, floor framing and sills, as well as
the high transverse struts. The other parts - wall posts, sway
bracing, low transverse struts, siding and other minor pieces -
were sawn. Saw marks were vertical and no radial saw marks were
found. The sawn timber may have been produced by a nearby sawmill
shown on the 1841 map. The center floor sill, both purlins and
the plates were each 60 feet long, each in one piece.
The addition of windows, doors, partitions, granaries, and finally,
of a large extension, indicate the needs for space, light, and
access that changes in agriculture placed on use of the barn. Many
questions emerge. For the prosperous farm around the Deertz barn,
was a one-bay granary enough? How was the barn lighted in the winter?
Was the reason for the double anchor beam to make additional hay
space in the mow? Though many functional questions remain, the
extensive measurements and photo and video documentation should
provide a base for additional studies of the barn and for comparative
studies with other barns.
Harold Zoch, Vice-President of the Dutch Barn
Preservation Society, has been studying the old houses and barns
of the Schoharie Valley for many years. He has been active in
historical and preservation activities.
plate on beam in Deertz barn.
In 1932, before farm mechanization, Dutch artist
Ids Wiersma recorded threshing in
a barn in Friesland, The Netherlands. The method was similar
to that used in Dutch barns in the Hudson Valley, where evidence
of a center threshing pole is common. Drawing from Uit Het
Oude Friese Akkerbouwbedrijf, published in The Netherlands
in 1981. Contributed by Roderic
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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