Dutch Barn Preservation Society

Dedicated to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns


The 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.

According to 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. (See illustration).

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).

Remaining 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 south.

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.

Research Finds

<-Threshing 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



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